Article - Leon Yehuda Recanati
LEON YEHUDA RECANATI
Leon Yehuda Recanati was born in Salonika in 1890, the son of Shmuel Recanati and scion of a distinguished line of rabbis descended from the noted sage, Menahem Recanati. Leon Yehuda received a traditional education, graduating from a commercial school from where he went on to complete his higher education in Paris. In addition to making an impressive business career in Greece, he devoted much of his time to public causes. He was a member of B'nai Brith and, from 1928 onwards, its president. He represented Greek Jewry on the Board of the Jewish Agency and was an outstanding member of the Zionist Organization and the Jewish community of Salonika. In 1934 he was elected president of the community and earned widespread appreciation for his services on its behalf with the Greek Government. In 1936 Recanati was elected as a delegate for Greek Jewry to the World Jewish Congress in Geneva.
In preparation for his immigration Recanati visited Palestine in 1934, eventually settling in Tel Aviv in 1935. There he founded the Palestine Discount Bank Ltd., becoming the first chairman of the board and its general manager. He succeeded in attracting considerable capital from Egyptian Jewry and others, for investment in Palestine, enabling the rapid growth of the bank into one of the largest financial institutions in the country. He played a personal active role in many economic projects which fostered the development of the economy by private enterprise.
Recanati was very active in Palestine in public affairs, both national and communal. He was a member of the Board of Keren Hayesod and of the Board of the Friends of the Hebrew University, chairman of the Kadima Association (established to foster the active participation of Sephardic Jews in all aspects of the country's national life), chairman of the Council of Sephardic Jews in Tel Aviv, founder and chairman of Banim Ligvulam and chairman of the Board of the Students Fund - Keren Lemitlamedim (which he set up to support deprived talented students). He was also a member and supporter of numerous other charitable and cultural institutions. Whereas in Greece he had published a number of articles in the press on matters of Jewish interest, in Palestine he chose to devote most of his time and personal interest to the promotion of public welfare activities. He was concerned with many aspects of the cultural and artistic life of the community, always exhibiting those aristocratic traits that had characterized the Jews of Salonika since the "Golden Age" of Spanish Jewry.
Leon Recanati passed away in Tel Aviv on October 13, 1945.