Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 3: Shuraki’s quest for Sephardic social activism in Israel

One of the few Sephardic group’s in Israel that is seeking to train Israeli rabbis to better address social needs in their society is Memizrach Shemesh. This morning Rabbi Yizthak Shuraki, the Memizrach Shemesh’s Director of the Rabbinic training course, outlined some of the activities his organization is undertaking to help transform the mentalities of the country’s rabbis—which may ultimately help the people of Israel. Shuraki said the overall objective of his program was to offer rabbis in Israel with the knowledge and training to resolve issues of identity and serious social problems instead of merely addressing smaller topics of keeping kosher, or keeping the Sabbath or traditions. One success story Shuraki outlined was of a religious rabbi who had completed the program at Memizrach Shemesh and returned to his community to encourage young religious men to complete their high school education. This effort would result in enabling religious men in Israel to be able to earn a living, instead of being trapped in poverty or the welfare system.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Shuraki’s program is the fact that it welcomes rabbis who are both Ashkenazi and Sephardic and hail from various levels of religiosity in the country. Interestingly, Shuraki’s program began in 2004 and 36 rabbis since then have completed the program since then. Participants of the S.E.C.’s summer seminar said they were impressed with and interested in Shuraki’s program being introduced in the U.S. for American rabbis.

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