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26
May
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Introducing Sephardi Fest!

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18
May
0

Lea Koenig Tablet Magazine Article

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26
Apr
0

Mekonen: The Journey of an African Jew

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28
Mar
0

Three Events Hosted by Ezra Bessaroth

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24
Mar
0

Sephardic Trips to Israel!

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JERUSALEM UNITED MISSION TO ISRAEL MAY 16-29


FREE SEPHARDIC BIRTHRIGHT TRIP FOR 18-26 YEAR-OLDS THIS AUGUST
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15
Mar
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Correction to this week's schedule

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I've just been informed that the Ladies Auxiilary will NOT be baking this coming Monday March 20th

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07
Mar
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PURIM SCHEDULE MARCH 11-12

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07
Mar
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EB Launches Customized Meldado Shiurim

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11
Jan
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Shabbat Yerushalayim Schedule!

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Click the "clipboard" on the home page for the full schedule

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30
Dec
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SHABBAT TIME CORRECTION FOR MIKETZ/SHABBAT HANUKKAH

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Shabbat ends at 5:13 pm and not 5:08 pm as written in the newsletter

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30
Nov
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See our new "Story of a Sephardic Congregation Website"!

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...And buy the book - a great Hanukkah gift! 

 

https://sephardiccongregation.wordpress.com/

 

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30
Nov
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See our new "Story of a Sephardic Congregation Website"!

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And buy the book - a great Hanukkah gift!https://sephardiccongregation.wordpress.com/

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22
Sep
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Will Wonders Never Cease?

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19
Sep
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Sneak Preview of our New Book!

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12
Jul
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Register Here for the "Lost Voices" Program July 21st

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11
Jul
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Spanish Citizenship for Sephardim: Recent Reflections

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Earlier today, I received a private message from a good friend of mine regarding my posting of Ezra Bessaroth's role in facilitating the first step in helping those descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain obtain Spanish citizenship under the new law.

First, I want to praise my friend on his choice to message me privately and not engage in a back-and-forth debate on Facebook over this issue; he felt that this would unnecessarily expose me to public criticism. Here’s what he wrote:

Hi Rabbi. I didn't want to write this on your wall because I didn't want to even imply a public criticism of you, but I have to say I'm surprised given what I know about your attitude toward Eretz Yisrael to see you encouraging Jews to become citizens of Spain. Do you need see nothing problematic about that? Isn't Spain the wrong country for Jews who want to add a second citizenship? Has Ezzy Bezzy made a similar promotional push (maybe you have) for its members becoming citizens of Israel (i.e. aliyah)?”

The point is well-taken.

Some background: When my good friends, Joe and Doreen Alhadeff, approached me with news of their involvement in promoting the new law – and having Ezra Bessaroth approved to attest to a person’s Sephardic ancestry – I asked myself whether I wanted at all to be party to encouraging Jews to become citizens of Spain.

Over and above the issue of promoting this path (instead of encouraging Aliyah to Israel) there’s the question of whether we should align ourselves with a campaign that tries to redress the wrongs of the past – specifically, the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 and all that this tragedy entailed. In June of 2014, Rabbi Marc Angel, himself a native of Seattle and a student of Sephardic history posted a critical piece on his blog. In part, it read,

How can giving a few passports to descendants of Spanish Jews undo the untold sufferings of Sephardic ancestors? How can even giving every living Sephardic Jew today a Spanish passport serve as atonement for the humiliations, persecutions and expulsion of our ancestors? Yet, how can we shut the door to genuine contrition and reconciliation? How can we allow past injustices to fester eternally, without finding ways to overcome those horrors?....It is fine for Spain to offer Spanish passports to Sephardim; but this does not in any way address the root problem or atone for the injustices committed against Spanish Jews of the middle ages. Spain needs to be at the forefront of civilization’s struggle against anti-Judaism, anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism. Spain needs to be outspoken in its opposition to religious fanaticism where ever it manifests itself. Spain must become a moral voice for strengthening the lives of contemporary Sephardic Jews, most of whom live in the State of Israel or strongly identify with the Jewish State.

