The Truth About the Sephardic Community

(Wednesday, July 29th, 2009)

ywe3.jpgThe Sephardic community has a well deserved reputation for its outstanding levels of tzedaka and chesed. It serves as a model of generosity, dedication, and caring. Sephardic fundraising events are always filled with community members who are eager to help anyone in need in any way they can. The Sephardic Bikur Cholim, one of the flagship chesed organizations in the United States, has long been considered the envy of similar groups, known for its exceptional success in reaching out to those in need.

What is not so well known is this community’s steadfast commitment to the rest of klal yisroel. Leaders of many nationally recognized community help organizations, from Chai Lifeline to Ohel to Yad Eliezer, know that they can count on the Sephardic community for its assistance.

According to Sam Sutton, a leading community askan and the former President of Sephardic Bikur Cholim, “Over the years, the Sephardic community has raised millions of dollars for many different and diverse tzedaka causes. Time and time again, our people have opened their homes and their hearts in order to help the destitute and the needy. This is a kehilla that understands its responsibility to acheinu bnei yisroel.”

Among the organizations that the Sephardic community supports on a regular basis are Ohel, Bonei Olam, A Time, the Aleh Foundation, the Israel Cancer Research Fund, and many others. The community has been assisting the Pesach Tikvah school for Special Children in Williamsburg for over fifteen years. It has been at the forefront of facilitating the outstanding efforts of Yad Eliezer for more than twenty five years. The community also supports local Yeshivas, most notably the Mirrer Yeshiva in the United States and the Mirrer Yeshiva and Ponevitch Yeshiva in Eretz Yisroel and the Chinuch Atzmai & Lev Lachim school systems in Eretz Yisroel, as well.

Recently, the Sephardic community opened two schools for autistic children that serve as a lifeline to those struggling with autism and are open to all segments of the Jewish community. What’s more, the community founded a yeshiva for learning-challenged children – Gesher Yehuda – a highly-regarded school for frum children from every segment of the Jewish community.

Mr. Sutton explains that, “This is a community that is ingrained with a firm commitment to chesed. That is what we are made of.”  He points out that this is not just about writing out a check.  Volunteering and coordinating events are part and parcel of the Sephardic culture.  “We understand the importance of volunteering,” he says.  “We understand that it’s an ongoing commitment.  Those of us who serve on the board of tzedakah organizations often work twenty to thirty hours a week on behalf of a cause.”  Mr. Sutton himself has had the zechus of hosting an Ohel foster child in his home for eighteen months, no doubt one of the greatest mitzvos that a family can undertake. Even the famous Satmar Bikur Cholim soup thermoses, used for years to bring sustenance and comfort to hospitalized patients all over New York, were imported at a discount to the United States by wholesalers in the Sephardic community.

Klal yisroel is made up of many diverse communities and cultures. Yet while our backgrounds may be different and our accents may vary, the truth is that we are all one people.  It is heartening to see that there are those among us who look beyond the surface and the ethnic differences in their efforts to help yidden all across the spectrum.  That is, after all, what achdus is all about.

(Chaim Stein – YWN)


30 Comments

  1. sabra says:

    as a lakewooder who visits deal quite often, I agree 1000%.We hold this community in the highest regard.We will not believe these allegations until 2 witnesses come forward & say they saw this take place with their own eyes! “AL PI 2 AIDIM”
    until then, the judicial system will follow their protocol & we will follow our sacred shulchan aruch!

  2. gitskeit says:

    …so don’t throw out the “baby’ with the
    ( sometimes dirty ) bath water. ashkenazim aren’t perfect. why do we expect any other segment of klal yisroel to be faultless?

  3. elicpa says:

    100% True, anyone who lives in New York knows that. The rest of the world probably knows it too but maybe not firsthand like in NY. But you’re implying that Chas V’Sholom people were speaking negatively against this community and I didn’t see (or hear) anything in print that said that.
    When they arrest someone from Satmar, are we going to see editorials how wonderful Satmer Bikur Cholim is? The same goes for every community. There have been arrests probably in every type of community. I don’t see why this article was neccessary.

  4. jlq3d3 says:

    I agree with #3, I don’t see the point of this article. Every community does good, but what does that have to do with possible crimes committed by individuals belonging to that community. Does it make the alleged crimes less bad?

