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Long ago, the Jewish people were concentrated in Babylonia (present day Iraq). Towards the end of the eighth century, groups of Jews began to migrate to form communities in the diaspora. By the eleventh century, most Jewish communities had dispersed over the world. One such community began to grow in North Africa, in countries which are today known as Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. Specifically, in Moroccan cities of Kairouan, Fez and what are today known as Casablanca and Tunis.

Whilst these Jews kept their loyalty to the original Rabinate in Babylonia, they found it difficult to stay in touch with up and coming teachings as well as changing and evolving Jewish laws. Being far from the Rabinate resulted in the inability to keep their faith relevant and to educate the young about the religious values and beliefs. For these reasons, after many centuries the Jewish communities in North Africa began to disperse again to reconnect with Jewish teachings.

The Jews who have come from these North African countries, the Middle East and Spain, are commonly known as Sephardi Jews. Other kinds of Jews include Ashkenazi Jews (who have come from Eastern Europe), Mizrachi Jews (who have come from Oriental countries such as India, Japan, China, etc.) and Ethiopian Jews (who have come from Ethiopia).

Having spent so many centuries apart, Jews from different parts of the world continued the same traditions but with slight variations, for example in foods eaten for different holidays, Synagogue architecture and tunes of prayer.

In Sydney, today the Jewish community flourishes with Jews from all backgrounds. Whilst all are integrated and celebrate faith together, in order to maintain each sect’s developed traditions the Synagogues all identify as belonging to one of four of the above groups. Sephardi Synagogue in Woollahra, as the name suggests, identifies with and practises the traditions of Sephardic Jews. (Jewishhistory.org, 2017)

The Sephardi Synagogue was consecrated in 1962 and is the oldest Sephardi Synagogue in Australia. Its current Rabbi is Rabbi Chriqui, who originates from Morocco and speaks English, Hebrew and Arabic. Whilst most of the congregants of the Synagogue are direct immigrants from ‘Sephardi countries’, the Synagogue welcomes Jews from all backgrounds. (The Sephardi Synagogue, 2017)

 

Reference:

Jewishhistory.org. (2017). Ashkenazic And Sephardic Jewry. [online] Available at: http://www.jewishhistory.org/ashkenazic-and-sephardic-jewry/ [Accessed 21 Mar. 2017].

The Sephardi Synagogue. (2017). Home – The Sephardi Synagogue. [online] Available at: http://www.sephardi.org.au/ [Accessed 21 Mar. 2017].

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Tamar Hoffman

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