Sephardic Newsletter Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music. ¢â‚¬“The...

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  • Beginning with just seven students in 1964, the Sephardic Studies Program at Yeshiva University now marks its 50th year—and it has never been stronger. And as the Sephardic population of North America continues to grow, the prospects for continued expan- sion over the next decade are extremely promising.

    The Sephardic Studies Program was co-founded by Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, YU’s vice president of university affairs. Thanks in part to his vision, Dr. Dobrinsky has seen a vibrant YU Sephardic presence consistently grow over the last fi ve decades. Today,

    the Sephardic Program boasts close to 400 under graduate men and women and serves an additional 100 graduate students, including 17 rabbinical students. “One of our main goals was to create an environment where Sephardic students who came to YU would have ample opportunity to learn about and practice their own traditions,” said Dr. Dobrinsky, explaining why the program was originally created.

    Today’s generation of YU students have also benefi tted from new young leadership. Rabbi Moshe Tessone has directed the Sephardic Community Program (SCP) at Yeshiva since 2000, and also serves as a rabbinic faculty member at YU and its Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music. “The Sephardic world is multifaceted,” said Rabbi Tessone. YU is the only place in North America that has such diversity of Sephardic students and makes a concerted effort to educate them, in both secular and Jewish studies, while giving special appreciation to their Sephardic heritage. This began with Dr. Dobrinsky’s vision more than a half century ago. Now, thanks to his foresight, we have an opportunity to do better than we’ve ever done before.”

    Over the last few years demographics have evolved, with a dramatic increase in the number of Sephardic students attending the Orthodox day schools that

    serve as primary feeders to YU. As a result, the Sephardic students at YU refl ect a growing percent- age of the overall campus population. “The synergies are potentially explosive as the number of Sephardic students at YU grows,” said Rabbi Tessone. “There was a sense that these incoming Sephardic students needed to feel as if they had a home at YU, where they would he able to grow not just academically, but also on a religious, cultural and spiritual level. We want to attract these students who we train to become future leaders of the Sephardic world, and give them an inspiring experience here at YU.”

    To augment these efforts, Rabbi Simon Basalely was appointed during the fall of 2013 as the Edmond J. Safra S’gan Mashgiah for the Sephardic campus community at YU, a newly established position, which was made possible by the Edmond J. Safra Philanthropic Foundation, which is providing a 3 year grant totaling $180,000 to sponsor this posi- tion. Within the fi rst year, Rabbi Basalely has already made a positive impact in his new role. He serves as a role model and mentor for students, running minyanim in the Sephardic Beit Midrash during the week and on Shabbat, and coordinating Shabbat

    One of the major accomplishments within YU Sephardic Programs this year took place in March when, as part of the RIETS Chag HaSemikha event, 17 rabbinic graduates who received ordina- tion were of Sephardic origin. This represents a record number of Sephardic rabbis produced by YU and RIETS in a period of four years.

    Chag HaSemikha is a quadrennial celebration of all the rabbis who earned rabbinic ordination at YU/RIETS during a four-year period. This year’s event also refl ected a record number of YU rabbinic graduates not only for Sephardim but for the general Jewish population as well, as an astounding 230 young men received semikha—a historic number of rabbis produced by RIETS over a four-year period.

    The Sephardic community at large celebrated a “Salute to the Sephardic Musmakhim” morning gala event on March 9 at Congregation Magen

    Sephardic Newsletter

    Jubilee Anniversary Edition YU Sephardic Programs

    Sephardic Program at YU Reaches 50-Year Milestone

    17 Sephardic Rabbis Ordained in 2014 Brings Total Sephardic Rabbis Ordained at RIETS to Almost 100

    In commemoration of our cherished friend Moise Safra a’h, YU Benefactor and Honorary Alumnus The Yeshiva University family mourns the loss of YU Benefactor Moise Y. Safra a’h in June 2014. Safra was a great Jewish philanthropist who exemplifi ed the very fi nest in Sephardic lay leader- ship during his lifetime. He is survived by his wife, Chella, who resides in São Paulo, Brazil, and his children, Edmond, Jacob, Ezra, Esther and Olga.

    In 2012 Mr. Safra received an honorary degree at Yeshiva University’s 88th Annual Hanukkah Dinner and Convocation at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. Safra, a philanthropist and an accom- plished fi nancier, fi rst developed a relationship with YU when he and his wife, Chella Safra, were honored at the inaugural dinner of YU’s newly- formed Sephardic Council of Overseers in 1992. The Safras formed a close relationship with both Dr. Norman Lamm, who was president of YU at the time, and Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, vice president for University Affairs. They have always main- tained a strong connection and a warm friendship with YU, which has continued with Yeshiva Uni- versity’s President Richard M. Joel.