  5. ir says:

    This is a beautiful article. I question the timing of it. Is this a reaction to last week’s events? It is common knowledge that the arrested ones were tricked, and it is short sighted to assume that the actions of one (especially since we don’t yet really know what happened to him – people now say that the FBI hounded and harrassed him and who knows what else)can reflect an entire community. May the mussar of the nine days be implanted within each one of us and may we be zocheh to moshiach tzidkenu, bimhera beyameinu.

  6. seeallsides says:

    I don’t the sephardic community needs anybody’s seal of approval – they are wonderful people – we all know them, love them, and appreciate all that they do – k’ish echad b’lev echad –
    This is a trying time – but you don’t see us picketing. Let’s hope this all dies down quickly.

  7. onlygoodnews says:

    #5 – where does your ‘common knowledge’ come from? I think the timing is inappropriate because in writing all the good things about this community – if someone disagrees, you are leading them to speak loshon hara. I learned never say to another person ‘isn’t Ploni the best’ – becuase you are giving them the opportunity to say ‘no – i think he is the worst, etc’

  8. Chaimel says:

    Is it true that the Moser tried to peddle his bill of goods to many, many Rosh Yeshivah and Rabbonim? If so, we can take solace in the fact that so few were unable to overcome to their Yetzer Hora. Of course, those who were honest didn’t make the news.

    Does anyone remember a FBI probe a few years back were they sent an agent to pose as a representative of foreign government to pay off Senators and/or Congressman to vote for a bill which would be contrary to the best interests of the US? That they had to quietly end the probe, because it was pulling in way too many of them?

  9. mbd says:

    What about “torah for special children” a wonderful organization (after school program)for down syndrome children also started by the syrian comm. (& most of the children aren’t even syrian,they’re from all over NY,ashkenaz,chasidish)

  10. n977ll says:

    As a proud member of the Sephardic Community, having read the indicments,I know the the percentage taken for the “laundering” was for tzedaka purposes,It went to the Ohel Yaavob shul & other Tzedoka.Everyone who Knows one of the rabbis who got arrested knows that he lives in a simple home & if there was a “cut” taken it was fully for tzedaka.They would never dream of pocketing the money.Of course what they did was illegal,regardless of the end result. I cant vouch for the purposes of the other defendants.

  11. AlephBet says:

    Also, I see a lot of Ashkenazim looking down on the Sephardim whether its in schools or shuls. This non sense has got to stop.

  12. deepthinker says:

    It is important that we know the facts about the decency, the Temimus, and the Ahavas Yisroel of the Sfardi community as the FBI witchunt continues and negative propaganda spews forth from the media, including our own secularized and assimilated Jewish media.

  13. just me says:

    I don’t understand the need for this article. As many others have said here, most people know that the Sephardic comunity are baalai tzedaka. I didn’t hear anyone saying bad things about the whole comunity because of last weeks incedent. I think you think less of klal Yisroel that you should.

  14. must_hock says:

    we all know all this, and dont need you confirming this, in fact its embarresing to them that you wrote this

  15. REACTION says:

    YWN – Has become a Sar V’shofet. Indeed these judgments by Jewish News Outlets are Chelm or Chevlei Moshiach!

  16. proud of KAJ WH TIDE says:

    This may very well be 100 % true, That does not mean that it is therefore not so bad if illegal activities are done by some and then a few are caught,making it OK. Taking non-kosher money from ill-gotten means for noble purposes does not make the wrong-doings right. The two are not related;and if they are,what a pity.

  17. ITZCHOK says:

    LET’S PRAISE all the good that Jews do instead of the bad and maybe Hashem will see sinas ahava and bring end to the geulah on this very day and turn Tisha B’av to a day of festivites

  18. havesomeseichel says:

    Many people here made very correct statements. When reading any editorial, one needs to ask: Why was this article written? What was the point? What is the author’s agenda? (everyone has one, whether it is to back someone politically, ideologically, ect)
    There are many people who do many chasadim around the world so this article seems unnecessary. Sephardim, Ashkenazim, Chasidim, Misnagdim ect each have people in their ranks who do good deeds. This article was to say that we should ignore those who do illegal things. Unfortunately, there are those in all groups who want to break the law. these people might not have, but if C”V they did do it, they should be punished like any other criminal. Just because someone is Jewish or part of a sect doesnt make them able to go off scott-free.

