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Moshe Attias

 A look at his life: 1898-1973

Moshe AttiasMoshe Attias was born in Thessaloniki on the 9th of January 1898 to Palomba and Daniel, descendants of a family of publishers from Amsterdam. Moshe was one of the founders of the “Bar Kochba” society in Thessaloniki, a society that worked to cultivate the physical and spiritual fitness of youth, and encouraged them to take an interest in Hebrew literature and culture.​
As a child, Attias studied in a Hebrew school where he was one of the students of Dr. Isaac Epstein, who was an advocate for Hebrew education in Thessaloniki. Dr. Epstein used to choose a few of his students to supplement their studies in Eretz Yisrael, so that they could return to Thessaloniki and teach Hebrew there. Moshe Attias was chosen, along with six other students. He arrived in Eretz Yisrael in the spring of 1924, and finished his studies at the Teacher’s Seminary, headed by David Yellin. While he was completing his studies, he gave Hebrew lessons to adults in the Old City of Jerusalem. Afterwards, he taught in a school in Hadera and also served as its principal. In Hadera he taught night school to workers and was even active in the local “Maccabi” branch. During this time, he worked to help the Jews of Greece move to Eretz Yisrael and to ease the suffering of his brothers.
Attias was active in public service. He worked as the secretary of the National Council in Jerusalem and stood at its head from the year 1928 until the establishment of the State. During the Mandate years, as part of Yishuv leadership, he stood out in his common sense and was revealed to have great organizational abilities, a sense of responsibility and vision. Working with him were David Yellin, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, Pinhas Rutenberg, and David Remez. He wrote about those years in his books, The Book of Documents of the National Council, and The Israeli Knesset in Eretz Yisrael: Its Foundation and Organization.

Attias was active in the Council of the Sefardi Communities, among the Middle Eastern communities and in founding the Organization of Sefardi Youth in Jerusalem. There is not enough space here to list all of his many projects- we will only mention for our purposes, that Attias was a member of the Committee of the Israeli Institute for Folklore and Ethnology. Indeed, an important part of his life was his interest in the folklore of the Jews of Spain- their traditions and customs. Attias collected songs, stories, legends, idioms and customs related to the holidays. He published many articles on the subject.

He published articles in Jewish newspapers when he still lived in Thessaloniki- newspapers such as El Judeo, Renacencia Judia etc.  Later, he published articles in newspapers and journals in Eretz Yisrael. With the establishment of the State he was appointed to the administration of the Education Department in the Jerusalem Municipality and served in that role for 15 years. His two books, his masterpieces, Romancero Sefaradí (1961, Kiryat Sefer) and Cancionero Judeo-Español (1973- The Institute for the Study of the Jews of Thessaloniki) represent a rich look into the repertoire of the traditions of Spanish Jewry.

Moshe Attias was married to Alegra, the daughter of Abraham Bigas from Larissa, Greece. He raised his children- Yona, Esther and Daniel-with her and the couple were graced with numerous beloved grandchildren.

To the collection in the library catalog
  • David Yellin (center, with the beard) and the teachers at the Seminary
  • The National Council Meeting (Attias is to the right of Ben Zvi)
  • Moshe and Allegra Attias (the 50s)
  • Dr. Isaac Epstein, 1936 (who brought Attias and other young Thessalonian men to learn in the Teacher’s Seminary in Jerusalem)
  • Moshe Attias with his cousin, Baruch Uziel in 1919 (he arrived in Israel with that same group of students)
  • A group of teachers with David Yellin, 1924 (Attias is on the right side of Yellin)
  • Moshe Attias (the early 20s)
  • The National Council (Attias is holding a hat)
  • The Group of Young Thessalonian men brought by Epstein