Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 6: Saying Farewell to the SEC in Jerusalem

With the end of the SEC’s Summer Institute program this week, I leave the magical Old City of Jerusalem and Israel with fond memories. The seminar this past week was full of insightful halachah according to Sephardic scholars, a look at the Sephardic traditional Judaism and the influence of Sephardic Jewry on Israeli society today.

Perhaps one of the most memorable aspects of this visit to the SEC for me was seeing the organization’s founder, Dr. Jose Nessim, witness the flourishing of this non-profit he set up 30 years ago. While there was no official passing of any “Sephardic torch” from Dr. Nessim to the other executive board members of the SEC, I could see the tremendous pride in his eyes everyday as he attended the seminar’s activities. In addition I also found the visit by Israeli Member of Knesset, Rabbi Haim Amsellem another very interesting twist to the week-long program. This is because Amsellem discussed his recent proposals to offer a moderate traditional religious Sephardic approach to the troubling question of Jewish conversion for approval as law in the Knesset. I was additionally surprised to learn from reporter Yossi Klein Halevi that an Iranian Jew, like Meir Banai, had had such an influence on contemporary Israeli rock music! Lastly it was refreshing to discover that there is a Sephardic organization in the world like the SEC which is seeking to both keep alive the beauty of its traditions and also maintain a traditional but non-fanatic approach to Judaism today.

About 14 years ago I arrived at the SEC as a soon-to-be college student and embarked on a trip of Israel which was life transforming for me. Israel is and will always be a very special place on earth for me. This partly because of the warm welcome I have always received at the SEC. So spending this special week at the SEC in Jerusalem brought back those old memories and solidified the fact that the SEC is indeed my home away from home in Israel! The organization and its members are incredible individuals who make me proud to be a Sephardic Jew in the 21st century.

In closing, I tip by hat to the SEC’s leadership and to Rabbi Daniel Bouskila, who organized is remarkable seminar in Jerusalem. Thank you rabbi for allowing me to witness this historic transformation of the SEC and to blog about it. My blessings and love to the SEC’s executive board…you are on your way my friends to a very bright future ahead!

Here are some closing remarking from SEC executive board member Neil Sheff about this week’s seminar…

SEC member Moussa Shaaya also sends his closing well wishes to Dr. Nessim here…

-- Karmel Melamed