In almost every educational institution there are Religious Studies that allows students to learn about different religions including Jewish culture, but there isn’t a lot of focus on Sephardi Jewish studies in North America.
In fact, very few people are educated in the Sephardic Jewish studies where they can teach its history, according to Director of the Sephardic Education Center, Rabbi Daniel Bouskila- who stopped by CSUN today to talk about the history of this very small, but rich culture.
Bouskila has heard a lot of people complaining about the narrative in American universities being so Ashkenazim and European-based while the focus on the Sephardi side is barely ever touched upon. He said the narrative of any university system comes down to the understanding of investing a lot of money and assigning what person will do research, write books, and where would this research take place.
“If a university decided to endow millions of dollars in Sephardic studies and brought many Sephardic professors and students and encouraged twenty people to get PHD’s in the next ten years, that university would create a different narrative,” said Bouskila.
Most of the educational Sephardic teachers come from Israel and although their religion was not suppressed or discriminated against in anyway in America, it would still make a great impact to have more Sephardic temples and places where Jews can practice . According to Bouskila, Sephardic Jews are considered the minority in the Jewish community because their community has such a small population in America.
During WWII, Jews were being defined by their ethnic bloodlines for the first time ever and began to be separated from one another. According to Bouskila, this had many Jews decide to move to different countries to avoid the Holocaust and while a lot did migrate to America, not many Sephardi Jews did.
Most of the community traveled to other parts of Europe such as Spain, Portugal, and France, They also traveled to Northern African countries such as Morocco and Algeria, which is where Bouskila’s parents are from. He learned Jeudo-Arabic from his parents and sang different prayers in the language which was surprising to some attendees.
“There were a lot of things that (Bouskila) was saying that I didn’t know about,” said Michelle Saxe, an Orthodox Jew from Israel. “I’ve lived (in Los Angeles) for over 15 years and have not learned about the Sephardi side and was excited to learn and go to this lecture when I heard about it. It was very enriching and I was happy to be learning.”
Bouskila said his goal is to educate people and to inspire them to learn about the Sephardic culture.
“I always tell people ‘The Messiah will come when there will be Sephardic studies courses in universities,'” said Bouskila.
The Sephardic Jewish community is very small and in order to expand it, educational institutions, such as CSUN, have taken part in creating lectures such as this one to teach the history and principles of the Sephardic Jews.