Founder of the Ahaba ve Ahava congregation in Brooklyn, Harav Yosef Hamaoui zt"l had a love for Hashem and His Torah that influenced anyone who had contact with him.
After spending approximately the first 30 years of his life in Egypt, he and most of the Jewish community there packed their bags in the early 1960s as a result of political instability. His father, Rav Shelomo, had just passed away, but by then his parents had already seen to it that Rav Yosef was steeped in Ahavat Hatorah, first by their own example and later through his teachers. As a diligent learner as well as Hazan and Baal Koreh, he had become loved and respected by such great rabbanim as Hagaon Harav Ovadia Yosef shlita, Rav Yosef Pinto, Harav Haim Dweck, Rav Aharon Choueka and Rav Shemuel Korah.
In Brooklyn, he immediately founded the Ahaba ve Ahva community on 66th Street. As president of the synagogue, he had the talent of combining dedication and creativity. He succeeded in making a relatively smooth transition to the new environment with the help of his committee and father in law Hacham Halfon Safdie zt"l. In addition to keeping his schedule of Hazanute, Keria't hatorah and learning, Rav Yosef started spreading his teachings to all age groups of the community. Many a Bar Mitzvah student can attest to his patience and loving guidance in instruction.
He was also known for his tremendous hospitality. Aided by his wife, he hosted messengers from around the world seeking financial aid for their yeshivot. To this day, the success of many yeshivot in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak is due to their efforts; his wife is still actively involved in tzedaka causes.
Closer to home, Rav Yosef made his impact on other communities on the East Coast. He helped establish a Sefaradi community in Boston in 1980. After visiting in Maine, and teaching classes on Shabbat, he had such an impact that a minyan was created and store owners agreed to close their shops on Shabbat. Spending his summers in Bradley Beach and Deal, New Jersey, he also became a magnetic force to his fellow Jews in those communities.
Rav Yosef was plagued with a serious disease the last eight years of his life, but visitors witnessed his continued love for learning and Hashem. He died in May 1992. May his merit protect us.
reprinted from Aram Soba Foundation calendar 1993-94