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Sephardic Programs

Moshe Tessone teaching


For more information on the Sephardic Programs contact the Director:

Rabbi Moshe Tessone
Yeshiva University
500 West 185th Street
New York, NY 10033

Sephardic News

Fall 2018 - Spring 2019 Issue


The YU Sephardic Community Program (SCP) was established in 1964 for the purpose of assisting Sephardic and Near Eastern communities in establishing a strong and vital presence in North America. Today these communities are growing by leaps and bounds and are in dire need of proper resources that will help them to develop the communal and organizational infrastructure that will keep their communities spiritually thriving for generations.


The SCP was co-founded by Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky and Hakham Solomon Gaon A'H with the vision of having YU's community service division play a vital role in nurturing those communities by assisting them to build properly run synagogues and educational institutions. Today, more than 55 years later, their vision has yielded tremendous results and won the respect and admiration of Jewish religious and lay leaders and of countless Sephardim throughout North America. Currently, the SCP still benefits from the leadership of Dr. Dobrinsky. Among his many duties at YU, he still serves as special consultant to the SCP and is integrally involved in its day to day operations.

The Sephardim in the Americas

The SCP was developed at a time when the demographic makeup of the Sephardim in America comprised largely Jews of Spanish-Portuguese and Balkan ancestry. Today, these early Sephardim have been joined by many new groups of Jews from the Middle East who have established formidable communities in America with the help, guidance and services offered by YU's Sephardic Community Program. These Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish communities hail from countries all over the world, including Morocco and other North African nations, Syria and other nations of the Levant, Iran (especially Mashhad), Afghanistan, Bukhara, Iraq, and Yemen, to name a few. Indeed, today Yeshiva University's SCP represents a vast array of Sephardic communities that join under one umbrella as a united Jewish religious and cultural force.

Sephardic Studies

Jacob E. Safra Institute of Sephardic Studies (JSISS)

JSISS is the name given in 1981 to the existing Sephardic studies offerings that were established in 1964. This comprises undergraduate Sephardic studies courses that exist within the various undergraduate Jewish studies programs at Yeshiva College. In prior years, JSISS also produced the various Sephardic academic publications at Yeshiva including the Sephardic Journey Catalogue which was published in conjunction with the YU Museum Sephardic Exhibit in 1992. For more information regarding this program please email

Sephardic Community Program (SCP)

This program focuses on spiritual, educational and cultural aspects of Sephardic communal life and is under the direction and leadership of Rabbi Moshe Tessone. The SCP develops and provides new and exciting Sephardic programming for community organizations and institutions in both the Sephardic and Askenazic world as well. This program historically and currently plays a vital role in assisting in the development of new emerging Sephardic communities and in supporting the growth of existing communities and their respective congregations and educational institutions in North America, Latin America, and Europe and beyond. For more information regarding this program or to organize a YU SCP event in your community please contact Rabbi Moshe Tessone at:

Sephardic Rabbinic Training Program at RIETS

This program trains Sephardic Rabbis through high level rabbinic training in Talmud and Halakhic Codes (Shulhan Arukh) under the tutelage of our esteemed Sephardic Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim, who holds the Maxwell R. Maybaum Chair in Talmud and Sephardic Halakhic Codes. Rabbi Ben Haim oversees these students in their intellectual growth of advanced Torah studies and acts as a rabbinic mentor in their professional development. The Maybaum Sephardic Fellowship Fund provides limited scholarships and stipends for select Sephardic students who qualify and who are enrolled in the Sephardic Rabbinic Training Program at RIETS. These students, upon completion of their rabbinic studies plan to serve in the Jewish community as leading Rabbis and educators all over the world. For more information regarding this program please contact Rabbi Moshe Tessone at:

Graduate Studies Program in Sephardic History and Culture

The Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Abraham and Jelena (Rachel) Alcalay Chair in Sephardic Studies (Judeo Spanish) at the Bernard Revel Graduate School for Jewish Studies (BRGS). This program is an endowed graduate program in Sephardic studies under the leadership of Professor Ronnie Perelis, Associate Professor of Sephardic Studies at Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies (BRGS). Dr. Perelis teaches the history and culture of the Sephardim from their roots in Medieval Iberia to their vibrant diaspora communities in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Northern Europe and the Americas. These courses explore the beauty and complexity of Sephardic literature, philosophy, cultural achievements and socio-economic dynamism at both the graduate and the undergraduate level. Students may pursue this course of graduate studies and attain masters and doctoral degrees in their specific related field of interest. For more information regarding this program please email

Graduate Studies Programs in Sephardic Studies

Bernard Revel Graduate School offers a rich and diverse selection of courses in Sephardic history and in the writings and philosophy of many of the great rabbinic figures of the Sephardic world during the medieval period and during more recent times as well. This includes courses in the history of various Sephardic communities as well as courses in the works of Maimonides, Nachmanides, Ibn Ezra, Ibn Gabirol, Yehuda Halevy and many more. For more information regarding this program please email

Institute of Yemenite Studies

This program provides historical and cultural programs, exhibits, lectures and a library collection for the Yemenite communities. For more information regarding this program please email

Dr. Joseph and Rachel Ades Sephardic Outreach Program

This program administers youth retreats, lectures and outreach programs to benefit the Sephardic community. For more information regarding this program please email

Attendants of Sephardic board meeting

New YU President Rabbi Ari Berman Meets Sephardic Leaders

During the spring 2018 semester, YU President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman met Sephardic lay leaders at an evening event hosted by the Sephardic Council of Overseers (SCO) at YU’s Beren Campus.

