COMMUNITY Magazine is a project of Bnei Aram Soba, which, among other things, runs the Torah Center of Congregation Bnai Yosef (on Avenue P and Ocean Parkway). Many people know Bnai Yosef as the busiest Sephardic shul in the Western Hemisphere. The shul hosts dozens of minyanim daily, serving thousands of congregants each week. Although Bnai Yosef does not charge any membership fees, the array of services it provides to the community is very extensive.
As a venture that has been run by Bnei Aram Soba since its inception, all proceeds from publication of the magazine are spent on projects to benefit the community. Among the accomplishments of Bnei Aram Soba are: daily Torah classes every morning and evening, publication of the new Moadim L’simha Shalosh Regalim Mahzor, publication of the Prayers From the Heart weekday siddur, publication of the Aram Soba Newsletter (a translation of Hacham Ovadia Yosef’s Ma’ayan Hashavuah), weekly screening of the video shiur of Hacham Ovadia Yosef’s Mosai Shabbat class, re-broadcasting a satellite feed from of the Kol Haneshama radio station, annual sponsorship of the Torah Center Chinese Auction, donation of the digital information screen in Bnai Yosef, and many more projects that benefit the community. (See chart.)
Strange as it sounds, people have actually asked this question. It is especially ironic considering that COMMUNITY has several regular features which cater to women specifically (Shaatra, Fashion, etc.) but no regular features which cater to men. (No, this does not mean that the magazine discriminates against men either.) This ridiculous idea of gender discrimination stems from the magazine’s policy of insuring the highest level of modesty, which in turn limits the depiction of women in pictures. This policy is not only mandated by the Torah, it is also necessary for any publication that wishes to serve the entire community, since there are many families that will not bring into their homes any publication that is not similarly careful about these laws. It should be noted that COMMUNITY has, on several occasions, published extensive material on the exalted position women hold in Judaism. (This still does not mean that the magazine discriminates against men.)
Over the years there are a surprising number of people who have asked who this “Aram Soba” character is and where he comes off publishing a magazine for the Sephardic Community. Of course, those of us who are up on our knowledge of Tanach will recognize that the name Aram Soba does not refer to a person, but is rather the biblical reference to Halab – commonly known today as Aleppo, Syria. Bnei Aram Soba literally means, the children of Aleppo and the organization maintains a mission to enrich and educate our community with the traditions and heritage of the Syrian and Near Eastern Jewish communities.
Because it is. COMMUNITY is certainly not the first monthly magazine to serve our community; nor is it the thickest – not by a long shot. But since July 2002, when COMMUNITY increased its circulation by 20%, it has been the most widely circulated and read publication that serves our community. Since then, COMMUNITY’s circulation has continued to grow is now 33-46% larger than any other Sephardic monthly (with increased circulation in the summer months). Like many other world-class publications, COMMUNITY furnishes a certified circulation statement, which is verified by a third party auditor, to prove the accuracy of all circulation claims.
Sito, which literally means grandmother in Arabic, is the brains behind COMMUNITY’s immensely popular Ask Sito advice column, which is a follow up of the Ask Jidoh column. While the true identity of Sito remains a closely guarded secret, it can be revealed that the advice offered in this column comes from a member of our community who is actually a grandmother.