Why promote Spain at all without full teshuva?
Shouldn’t we first prioritize assisting Jews to become citizens of Israel?

My personal response to both questions: I, too, am troubled by the failure of nations – many of them European – to learn the lessons of the past. I too, feel that Spain should show its concern for Sephardim by supporting the State of Israel. For whatever it’s worth, though, I do feel that the public declaration of responsibility for the expulsion from Spain is of significance. Though it falls short of what we would like to see – in my view, it does have some incremental value. It may at least qualify as “Hirhurei Teshuva”….if not complete teshuva!

To my friend’s point: Last time I checked, there is strong basis for saying that we fulfill a Torah mitzvah by living in Eretz Yisrael…and not in Spain. As someone whose offspring and offspring’s offspring presently live in the Land of Israel, and who himself hopes one day to return even if the Mashiach has not yet arrived by that time….I personally spare no efforts in making it a priority to financially support pro-Israel causes as well as assist those who have been victims of Arab terror. I am also a proud trustee of the Samis Foundation, whose meaningful philanthropy works to address some of the core social issues in Israeli society. Our congregation stands at the forefront of the Seattle community in its Israel programming, even in the face of expressed disdain by so-called “progressive” elements in our community who would prefer to see us make room for organizations which overtly and covertly undermine the IDF and the Jewish state……

Our involvement in helping establish Sephardic identity for those interested in pursuing Spanish citizenship should not be seen in a vacuum, but against the backdrop of what I’ve written above. The messages delivered in our local Orthodox Jewish day schools, in synagogue shiurim, from the pulpit, in yearly programming - including scholars-in-residence throughout our community – are unequivocal. Anyone wishing to make Aliyah knows exactly where to go and would not only be fully supported - but publicly applauded for making the commitment! (One of my mechutanim is even a Nefesh B’Nefesh counsellor….I have her phone number and email!)

But alas, we live in a very complex age. With all the good work of our Jewish schools, only 5% of Seattle’s Jewish children are enrolled in day-school Jewish education. Intermarriage rates across the country are soaring, and the Sephardim of Seattle and elsewhere are not immune.

I reflect on my own decision, 35 years ago, to become more Jewishly connected. It started with a bowl of chicken soup at the Shabbat table of Rabbi and Rebbetzin Pritzker in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It continued with Herman Wouk’s “This is My G-d” and Prager and Telushkin’s “Nine Questions.” It could have stopped there, with the soup and the interesting reading…..

For the Sephardim of Seattle and around the world, Sephardic culture plays a huge role in the formation and maintenance of identity. Do I believe that bourekas and bulemas are the essence of Sephardic Jewish identity? Of course not! But do these foods play some role in maintaining even a tenuous link to tradition …. that could eventually blossom into a deeper connection?

Absolutely!

Faced with the reality of the Spanish citizenship option for Sephardim, I think that the question for a community rabbi becomes: Is facilitating the Spanish citizenship process a potential portal of entry for less affiliated Jews to open their eyes to the past, to look at themselves anew as a link in the chain of Jewish history? Perhaps the applicants had not grappled with the devotion of those ancestors who resisted the Inquisitor’s threat of death and the commitment to living a Jewish life implicit in this sacrifice. How many unaffiliated Jews have truly meditated upon the evidence of a Divine hand guiding Jewish history both before and after the expulsion?

And so, I feel that the necessary research involved in uncovering the details of one’s Sephardic Jewish roots may well be an eye-opening experience that paves the way for some more profound introspection.

I'm comfortable being a partner in this process.

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25
Apr
0

PURCHASE TICKETS FOR YOM HASHOAH PROGRAM

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28
Mar
0

What a touching story

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14
Oct
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The Situation in Israel - What's Our Role?

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The situation in Eretz Yisrael over the past several weeks has become nothing short of intolerable. Anyone up-to-date on the news, and certainly those with friends and loved ones in Israel, understands how serious things are. The dilemma of what we, as Jews living in the Diaspora can and should do, seems to resurface on a yearly basis.

