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Who Are the Sephardim?

"Sephardic" is derived from the Hebrew word for Spain, "Sepharad." The Sephardim are descendants of the 200,000 Jews who were expelled from from Spanish lands by order of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in 1492. These exiles settled in countries along the Mediterranean Sea, North Africa, the Balkans, Italy, Syria, and Palestine. Others made their way to Brazil and Holland, as well as to communities in the New World, including those in New Amsterdam (now New York). Mexico, and Curacao.  

As in many other Sephardic synagogues, we house our scrolls in Torah cases of carved wood with applications and etchings of gold and silver. Scrolls are crowned with rimonim, many of them crafted of sterling silver and embellished with tiny bells. In contrast, Ashkenazi Jews install their scrolls on Torah rollers called atzie chaim, and cover them with velvet mantles.  At MDSC, as at other synagogues that follow the Sephardic customs of Morocco, the Levant and the areas of the Mediterranean, the Torah case is carried from its place in the hechal and placed on its base. The scroll is read in its vertical position.  

Magen David maintains its devotion to Sephardic customs, but the congregation is a delightful mix of people from at least 18 countries, and includes many members from Ashkenazi backgrounds. It is a dynamic environment in which we come together to enjoy Judaism and the Jewish way of life. We welcome diversity, and consider it one of our most important strengths. All are welcome to learn with us and to pray with us. We also hope you will engage with us in our mission to aid persons in need, both in our congregation and in the Jewish community at large.

Mon, April 15 2024 7 Nisan 5784