Sephardic Communities from Around the World Came Together at National Sephardic Community GalaSephardic Communities from around the world came together to honor Dr. Albert Bourla, Sarah Aroeste, & Albert Maimon for their contributions to society. Greek, Turkish, and Israeli Ambassadors light menorah together in unique demonstration of unity. La Ermandad Sefaradi honored exemplary members of the community at the National Sephardic Community Gala
By Ethan MARCUS
On Sunday, December 5, Sephardic Communities from around the world came together to celebrate their unique culture and identity. The National Sephardic Community Gala honored the contributions of the Sephardic community to American and global society, while empowering the next generation of Sephardic youth. Participants gathered from community hubs throughout the United States, including New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, Miami, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Portland, as well as global representation from Sephardic communities in Turkey, Greece, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Argentina. This included a special Turkish Jewish Community Delegation including Rabbi Izak Alaluf, Jozef Nasi, and Deniz Saporta for the weekend.
A historic event in its own right for the global Sephardic community, the evening was enhanced by the extraordinarily rare moment of unity between the Ambassadors of Greece, Turkey, and Israel in the United States. Greek Ambassador in the United States Alexandra Papadopolou joined Turkish Ambassador in Washington Hassan Murat Mercan and Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations Gilad Erdan for the evening. The three diplomats lit Hanukkah candles together at the Gala’s menorah lighting ceremony.
The evening featured three Sephardic honorees who have made extraordinary contributions to society. Dr. Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer was honored for his service to humanity and for all his work to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. He was born and raised in Thessaloniki (Salonika), Greece, and is the child of Sephardic Holocaust survivors. Sarah Aroeste, a world-renowned Ladino singer, songwriter, author, and children’s educator received the Young Leadership Award for her work to ensure the next generation can learn Ladino, (Judeo-Espanyol), a mix of biblical Hebrew, old Castillian Spanish, and elements of Greek, Turkish, and Arabic. Albert Maimon was honored for his lifetime community service as a leader and organizer in Seattle and nationally.
Dr. Albert Bourla, Chairman and CEO of Pfizer
From Greece to Turkey to the Balkan region, the Sephardic Jewish community has fought for survival since the expulsion of Jewish people from Spain and Portugal in 1492. Dating back over 500 years, Ladino continues to be spoken and written in Sephardic communities now scattered across the world. Centuries later, these communities carried their language, culture, liturgy, and traditions to North America, where they recreated a vibrant network of communities anchored in shared experience. The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood is working to reinvent what it means to be Sephardic in the 21st Century by empowering its young leaders through their cultural heritage and connecting to their rich history.
For more information on the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America and the National Sephardic Community Gala, please consult the Organization's website.
“I am honored to be recognized alongside Sarah Aroeste and Albert Maimon for our contributions to the Sephardic community and society as a whole. My parents who are both Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki, Greece raised me to believe that anything is possible. I believe the tremendous scientific advancements of the past year which have helped us to begin to gain control of the pandemic are proof of that.”
Dr. Albert Bourla
Chairman and CEO of Pfizer
“I am thrilled to see the Sephardic Brotherhood building a thriving community and empowering a new generation in the U.S. and abroad. It is an honor to be recognized for my professional work over the last two decades to bring my contemporary style of original and traditional Ladino music to audiences around the world. Writing and singing in Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, connects me to my ancestors, while keeping Ladino music alive for a new generation.”
Ladino Artist & Educator
“The timing of the National Sephardic Community Gala on the last night of Hannukah, a holiday of rededication, connects us closely to celebrating recent, impressive accomplishments in the Sephardic community. The breadth and depth of involvement and impact of these programs succeed in bringing us together across a wide geography, and showcasing the many ways of “being Sephardic”. Looking ahead, we will build on this and go from strength to strength together.”
Community Leader & Sephardic Educator
About the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America
The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America is the largest Sephardic benevolent organization of its kind in the United States. Founded in 1916 by Jewish immigrants from Ottoman lands, the Brotherhood has worked to serve the most needy in our community and create a home for Sephardic Jews from around the world.
The Brotherhood has the unique mission to support Sephardic individuals, families, and communities deriving their lineage from the Ladino-speaking Jewish communities of Greece, Turkey, and the Balkans. Over the years other Sephardic community organizations that traced their ancestry from Istanbul, Rhodes, Izmir, Adrianople, and other Mediterranean cities merged with the Brotherhood, serving to further unite our Sephardic community in the United States.
Today, the Brotherhood is proud to serve over 1,350 families from across the United States and North America and continues to support the Sephardic community in the spirit laid out by our society’s founders. In addition to providing burial services for its members, the Brotherhood has expanded its programs to support the future generations of our community and reinvent what it means to be Sephardic in the 21st Century. New initiatives include a Sephardic Birthright Israel Trip, the annual Greek Jewish Festival in Lower Manhattan, and the Sephardic Young Professionals Network, which have all been created to ensure we meet the needs of our newest generation of members.