Flying under the radar for the last five years, Kehilat Sfarad Congregation has been offering Sephardic Jews a place to worship during the High Holidays.
That’s rather rare in a community so overwhelmingly Ashkenazi.
Congregation President Abraham Anouchi, who also is a member at Young Peoples Synagogue, began Kehilat Sfarad five years ago with a couple of other Sephardic Jews who were looking for a way to have services in a non-Ashkenazi way. Kehilat Sfarad is the only Sephardic congregation in the area.
“I’m Sephardic and I belong to Young Peoples Synagogue and I had always gone to their services and loved them,” he said. “I found out there were other Sephardic people and I wanted to get them involved.”
Anouchi is very active both at Young Peoples and at Kehilat Sfarad. He leads torah study classes and does his best to keep people active. He said that he considers himself somewhat of a community organizer for Kehilad Sfarad.
While they don’t have their own building, rabbi or chazan, the small congregation of roughly 40 to 50 families rents space at Shaare Torah Congregation during the High Holidays.
For many years before becoming an actual congregation anywhere from 10-20 people would meet for services every other Shabbat. Because of declining numbers, though, they were forced to cancel those services, Anouchi said.
“We use to have them every other week at Shaare Torah,” Anouchi said. “But they just didn’t work out on a continuous basis. We didn’t have enough people to maintain having them.”
But during the High Holidays the little congregation comes to life.
Kehilat Sfarad gets 60 to 70 people for the first day of Rosh Hashana, 50 for the second day and 80 for Yom Kippur. This year, it hired Chazan Viktor Gheriani from the Yeshiva University Rabbinical School to lead the services.
It’s not easy being a small congregation. Money is tight and donations — when they do get them — are minimal.
“We can hardly raise the money to rent the space and hire the cantor,” Anouchi said. “We have a hard time raising money.”
But that hasn’t deterred him from continuing to devote his time to Kehilat Sfarad. He believes that the congregation has the possibility to grow, and attract new Sephardic Jewish members.
For more information on Kehilat Sfarad, call Arielle Avishai at 267-664-2464.
(Mike Zoller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)