The SCO is a lay leadership council under the aegis of YU’s Sephardic Community Programs and includes representatives from the Syrian, Persian, Iraqi, Moroccan, Judeo-Spanish, Spanish-Portuguese, Bukharin, Yemenite, and other Middle Eastern communities who are active in their respective communities in leadership roles in the various synagogues and Jewish day schools throughout the Sephardic enclaves of NY and NJ.

Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, Vice President for University Affairs and founder of Yeshiva’s Sephardic Programs in 1964, introduced Rabbi Berman before his keynote presentation to the gathered group of leaders. Rabbi Berman talked warmly and engagingly about the Sephardic students on campus. He also fielded questions and comments from the group regarding his vision for YU as he takes the helm of Yeshiva’s leadership into the next exciting era in YU’s growth.

Rabbi Moshe Tessone, Director of YU Sephardic Community Program at Yeshiva also addressed the distinguished gathering and reported on the astounding growth of Sephardic populations in North America in the recent 2 decades and the impact that demographic reality has had on the Sephardic enrollment at Yeshiva University. He added that YU is using all the resources available to serve this growing Sephardic student community within the general YU population. Both Dr. Dobrinsky and Rabbi Tessone have been very committed during their years at Yeshiva to serving the Sephardic world at large, and the Sephardic campus community, which is literally a parallel microcosm of the Sephardic population throughout the world.

Dr. Dobrinsky as well as Rabbi Berman and Rabbi Tessone all expressed their excitement at the efforts to grow the partnership with Sephardic leaders and to help to find new ways to promote and strengthen the ties to the Sephardic world. They all encouraged the leaders in attendance to help ignite new and creative opportunities for collaboration that will help promote and provide expanded facilities and additional Sephardic Torah scholars to teach the increasing number of undergraduate Sephardic students at YU, both men and women, who hail not only from the NY/NJ region but from all over the US, North and South America, and beyond.


Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, Vice President for University Affairs, Co-Founder of Sephardic Studies Programs and Consultant to Jacob E. Safra Institute of Sephardic Studies and all other Sephardic Divisions


Rabbi Moshe Tessone, Director of Sephardic Community Program, YU Jewish Studies Faculty (teaches courses at Yeshiva College and at Stern College for Women), and Faculty at the Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music (teaches Sephardic Liturgical Music and Cantillation)

Rashei Yeshiva


Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim, Sephardic Rosh Yeshiva Chairholder, Maxwell R. Maybaum Chair in Talmud and Sephardic Halakhic Codes (teaches Talmud class for 20-24 students (majority 65-75% are Sephardim) a leading Sephardic Rabbinic Authority for the Greater Sephardic Community)

Mordechai Benhaim

                   Rabbi Mordechai Benhaim, Rosh Yeshiva

Rabbi Abraham Sarfaty, Faculty member of YU's Mazer Yeshiva Program and an assistant to Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Hershel Schachter of the Marcos and Adina Katz Kollel. Also, instructor of Sephardic Halakha and Codes to Maybaum Fellows at RIETS.

Academic Faculty


Professor Ronnie Perelis, Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Abraham and Jelena (Rachel) Alcalay Associate Professor of Sephardic Studies at BRGS. Perelis explores the history and culture of the Sephardim and their Diasporas with his students at YC, Stern College and the Bernard Revel Graduate School. 


Rabbi Hayim Angel, Faculty YC, Professor of Bible


Rabbi Dan Cohen, Edmond J. Safra Sephardic S'gan Mashgiach at RIETS.


Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff, Jewish Studies Faculty, Stern College for Women


Rabbi Richard Hidary, Faculty, Stern College for Women, Assistant Professor of Jewish History

Rabbi Nissim Elnekaveh, Library Consultant on Ladino and Sephardic Materials

Rabbi Steven Schneid, Faculty Belz School of Jewish Music, teaches Safrut (Torah calligraphy according to Sephardic tradition)


Joseph Angel, YC, Assistant Professor of Bible


Rabbi Gideon Shloush, Faculty, Stern College for Women, Adjunct Instructor of Judaic Studies

Sephardic Library

Library Collections & Archives

Yeshiva University is home to an extensive collection of Sephardic Books and research materials which are housed at The Mendel Gottesman Library at The Wilf Campus in Washington Heights, NY. In addition to the regular library collection, there is a also a Sephardic reference room where many rare Judeo Spanish (Ladino) and Judeo Arabic manuscripts and books are stored and being catalogued on an ongoing basis. For students and scholars who are engaged in advanced research and may be in need of access to any special materials or rare "Sephardica" from the Sephardic reference room special arrangements may be made in advance by contacting Shulamith Berger, curator of special collections at the library.

Requests for special access should be emailed to and copied to

Moshe Tessone teaching

Please feel free to contact us to learn about our activities and how we may serve your community. We look forward to hearing from you.

Rabbi Moshe Tessone
Yeshiva University
500 West 185th Street
New York, NY 10033

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