Supporters of the Sephardic Rabbinical College (SRC)recently gathered at the home of Albert and Joyce Chehebar to celebrate 15 successful years. The SRC was founded by Ezra S. Ashkenazi in 1998, and has since produced over 20 notable community rabbis. Obtaining semikha (rabbinic ordination) at the SRC is not a simple task. Students need to study the laws of Shabbat, mourning, kashrut, weddings and much more, and achieve high grades on their testing. The semikha process is a seven year program. The college, named after Ezra’s parents Saul A”H and Sally Ashkenazi, aims to produce home grown rabbinic leaders who posses the traditional Sephardic approach to Tanakh, halakha and Torah. The SRC also places a premium on practical halakha, emphasizing real questions and situations that arise on a daily basis.
Students of the SRC study with the foremost rabbis of the community, Hakham Shimon Alouf and Rabbi Harold Sutton. Mrs. Gitta Neufeld, Director of Education at the Allegra Franco School of Educational Leadership, teaches pedagogy seminars. Speech writing and presentation are also taught, and all rabbinical students are college graduates. Under Rabbi Alouf’s and Rabbi Sutton’s tutelage, graduates of the college have achieved successful careers as rabbis of community synagogues, and hold educational positions of great importance in our community.
Rabbi Richard Tobias, who graduated in 2009, spoke about the unique nature of the SRC. He is very proud to say that SRC graduates are not only prepared to deal within the world of Torah and halakha, but are also prepared to deal with the problems facing the world at large. He said, “The Sephardic Rabbinical College proclaimed, unequivocally, that it would rise to the challenge of educating the next generation and would strengthen the beliefs and pride of our young adults so that they could be confident about who they are as Sepharadic Jews. At the same time, it would teach them how to see the world through the eyes of halakha so that they could successfully weave together their Judaism and the world around them.”
SRC committee member Raymond Saka spoke about the importance of educating young men in our community to become educators in our yeshivot, and pulpit rabbis in our synagogues. He said, “When you educate a child—while a noble and worthy endeavor—you’re educating one child. When you educate a teacher, you’re educating generations to come.”
Rabbi Harold Sutton, Rosh Yeshiva, said, “SRC has as its mission to produce Torah leaders who are top of their field in Torah, halakha, and Sephardic tradition, while at the same time preparing leaders for the unique challenges that we face in 21st century America.”
The event served not only the exciting purpose of celebrating the 15th anniversary, but also ensured the support needed to look towards the future, which is bright. Currently, there is a flourishing and innovative half-day program, where students study Torah during the first half of the day, and complete their college level secular studies in the afternoon at local universities. An additional 10 rabbinical students study at the SRC all day, and are on the path to becoming the leaders of tomorrow. The SRC is grateful to the financial supporters who helped support them all these years.
The Saul and Saul Ashkenazi Sephardic Rabbinical College is continually growing, both quantitatively—by adding talented, dedicated young men to the student body—and qualitatively—by creating programs to serve the many educational and pastoral needs of the community. These bright, energetic young men, who have chosen to devote their professional lives to the community, are certain to be a source of leadership and pride to all. We are sincerely indebted to them.
Sephardic Rabbinical College graduates have obtained positions in the following community institutions: Magen David, Yeshivah of Flatbush, Barkai and Hillel yeshivahs, Shaare Shalom, Bnei Yitzhak, Ahaba V’Ahva, Magen David Synagogue, Edmond J. Safra Synagogue of Deal, Magen David of West Deal, Shaare Tefillah of Eatontown and many other prestigious synagogues.