    During his lifetime, Mr. Safra expressed his admi- ration and high regard for YU and its unique mission of Torah Umadda. “YU is the perfect balance of both Torah and secular education, one that I have always believed in,” said Safra. “While Torah studies might be the pillar of Jewish life, secular academics is the second pillar that complements it. Yeshiva Univer- sity is the ideal place for one to achieve this goal of a well-rounded and complete education.” Through the family’s charitable foundation a $3 million gift to Yeshiva University established the Moise Safra Undergraduate Scholarship Fund and the Moise Safra Scholars.

    We salute Moise Safra’s lifetime of accomplish- ments in the business world and equally his life- long dedication to outstanding leadership and service to the greater Jewish community and his fellow Sephardim all over the world. May his memory be an inspiration for other great leaders to emulate and may his good deeds be a source of blessing for his family and the entire Jewish people. Yehi Zikhro Barukh. ❖

    continued on page 2 Inaugural Dinner of YU’s Sephardic Council of Overseers (SCO), 1992

    Rabbi Kassin and Rabbi Ben-Haim congratulate Rabbi Setton

    Jack Lew, Moise Safra a’h, President Richard M.Joel

    Edmond M. Safra, Moise a’h, Chella Safra, Shari Safra, Jacob M. Safra

    Back row left to right: Eduardo Szajman, Shari Safra, Jacob M. Safra, Edmond M.Safra, Marielle Safra, Elie Cohen, Carole Sasson Cohen, Joseph Cohen, Colette Nehmad, Michael Kattan, Albert Cohen Front row left to right: Esther Safra Szajman, Moise Safra a’h, Chella Safra, Bassia Lowinger, Dalia Picciotto Cohen

    The YU Sephardic Newsletter Jubilee Edition is dedicated by Martin Elias and family in honor of Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky and Dina Dobrinsky in

    tribute to their half century of dedication to the Sephardic community.

    continued on page 3

  • 2Jubilee Anniversary Edition YU Sephardic Programs

    events, Torah lectures and other programs that en- hance and lend warmth to the religious and cultural environment of the Sephardic community. “I feel privileged to work with a group of such wonder- ful, energetic students, aspiring to learn and to take advantage of the opportunities to further connect with their heritage,” said Rabbi Basalely, a gradu- ate of Yeshiva College, the Azrieli School of Jewish Education and Administration, Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theology Seminary and the Beren Kollel Elyon. “We are planning on campus Shabbatonim for students to spend Shabbat together enjoying Sephardic food and singing Sephardic pizmonim immersed in the Sep- hardic liturgical tradition, while at the same time, spending Shabbat in their Yeshiva.”

    “Rabbi Basalely is the person who students can turn to after classroom hours, to help give them spiritual and religious guidance that they need beyond academics,” said Rabbi Tessone. “He is there for students in the capacity of a campus rabbi to provide hashgaha ruhanit [spiritual guidance] on an ongoing basis. Our goal is to make the Sephardic Beit Midrash a warm, spiritual haven right here on campus.”

    For Charles Saka, a sophomore at the Sy Syms School of Business majoring in business manage- ment, some highlights of the Sephardic programs include the weekly Sephardic pizmonim club and his daily shiur with Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Haim, Sephardic Rosh Yeshiva and Chair holder of the Maxwell R. Maybaum Chair in Talmud and Sephardic Halakhic Codes.

    “Rabbi Tessone has elevated the Sephardic life on campus with his weekly course in Sephardic hazzanut,” said Saka. “Rabbi Basalely has also been a great source of daily inspiration and spirituality with our minyanim, as well as his divrei Torah and nightly shiurim in the Sephardic Beit Midrash.”

    Dr. Dobrinsky, who continues to nurture and over- see the Sephardic programs on a daily basis, notes, “The Sephardic faculty members at YU include many

    giants in their respective fi elds, both in advanced Torah studies and Sephardic history and culture.”

    Among the world-renowned faculty at YU are Hakham Eliyahu Ben-Haim, Rabbi Hayim Angel, Dr. Ronnie Perelis, Dr. Hayim Tawil and Dr. Daniel Tsadik, among many others who teach Sephardic courses a