Passed away December 31, 2013 after a long illness. Joe was born in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo, Egypt, on January 2, 1936. He was the son of Mourad (Leon) Abdel Wahed and Sarine El Kodsi. Joe attended Victoria College, a British prep school in Cairo, with the likes of King Hussein of Jordan and Omar Sharif. He didn't graduate because, along with the other 80,000 Jews of Egypt, he was forced out of his family's longstanding homeland after Nasser's military coup d'état and subsequent nationalism. Joe and his family took refuge in Paris in 1952.
Joe finished high school in England and attended the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he earned a M.A with honors, in Political Economics. He returned to Paris and studied at the Sorbonne, where he earned a postgraduate diploma for his dissertation on Economics. As a "refugee escapee parolee" it was difficult to find work in France so, with the help of HIAS, he immigrated to San Francisco in 1962.
He got his first job with Bank of America's Economics Department then moved to Wells Fargo Bank where he climbed the ladder of success to become their Chief Economist and Senior Vice President. He became a well-known and highly sought-after business speaker on California's economy during his 27-year career at the bank. He served as Chairman of the Economic Advisory Committee to the California Chamber of Commerce, was a trade delegate to Japan with then-Mayor Diane Feinstein and had his speeches published in "Vital Speeches of the Day."
In 2001 Joe co-founded Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA) to tell the world about the nearly one million Jews who were ethnically cleansed from the Middle East and North Africa, between 1952-72. They were "The Forgotten Refugees," the name of a film produced to tell this little-known story (www.jimena.org). Joe traveled the country, speaking at universities, churches, and synagogues to shine a light on this part of history that has been ignored.
Joe was a passionate activist for Jewish causes, a raconteur who loved to tell jokes and stories, a man who loved the music of Bach, the stories of Somerset Maugham and the game of rugby, a man who spoke three languages and traveled the world, but loved his children, grandchildren, sisters, mother, wife and friends more than anything else. Joe liked people and loved life. He will be sorely missed.
Joe is survived by his wife, Kathi Twomey Wahed of Moraga; his sons and their wives, Andrew and Sara (nee Cruz) Ovadya of San Diego and Dan Ovadya and Tamara Kraus of Davis; granddaughters, Dahlia, Mira, Lola and Lucy; sisters, Sylvie Gordon of San Mateo, Simone Mourad and Suzy Cohen, both of Hallandale, Florida.
A funeral service will be held on Sunday, January 5, 2014 at 11:00 AM at Sinai Memorial Chapel, 1501 Divisadero St. at Geary, San Francisco, followed by interment at Eternal Home Cemetery, 1051 El Camino Real, Colma.
In lieu of flowers, please contribute in Joe's name to JIMENA, 459 Fulton St., Ste. 207, San Francisco, CA 94102 (jimena.org) or Friends of Yemin Orde, 4340 East West Highway, Ste 202, Bethesda, MD 20814 (www.yeminorde.org).