Rabbi Yosef ben Moshe Mammon (Maimon) Maravi is the spiritual leader credited with helping strengthen religious observance and introducing the Sephardic liturgy to the Bukharian Jewish community. The title Maaravi signifies his North African (Maghreb) ancestry.
Yosef Maimon was born in 1741, in either Tetouan or Meknes in Morocco. Rabbi Mammon made aliyah teach in a yeshiva in the city of Safed. Like most yeshivas at the time, Maimon’s yeshiva relied on donations from the diaspora communities. It was during his search for funds in 1793 that Rabbi Mammon arrived in Bukhara, and chose to stay, in order to strengthen Judaism within the local Jewish population and at that time, the region was under the control of Muslim fundamentalists, who pressured the local Jews to convert to Islam. The community’s physical isolation from major centers of Jewish learning was a result of the Bukhara Emirate’s policy of closed borders, intended to avoid involvement in the Great Game. For the local Jews, this meant fewer opportunities to connect with the larger Jewish community.
Yosef Maimon established yeshivas, and his children continued his work. He also founded Hibbat Zion, a precursor to Zionism, and encouraged aliyah to Palestine.
Early 19th century travelers to Bukhara, including missionary Joseph Wolff, a Hebrew Christian, described in detail the impact of Yosef Mammon on the culture and religion of the Bukharian Jews.
Yosef Maimon Death
Yosef Mammon died on December 7, 1822, in Bukhara.
Yosef Maimon Descendants
One of Yosef Maimondescendants was Rabbi Shimon Hakham. Another descendant was Esther Gaonoff, the wife of ShlomoMoussaieff (rabbi). Moussaieff’s and Gaonoff’s grandson is ShlomoMoussaieff (businessman) and their great-grandchildren are author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson and the former First Lady of Iceland DorritMoussaieff.
Another distant descendant, IosefYusupov, has worked as an art director and conceptual designer for the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia.