Monday, July 26, 2010

Returning home to Israel and S.E.C. again…

When Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, the director of special projects for the Sephardic Educational Center (S.E.C.) in Los Angeles asked to me to join him and a group of distinguished Sephardic Jews from Los Angeles and New York on a journey to Jerusalem as a blogger to chronicle their incredible one-week long seminar on the unique aspects of Sephardic Judaism, I jumped at the opportunity. Aside from the fact that I am and have always been a fan of journeying to Israel, the S.E.C. holds a very special place in my heart since I spent one month with the S.E.C.’s young adults program traveling all over Israel in 1996 with other young Jews after I had graduated from high school. (This was in the time before "Birthright"). At that time we spent a good amount of time at the S.E.C.’s building which is prominently situated at the entrance of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. The S.E.C.’s close proximity to the Western Wall allowed us young adults at that time a greater sense of Jewish spirituality. I knew no other person on the trip but the program laid out by the S.E.C. brought us all together. Ultimately I met three of my closests friends as a result of the S.E.C.'s remarkable trip. In the end, I walked away from that post-high school trip with very fond memories of Israel and the S.E.C.

This afternoon when I entered the S.E.C’s building here in Jerusalem, those great memories came rushing back and I was delighted to see incredible renovations made to the structure during the last 14 years. I think what delights many Sephardic Jews like myself, is the fact that we have a center or base in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem dedicated to keeping our proud heritage, history and traditions alive. While the exterior of the center is covered with the traditional Jerusalem stone as required by the municipality, the interior of the building is quite new with dorms for young students visiting Israel, an area designated for eating, meeting halls and a lovely patio to delight in the outside weather. The S.E.C.’s base in Jerusalem in my opinion is also special because it brings together both the past and present of traditional Sephardic Judaism in an area holy to the Jewish people. For example, next door to the S.E.C.’s building here in Old City, one can find the well-known and historic “Four Sephardi Synagogues”. For these reasons and others I consider the S.E.C. here in Jerusalem “my home away from home” and will no doubt enjoy learning more about key areas in Sephardic Judaism through out the program this week.

-- Karmel Melamed

Before the participants entered the center for the start of this year’s program, I had a chance to capture these unique snapshots of the S.E.C.’s building…

(The S.E.C.'s patio area situated inside the building)

(A view of the Four Sephardi Synagogues from the S.E.C.)

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