Why Are There No Reform or Conservative Sephardic Movements
January 16, 2018 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pmSuggested Donation: $18
Rabbi Haim Ovadia
The different cultures and religious approaches of Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews are products of over a thousand years of living under the rule of two opposing religions, Islam and Christianity. Though both religions, as well as Judaism, are often bundled together as the Monotheistic or Abrahamic religions, there are fundamental differences between them. For better or worse, the unique characteristics of each dominant religion shaped the lives, cultures, and theology of its Jews. The rift which started a thousands years ago, has deepened after the emancipation in Europe, as religious leaders in the Ashkenazi world retreated into a spiritual ghetto, while Sephardic kept a vibrant and innovative legal approach. The lecture will review some of the influences of Islam and Christianity on Judaism, will track the path of Halakhic innovation over the centuries, and will explain why the Sephardic world appears to be more homogeneous than the Ashkeanzi world.
Born in Israel, Rabbi Haim Ovadia received his Semicha in 1991 from Israeli Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu after studying rabbinics at the Shehebar Sephardic Center. Rabbi Ovadia served as a hazan and assistant Rabbi at Communidad Hebrea Sefaradi de Bogota in Bogota, Columbia until 1996. In the same year, he received a degree in Judaic studies in Bar-Ilan University before coming to the United States where he served as assistant Rabbi in Magen David in West Deal from 1997-99. He was associate rabbi at Beth Torah in Brooklyn until 2001.
In 2001 Rabbi Haim Ovadia became the Rabbi in Kahal Joseph in Westwood in Los Angeles, CA where after succeeding Rabbis Benzaquen and Rabbi Hillel Benchimol respectively, he continued their work in successfully increasing the awareness of Sephardim– mostly from Iraq, Israel and the Far East to bring them closer to their rich, ancient heritage.
During this time Rabbi Ovadia continued to further his studies, earning a Masters Degree from UCLA in Hebrew literature in 2004 and is currently pursuing a doctorate at Jewish Studies at Spertus College (Chicago). In addition, Haim Ovadia has taught at the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism) and currently teaches Rabbinic studies at the Academy of Jewish Religion (AJR).
Rabbi Ovadia served as the Rabbi at Kahal Joseph for six years before joining the Magen David of Beverly Hills (founded by Joe Fallas) in September 2008 where he served as its Rabbi. He is now in Rockville, MD serving as rabbi of Magen David Sephardic Congregation.
“I see myself primarily as an educator and the role of rabbi facilitates that function,” said Rabbi Ovadia. “My greatest achievement in LA is creating awareness of the more balanced Sephardi way of Jewish life and bringing thus peace to some individuals and families.”
Rabbi Ovadia sees himself as a link between the traditions of his Iraqi ancestors and the changes that are occurring within the Sephardic/Mizrahi community outside of the Middle East and North Africa.
His goal is to establish a Sephardic studies center in America to continue the preservation of the Sephardic culture as well as to create a library and intellectual hub where people will meet to discuss and study their heritage.
His greatest challenge is helping non-practicing Sephardic Jews return to their traditions while instilling a love and pride for their unique culture.