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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sepharadim in the City: Hands-On Learning in NYC

On Monday November 5th, Mrs. Wielgus took our Sephardic history elective class to New York City for a first- hand learning experience: “Sepharadim in the City.” Our first stop was the breathtaking Edmond J. Safra Synagogue on the Upper East Side, which looked very modern and elegantly designed. The assistant rabbi, Rabbi Greenberg, gave us a tour of the synagogue, telling us about its history and pointing out the kabbalistic ideas incorporated in some of its features.  In the main sanctuary,  we all took  time to sketch the features of the room that impressed us most for our portfolio assignment, a requirement of the course. Next, we made our way to the magnificent Congregation Shearith Israel, or the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, located on Central Park West. It was America's first Jewish congregation, founded in 1654 by Jews who were fleeing the Portuguese Inquisition in Brazil. This synagogue represents the Western Sephardic traditions, while the Safra shul maintains the customs of the Edot Mizrach. From the red carpet to the intricate moldings on the walls and ceiling to the incredible Tiffany stained glass windows of the lavish main sanctuary, the eye didn't know what to appreciate first! Mr. Lustig, a congregant on the synagogue’s board and a Flatbush alumnus, taught us about the history of the congregation, and the chazzan of the synagogue  entertained us with some singing and reading that showed us just how different the Western Sephardic nusach was from the edot mizrach nusach and musical style. Our learning was capped off with an interesting meal at the Spanish syled kosher restaurant Ladino Tapas Grill alongside Jane Gerber, the author of our textbook. All in all, it was a great day. Thank you to Mrs. Wielgus for her enthusiasm in the subject and for making sure we get the most out of our elective pick! ~Millie Marcus 4-V