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Important message from the President and Board of Directors

We are truly heartbroken following the tragedy that occurred this past weekend at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. We extend our deepest and sincere condolences to the victims’ families. We pray for a speedy recovery to the injured as well as the brave members of law enforcement. It is specially disheartening to think that this terrible act occurred amid celebrating life. While this may have happened in Pittsburgh, the Jewish community throughout the world is united in mourning as one.

This episode reminds us all the importance of security in our premises. With this in mid, we would like to inform our membership of some of the things that we have been working on behind the scenes. Our community leaders as well as our security committee have been in the process of upgrading and fortifying our synagogue. We have had ongoing consultations with security experts who are helping us proceed with the second phase of this process. The first phase was recently completed. Our West wall. In the coming few months we will have new electric fences in the front of our property as well as very restrictive and controlled entrance. Besides our armed guard, we will include access control panels, License plate identification systems and accesses control features in all our entry doors as well as security cameras and sensors. We will install an emergency phone inside the synagogue that reaches EMS directly. We will establish lock-down systems that may be activated in case of an emergency, as well.

All these features still are no guarantee of 100% security. It is imperative that all members cooperate with our on-premise security. It will likely get more restrictive moving forward. We only ask all of you that if you see something say something. This episode in Pittsburgh has reminded all of us that we can’t take our safety and the safety of our children for granted. Please fell free to be in touch with us if you should have any questions or comments. May hashem bring comfort to the families of those that perished in Pittsburgh and bring a speedy recovery to the injured.

B’nai Sephardim Board of Directors

Presidents Rosh Hashana Speech

Dear Rabbi, board of director, and Kahal Kadosh,

I’d like to start off by wishing everyone Shana Tova Umetuka.

It has truly been a privilage serving as your president, here at Bnai Serphardim, not only this past year, but for the past 3.5 years. So many challenges and objectives have been overcome or are in the process of doing so. It has certainly not been an easy year to say the least, but thanks to the perseverance and relentless hard work of our board of directors leadership and volunteers, we are where we stand today. Each one was fully committed to these challenges even if it meant taking time out from their busy work schedule to get things done.

The famous Rabbi Noah Weinberg would say:

“People often avoid making decisions out of fear of making a mistake. Actually the failure to make decisions is one of life's biggest mistake.

Our beautiful facilities wouldn’t have gotten this far without the hard work of our board and the many volunteers. We must not forget all our generous donors, for without their funds, we would have nothing to work with.

Like our stunning small synagogue generously donated by the Myara family in the memory of Yirmiyahu Rafael Z”L. It’s beautiful Aaron Hakodesh generously donated by the children of Samuel and Dinah Salama in their honor. Or our Bet Midrash which was donated by the Ovaknin family in the memory of their mother, Geulah Ovaknin ZL.

Our soon to be opened and fully functional Mikveh, generously donated by Isaac and Reina Anidjar.

Mr. Leon Levy and his wife Iraida, Z”L , and Mr. Marco and Hinka Levy Z”L, generously donated our administrative and Rabbi’s offices. Together with all the many supporters and donors that have made all this possible with their physical efforts as well as their financial contributions. You know who you are.

And finally, a vision that is almost coming to life, our social hall is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. B” H.

Each one of these projects came with multiple challenges that would have been difficult to overcome if it were not for the hard work selfless sacrifice of your leadership and the many volunteers this past year. We all knew the level of commitment required to accomplish these results. There is an old Jewish proverb I’d like to quote: “he that can’t endure the bad will not live to see the good”.

A heartfelt thank you to all who gave up countless hours away from work, family, and daily routine, to give back to our community and make Bnai Sephardim a better and warmer place.

It is now time to ponder what kind of community we strive to become. It is not an easy question to answer. We have a beautiful and diverse membership who come from all walks of life. I believe this mixture provides for a bolder and richer flavor. Although we could use a little less spice sometimes. Seriously, in the last few months I have come to realize how much we all need each other. As a community we choose not to live in isolation. We have joined this beautiful place because we want to engage with others to enrich our Jewish heritage and identity. Some of us come to learn from our very dynamic Rabbi Laredo, who fills us with lively and motivational torah learning. Some of us come to relive our deepest traditions and enjoy the refined voice of our Hazan Joseph Harrar, who somehow manages to transport us all the way back to Morocco with his tunes. Others want to join our women’s sisterhood, led by Nancy pool, Aliza Sebag and many others, in social gatherings and special events. They fill their life with purpose in knowing that they choose to help others in need. Or welcome new members and make them feel special. Or others come to be a part of our youth program, guided by Shai Ovadia and our volunteers, who help our children not just learn our traditions but actually live them. We truly have an amazing community and our potential is limitless.

The only way to reach this potential is by having more of you involved in this very rewarding process. I was very fortunate to have the most dedicated and committed group of people I could ever wish for.

Conclusion .

When I started as president 3.5 years ago, I was simply a father of four. Today, I am blessed to be a proud grandfather of three beautiful granddaughters. The plans for our synagogue were just a vision back then, but now are becoming reality. Thanks to all of you here today. I always knew serving would be a challenge. What I didn’t know at the time was how rewarding it would be for me personally and how many wonderful people I would meet along the way. The relationships that I have built with many of you will be valued forever.

I would like to take a moment now to thank my wife Michelle for putting up with me and the endless hours and meetings that have been invested in this, which was time away from my family. Thank you for quietly listening to my frustrations and my emotional rollercoasters . You have been my rock through all of this.

And now to you, my board of directors. Our newest members Yaniv Ofir and Moises Salama, for your energy commitment and dedication. I want to thank in particular those officers that have been with me from the very beginning of this wonderful project we help build together. Israel Savir for sharing with us your experiences and words of wisdom. Joel Suissa, I always count on you to give it to me straight and I appreciate that even when I am reprimanded. Elie Afriat for always providing common sense solutions to our many problems and challenges. Gilad Ovaknin for being the calming voice and steady hand so needed this past year. I can actually feel my blood pressure dropping when I speak with you. And of course, Eyal, no last name needed. When you encouraged me to fill this position you promised me you would be by my side. Well, you sure kept your promise, from 5 am to midnight. You are the reason I have been able to sleep these last few years. You work so tirelessly for this synagogue that I don’t understand how you make a living for your family the rest of the time. You have become very special to me. I am happy to know our synagogue will continue to remain in good hands.

As we move forward, I’m sure we will face new challenges and obstacles, but like the family we are, we will confront them together. In the coming months we will have new elections and new officers. I have always said we might be the most over-achieving synagogue that exists. I challenge anyone to find a 160-member community that has built so much. It is the reason every single one of you is so important to us. Hence, we have decided to invite a greater number of people to participate in the future board of directors. An idea suggested to us by one of our wide trustees, Mr. Leon Levy. We believe this is the best way to move forward with new participation and refreshed energy.

Finally, in this time that we ask Hashem for another year, let’s work on creating a better version of ourselves so we can better serve our community. I hope that in the coming year we realize that we can achieve a great deal more as a community united, than any of us can achieve as individuals. May we all be inscribed in the book of life. On behalf of the board of directors, myself and my family, I wish you a happy and healthy and sweet new year.

Thu, January 24 2019 18 Shevat 5779