Mishnah Berurah Tiferet
By: Sarina Roffé
Since its inception in 1980, the Shehebar Sephardic Center (SSC) has grown into a
world-renowned institution with an outstanding reputation for high quality programs.
It’s also become a resource for Sephardic communities worldwide who seek to identify
rabbis,dayans, teachers, mohels, shochets,and spiritual leaders who can serve their populations.
Founded by Rabbi Sam Kassin and Rabbi Eliyahu Shamoula, A”H, the SSC Yeshiva, located in Jerusalem’s Old City, has grown from a small kollel with ten students into a thriving rabbinical school. Having expanded in number, scope, reach, and purpose, the present-day Shehebar Sephardic Center is now a global outreach program.
The SSC also operates synagogues in the Far East, and helps struggling Jewish communities around the globe. Each project is designed to help Sephardic communities combat assimilation and intermarriage with spiritual leadership.
“When Rabbi Shamoula and I began the yeshiva, we wanted to have a place for Sephardic rabbis to receive high-quality training, yet prepare themselves to face the real life challenges of congregational rabbinics,” said Rabbi Shlomo “Sammy” Kassin.
Rabbi Kassin fields calls and emails daily from Diaspora Jewish communities looking for rabbinic leadership – someone to help build a kahal, lead holiday services, teach in a school, or oversee the kashrut of a restaurant. He spends one third of his time traveling to these communities, meeting the leadership and helping them identify a rabbi that fits their needs. No matter what the service required, the SSC fills the void by sending its graduates to the most remote towns or the most highly populated cities, to serve and inspire the people there.
The SSC, named for Brooklyn’s Shehebar family, has been innovative in its approach and responsive to the unique needs of Sephardic communities. As a result, the SSC has enjoyed many firsts. For example, it was the first institution to create a one-year
post high-school Sephardic program in 1981. In 1983, the SSC began the first successful
one-year Spanish language Torah program.
In 1985, the Abe M. & Geri Cohen Rabbinical College opened its doors. Vital in its approach and vibrant in its tradition, it is the leading Sephardic center for Torah learning and training for the rabbinate.
SSC rabbis are trained in Sephardic tradition and Jewish law. Embodying Sephardic tradition and our rich heritage, the three-to-four
year accredited rabbinical training program is responsive to community needs, and provides a preeminent source of rabbinic leadership for the next generation and beyond.
In an increasingly complex world, the rabbinical college prepares its students to face the complex issues of today’s society, while keeping them anchored in the sacred legacy of our Torah. Students learn about all areas of Jewish law, including the laws of Shabbat and holidays, family purity, mourning, kashrut, marriage, and divorce. Some students are also taught kosher slaughtering and circumcision.
In addition, the students must complete a leadership training program, which includes public speaking, a substance abuse workshop, and the study of philosophy, psychology, negotiation, and family counseling. With a rich grounding in Jewish law and halacha, SSC rabbis assume a broad range of leadership roles in their communities while ensuring the perpetuation of Jewish scholarship.
In 1990, the SSC opened schools in Russia and Uzbekistan. The SSC has also operated in Asia for many decades, providing places for Jewish travelers to pray and eat kosher food.
By 2010, more than 300 rabbis had graduated from its renowned program. In 2013, the yeshiva moved to its new building. The Al and Sonny Gindi Building in the Jerusalem’s Old City holds the Stephen Isaiah Ades Library, a Bet Midrash, study rooms, and everything needed so that Torah study can thrive. That same year, it opened a special class to train teachers for the Diaspora, understanding that highquality teachers were needed in yeshivot around the world. As of 2014, there were 183 SSC rabbinical graduates placed in communities around the globe.
In 2015, the revolutionary Golden Leaves Program, centered in Israel, Shanghai and Bombay, commenced. The one-year program combines Torah learning, Jewish ethics, and on-the-job internships for young men. In response to the challenges faced by the Ethiopian community in Israel, the SSC began a program for Ethiopians in 2016.
Each year, the SSC holds a rabbinical conference, bringing together its rabbinical alumni from around the world. Together, these rabbis learn about current issues facing Diaspora communities and brainstorm strategies with which to handle emerging problems. The issues addressed may range from technology, domestic violence, and addiction to organ donation and end of life decisions. Recently, a sefer Torahwas dedicated in memory of Rabbi Shamoula at the annual SSC Rabbinical Conference. It will be used in a new community, until the community can afford one of its own.
In 2016, American Friends of Shehebar Sephardic Center began the Rabbi Eliyahu Shamoula Scholarship Fund, which will be used to plant the seeds for startup Jewish communities in the world. A rabbi will be sent to nurture and provide religious guidance to a new community or a community with no rabbi. Once the rabbi is established, the funds will be replenished and used for another community.
Currently, about twenty SSC rabbis serve in the
New York-New Jersey area, including Rabbi Haim Shaul, Rabbi Richard Hidary, Rabbi David Shweky, Rabbi Royi Gabbai, Rabbi David Bassous, Rabbi Yosef Bitton, and Rabbi Ari Azancot.