  19. farrockgrandma says:

    I think that most of us realize that this was, to an extent, an ‘affinity’ crime – where the main players acted mostly within the group where they felt most comfortable. It does not reflect at all on the Sephardic community. It would be counterproductive, at this time, to remind the outside world of how generous and giving the Sephardim to other Jews. That might lead some to infer that they stole from the public to benefit their own community.

  20. ChalabiJew says:

    Sepharadim are only looked down upon by the ignorant.
    If not for the Sephardim, there would be very few rishonim (Rambam, Ramban, Rabbeinu Yonah, Rabbeinu Bachya, Rashba, Ritva, the list goes on and on). The only reason why some people look down at Sephardim is because among the Frum, the Ashkenazim are the many, and the Sephardim are the few. The problem is much worse in Eretz Yisrael. It’s EXTREMELY difficult to get your kid into a good cheder if you have a Sephardic sounding last name. May we all perfect our ahavat chinam NOW!

  21. CSJew says:

    Is this article talking specifically about one sefardi community in New York (ie, the syrian)?
    Because they do not make up all worldwide sefardi communities.

  22. Matisyohu28 says:

    chalabi – rabbeinu yonah and the rashba were totally ashkenazi – however you should include the rif, and shulchan aruch

  23. shaatra says:

    The reason YWN posted this article (I think) is because the reports they have been posting WERE all negative about the Syrian community- that’s how I, as a Syrian, felt. Not that I needed this article to make me feel better. I KNOW how truly truly AMAZING my community is and I’m sooo happy to be apart of it! Almost everyday (sometimes there will be 3 or more things a day!!) there is a bake sale, chinese auction, dinners, ect. For tzedaka. They are so amazing

  24. shaatra says:

    Wait- I’m not understanding the headline. The TRUTH about the sephardic community? Are you KIDDING me!! That’s pathetic!! Wow wow wow I am in utter shock. This is scary that you would write this. So what your trying to say is that before you thought the sephardic community are liars and cheaters but now u know the TRUTH about them? This is a disgrace to your website

  25. Broker says:

    I agree with 21.

    Unfortunately there is racism amongst Klall Yisroel as well.

    Sephardic Jews produced our most respected personalities.

    Only the ignorant demean them.

  26. S.Y.W. says:

    #23. Don’t contradict unless you know what you are talking about. Both Rabbenu Yona and the Rashba were from Spain and were definetly Sephardic. In addition to the Rif and Rabbi Yosef Cairo, as you mentioned. And the list goes on and on… In fact, most of the well known Rishonim were Sephardim. It was only with the Achronim, that the vast majority are Ashkenazim. But, we are all one Nation and follow the same one Torah. So it doesn’t really matter. I just wanted to clarify the mistake.

  27. nameless says:

    25

    Makes a good point!
    Cant imagine reading a headline on this site like’ ‘Litvaks are really very wamr people’ or
    ‘Chassidim are not as phony as you think’ etc.

    Why this?

  28. Arieh says:

    Matisyohu28 – Rabbenu Yona was from Gerona, Sefarad and the Rashb”a was from Spain as well.

    S.Y.W. – Many Acharonim were Sephardim; The Meam Loez, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh, the Chid”a/Birke Yosef, the Sdei Chemed, the Ben Ish Chai, the Kaf HaChaim, Rav Refael Baruch Toledano (Author of Kitzur Shulchan Shalem); and the list goes on.

    Arieh

  29. MichelleNY says:

    25 & 28 are paranoid
    beautiful article!
    beautiful community!
    may we and all of klal yisrael only hear besorot tovot!

  30. Shmuel Engelsohn says:

    I am not a Sephardi, but I was priviledged to have access to the Health Club of the Sephardic Community Center for twenty one years, until moving to Jerusalem. In all that time, I never once heard a word of nivul peh. I heard and overheard many discussions of how to help someone out a member of the community in need. Families remain close, married chidren trying to remain within Sabbath walking distance of their parents and each other. In many ways, it is an exceptional community.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe to RSS Feed For This Article