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Sephardi Mizrahi Studies Caucus Discussion List - April 14, 2002

Association for Jewish Studies Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies Caucus
Discussion List
Editor/Moderator: Aviva Ben-Ur
Date: Week of Sunday, April 14, 2002 (2 Iyar 5762)

1. Announcement: Closing of Chicago's Sephardic Day School Threatened (Santacruz)

2. Study Abroad Program at FIU: "The Sephardic Jewish Experience in Spain" (Zohar)

3. Call for Panelists and Papers for the AJS 2002 (Zohar)

4. Call for Speakers: Second annual Sephardic Studies Lecture Series of Florida International University (Zohar)

1. Announcement: Closing of Chicago's Sephardic Day School Threatened (Santacruz)

Via: Sephardic House Moderator <>
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2002 21:05:26 -0600

[Note from Editor/Moderator Aviva Ben-Ur: reposted with permission of Daniel Santacruz]

Chicago's only Sephardic day school may be forced to close
By Pauline Dubkin Yearwood

The children and their parents love it and the community agrees that it fulfills an important function, but all that may not be enough. The Sol and Tillie Hasson Sephardic Day School in Skokie, the only Sephardic Jewish school in the Midwest, may close at the end of the current school year due to lack of funds. Only an emergency appeal to the community made by the school earlier this month has kept it in operation this long, its principal said. He originally feared that it might have to close before Purim, sending the 70 students in pre-nursery through fifth grade scrambling for midyear slots in other schools.

As it is, the school lost about half its student population from the previous year because parents feared it might not open for the current school year. Although its principal, Rabbi Sasson Natan, had hoped to eventually be able to extend the school to include seventh and eighth grades, instead the sixth grade was dropped because there wasn't enough money to keep it open.

It wouldn't be the first time a Jewish day school in the Chicago area had to shut its doors (two, the Rosenwald School and Kinderland, have closed in the past three years), but the Sephardic school, its supporters say, is a special case, a treasure that the Jewish community can ill afford to lose. About half of its students come from Sephardic families (see separate story) and are learning the traditions of that segment of the Jewish world, as well as those of the more dominant Ashkenazic community.

All other Jewish day schools in the Chicago area teach only the Ashkenazic traditions.

Who's responsible for the school's financial straits? Its leaders say the Jewish community is not doing enough to help. Others believe that members of Chicago's Sephardic community need to reach deeper into their wallets. The one thing everyone agrees on is that no Jewish day school has enough funds to meet its needs, and relatively new schools are in a particularly precarious position.

The story of the Sephardic Day School begins in 1995, when it was launched with a half-million-dollar gift from a Chicago couple, Dr. Sol and Tillie Hasson. (Tillie Hasson died in 1998.)

Hasson had two reasons for deciding to found a Sephardic day school, he said during a telephone interview from his winter home in Florida. Both had to do with his own background. He was born in Italy to a Sephardic family. The Nazis forced him to leave his country; he went first to Greece, then to the United States, where he and his sister arrived in 1940. The rest of his family perished.

"I always had the feeling that if the (Sephardic) tradition passed away and died, that Hitler won," he said. "As long as we can keep the tradition going here, then maybe he didn't win."

The second reason, he said, is that "the Sephardic tradition within the Jewish community is a minority. It really doesn't have much of a chance to remain alive unless we do something about teaching it to our children."

The full article is here:

2. Study Abroad Program at FIU: "The Sephardic Jewish Experience in Spain"

From Zion Zohar
Date: April 11, 2002

Sephardic/Oriental Studies Program

Study Abroad Program
Program: The Sephardic Jewish Experience in Spain
Semester: Summer A, 2002

Program Dates: In Spain May 22-June 4; on campus beginning May 6. (Out of state students will do distant learning instead of the “on campus segment. for more info. Please contact Dr. Zion Zohar).

Academic Unit: Institute for Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, Sephardic/Oriental Studies Program

Courses: REL 3997 (undergrad)/ REL 5997 (grad), The Sephardic/Jewish Experience: in Spain

Credits: 3

Program Description: The program will view different sites in Spain in an attempt to comprehend the unique experience of the Jewish exile in this magnificent country, which gave Judaism its Golden Age. The program will enable students to trace the footsteps of spiritual giants, such as Hasdai Ibn Shaprut, Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, Ibn Ezra, and Maimonides among many others.

Instructor: Zion Zohar, Religious Studies Department and Associate Director, Institute for Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, Sephardic/Oriental Studies Program

Travel information: Places that will be visited include Madrid, Toledo, Seville, Malaga, Granada, Costa del Sol, La Mancha and Consuegra. Students will spend 12 nights in first class hotels, and will travel from city to city in an air-conditioned motor coach.

Cost: $2250 approximately + tuition (cost includes: round trip airfare without airport taxes, hotel accommodations with breakfast and most dinners, transportation and guided tours, all entrance fees, local taxes and charges, and round-trip transfers------------- airport-hotel-airport). Financial aid is available through FAFSA.

Contact information:

Dr. Zion Zohar/ Danielle Bienenfeld
Florida International University
Religious Studies Department
Biscayne Bay Campus ACI 384A
T: 305.919.5610


Florida International University- Office of International Studies, DM 300B

T: 305.348.1913 E: Web:
3. Call for Panelists and Papers for the AJS 2002 (Zohar)

From: Zion Zohar
Date: April 11, 2002

About 5 weeks ago, I sent via the caucus-list a call for scholars to participate in sessions and panels relating to Sephardic Studies in the AJS Conference.

This is a reminder that the due date is approaching and anyone interested in participating in a pre-planed session is kindly requested to send us, as soon as possible, either topics for individual papers, or a topic for a whole session that will be dealing with any aspect of Sephardic studies. This is a general call for any topic in Sephardic studies.

On a more personal note, I, myself, would like to have a panel, either about Rabbi Haim ben Atar, or Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Anyone who is interested in either one of these two great Sephardic spiritual leaders, please contact me directly at

I am looking forward to hearing from you, as time is pressing.

4. Call for Speakers: Second annual Sephardic Studies Lecture Series of Florida International University (Zohar)

From: Zion Zohar
Date: April 11, 2002

I am currently working on the planning of the next academic year's Lecture Series. I am happy to report that last year's Lecture Series was an amazing success and we got incredible feedback from scholars, students, and lay people alike. Anyone who has an attractive, interesting, Sephardic topic, and want to participate in this prestigious Lecture Series, please contact Professor Zion Zohar either via email ( or by phone (305-933-3177).

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