A friend of mine emailed me a couple of days ago with a very out-of-the box plan of action. In the course of a few exchanges, I hope I made it clear to him that, though his heart is in the right place, his ideas were unwise at best and counterproductive, even damaging, at worst.

Back in 2005, hundreds of individuals situated themselves at major intersections throughout Israel, handing out orange wrist bands. Why? An effort to prevent the disengagement from Gush Katif. Now, I too, was of the opinion that the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif would lead to Gaza becoming an even more entrenched terror base, but I did not hand out wrist bands in support of the Jewish Gaza residents.

Unable to articulate why I did not demonstrate, I sought the counsel of a good friend of mine. He made the following observation: The Knesset had already much earlier decided to dismantle the Jewish communities; it was a done deal - and all the demonstrators were doing was participating in something that made them feel significant. In fact, he maintained, such demonstrations actually served the interests of the Sharon government at the time, helping distract citizens from potentially meaningful responses to the disengagement, once it happened: planning for the lack of housing for the displaced people, setting up the psychological and social service framework that the residents would have to draw on after the trauma of losing their homes and communities....

I am concerned that with the recent vicious, murderous stabbing war launched by the Palestinians over the past two weeks, we Diaspora Jews are, so to speak, putting ourselves at the proverbial intersections, handing out orange wrist bands.

What do I mean?

I have overheard many a conversation of "armchair' security experts who believe that they know how, once and for all, to solve Israel's security woes. If only Netanyahu would give each of us a seat on his security cabinet.....(!)

Friends, none of us have any real sense of the intricacy and scope of the security issues Israel faces! As in matters of medicine, Halacha mandates us to defer to the experts in the area, and to their evaluation of appropriate strategies given their indepth knowledge of both their professions and the context within which they find themselves.

If we take a "know-it-all" approach, we also risk mimicking (with the best interests of Israel in mind!) the strategy of groups like J-Street and the New Israel Fund, which work tirelessly - from the Diaspora - alongside radical left wing U.S. power brokers to force Israel's hand to make wildly irresponsible concessions in a region gone mad.

So it cuts both ways: Let's let Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team handle the security of the country that they lead!

Instead, let us focus on unequivocal support of Israel in the local and national media. Let us invest our efforts in garnering the unconditional support of Israel by our American political leaders, be they Democrat or Repubican. This part of the war against terrorism and hatred IS our responsibility! One example of a worthwhile cause is to call out the New York Times on its insidious piece this past week questioning the historicity of the two Batei Mikdash (Temples) on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The article was clearly timed to support the falsehoods uttered by the Palestinian establishment; these falsehoods in turn provide the moral basis for stabbing 70 year-old Jewish women at Jerusalem's Central Bus Station! As a result of the pressure by historians and readers throughout the Jewish world, the Times was forced to amend its article so that it could somewhat resemble an objective piece of journalism.

Secondly, as I suggested in a sermon two weeks ago, the way to combat Midat Hadin/strict judgment on a spiritual level - is to increase the presence of Hesed - kindness - in our personal lives. As Jews, we firmly believe that "Hashem Tzilcha Al Yad Yeminecha" - "Hashem is your shadow at your right hand." God relates to us as we relate to others. Since all Jews' fate is intertwined from a spiritual and historical perspective, when Jews in Seattle increase their level and intensity of Gemilut Hasadim, God responds by relating to us in a more compassionate way. This is the secret of stirring up the thirteen attributes of Mercy that are repeated over and over again during the High Holidays: Our sages tell us that God enwrapped Himself like a Shaliach Tzibbur - like a Hazzan - and demonstrated to Moshe Rabeinu how to recite these thirteen attributes of Mercy. Rabbi Nebenzhal explains that it is not the mere recital of these attributes, but the incorporation of them into our daily lives, that ultimately matters.

May the coming days, weeks and months see the eradication of evil, and may we merit to play even a small role in the transformation of our broken world.

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17
Sep
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Amendment Discussion to take place @ Fundamentals this Shabbat

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