The American Sephardi Federation (ASF) is announcing today the launch of a new program—the Sephardi House Fellowship—designed to immerse Jewish college students in the intellectual and cultural legacy of the Sephardic tradition.
Henceforth, the ASF will appoint Sephardi House Fellows annually at colleges and universities nationwide, with the mission of creating a warm and welcoming environment in which to discover the vast diversity, depth, and vitality of the Jewish people. Through a dynamic yearlong learning experience, the Fellows will deepen their knowledge of the multifaceted Greater Sephardic world and explore the “seriously Jewish, yet worldly and cosmopolitan” classic Sephardic tradition, while also developing leadership skills and their passion for community building.
The program is led by educator, social entrepreneur, and artist Ruben Shimonov, with the full ongoing support of the ASF.
The ASF is also proudly announcing this year’s appointment of 13 Sephardi House Fellows on campuses across the United States, ranging from UCLA to CCNY’s Macaulay Honors College. Chosen via a competitive application process, the Fellows have very varied Greater Sephardic backgrounds (Balkan, Bukharian, Egyptian, Greek, Lebanese, Moroccan, Persian, Syrian, Yerushalmi) and academic majors, including architecture, finance, neuroscience, mathematics, studio art, and physics. What unites them is a commitment to advance Jewish unity through our shared Sephardi roots.
“This is an incredibly accomplished and eclectic group of young leaders. I am excited for the journey that we will be taking together,” said Shimonov, who also serves as VP of the ASF Young Leaders and lectures at the ASF’s Institute of Jewish Experience.
“The wisdom and warmth of the Sephardic tradition has much to offer to humanity. In these challenging times, we need that resilient spirit that has been passed down through the ages in the form of Sephardic poetry, philosophy, music, food, and spirituality. In a moment where being Jewish on campus is not always easy, I feel Sephardi House can make a difference,” said Joshua Benaim, the visionary creator of the Sephardi House Fellowship. Benaim, a Harvard University and Harvard Business School alum, is the Founder & CEO of Aria Development Group.
“The idea for the Sephardi House Fellowship arose out of Josh’s love for the classic Sephardic tradition, appreciation for the challenges facing young Jews on campus, and a desire to honor his father, Carlos, one of the world’s premier perfumers,” said Jason Guberman, ASF’s Executive Director, who added: “With great enthusiasm, we welcome our inaugural cohort of Sephardi House Fellows for the 2020-2021 academic year.”
“Growing up in Tangier in a Sephardic Jewish family left an indelible imprint on my life and values. I want to ensure that the next generation will have the opportunity to experience this culture at an important moment in their lives,” said Carlos Benaim, a distinguished ASF Board Member.
Sephardi House Fellows receive individualized mentorship, full access to all ASF programs, a $1,000 stipend and additional support to further activities on campus, as well as participate in exclusive monthly sessions illuminating aspects of Greater Sephardi history, philosophy, and culture.
Esther Bentolila, a Sephardi House Fellow and junior at Cornell University, said: “I am beyond excited for this opportunity to bring Jewish students together from all walks of life to discuss different aspects of the culture, such as art, music, and literature. The contributions of great Sephardic Rabbis and thinkers is an area I particularly cherish, and I have a passion for Judaism and a hunger for knowledge.”