Rabbi Haim Ovadia I: Celebrating Sephardic Heritage
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: Why were Sephardic Jews originally better able to co-exist with surrounding non-Jewish communities than Ashkenazi Jews were?
Rabbi Haim Ovadia was born and raised in Jerusalem. He was brought up in a very rich rabbinic Sephardic tradition which emphasizes the importance of Tanakh, Hebrew poetry, and general sciences alongside the study of Talmud and Halakhah, and which promotes a humane, comprehensive, and inclusive approach to Judaism. He served as a community rabbi for over thirty years in diverse communities in Israel, South America, and both coasts of the United States. He has been a faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion of California, a non-denominational Rabbinical school in Los Angeles, since 2002, and in April, 2020, he founded the Rimmon Online Rabbinical School in the Washington, DC area.
Aside from his work as a community rabbi, Ovadia has engaged in social activism to promote inclusion of marginalized groups within the Jewish world, promoting the Sephardic approach, which believes not only in inclusion but in finding practical Halakhic solutions and in empowerment of the people through knowledge. Through his organization Torah Ve’Ahava (Torah with Love) he reaches thousands of people worldwide using modern technology and various platforms, including podcasts, YouTube, and distance learning.
This week we are speaking with Rabbi Ovadia about his work with different Sephardic communities, and what he is doing to help overcome some of the discrimination that they suffer within the wider Jewish population.
Next week, in the second part of this interview, Rabbi Ovadia will tell us about what he is doing to empower Jewish–and specifically Sephardic–women.