By Rivka Bennun
The school year is off to a great start for the Sephardic Club at YU, which hosted its annual ‘Mega Sephardic Selichot’ event September 1st on Wilf Campus. The event was a massive success, with around 80 students attending. This was the first time the event was held in two years, as it did not take place last year due to COVID-19 safety precautions.
Due to powerful rain storms from Hurricane Ida, students from the Beren campus were concerned they would be unable to attend the event, but after much deliberation they were able to take part in the meaningful service. “It was incredible to see such a high turnout of people given the weather circumstances which demonstrates the persistence YU students possess,” says Sephardic Club Co-President Gilad Menashe (SSSB 24’), “Moreover, seeing the lengths people went to in order to attend and help out with the selichot was truly astonishing.”
The event was held in the Rubin Shul. Students first enjoyed an array of traditional Sephardic foods, including lachmagine, kibbeh, borekas, baklava, and of course, lots of tea. Students then heard from YU Rabbi Mordechai Djavaheri who shared a Chasidic idea relating to Parashat Nitzavim and the process of teshuva. “Atem Nitzavim Hayom Kulchem – you have to all be here [standing before Hashem],” shared Rabbi Djavaheri. “All of you, doesn’t matter if you’re Sephardi, Ashkenazi, Galiciani, Brisker – who cares? We’re all part of Am Yisrael.” Students were inspired by the words of Rabbi Djavaheri and it was a perfect segue into selichot.
Finally, selichot services began, with students leading the traditional Sephardic tunes. The selichot prayers themselves lasted for about an hour as students passionately prayed and sang together.
Students felt moved by the prayers. “It was a beautiful night to pray,” says Rina Shamilov (SCW 24’). “It was fervently raining outside, and I felt like a child, so free and so caught up in the words and prayers.”
When asked about the significance of the Club, Co-President Sarah Serfaty (SSSB 22’) shared, “The importance of having a Sephardic club on campus is to represent the Spharadi students at YU and provide them with events that represent our traditions.” Serfaty added that “currently we’re still working on bringing a Sephardic minyan to Beren campus for shabbats but it has been very tough to convince the board to bring one but things are looking up B”H.”
While this annual event is one of the highlights of the year for the Sephardic Club, it is expected to be the first of several events, Serfaty says. The Sephardic community at YU looks forward to more events throughout the year.