Lander College for Men Launches New Program for Sephardic Students
Rabbi Meir Gavriel Elbaz Leads Special Minyanim, Chaburot, Shabbatons Celebrating Sephardic Culture
A new Sephardic Program made its debut at the Lander College for Men (LCM) Beis Medrash L’Talmud this fall. The program will serve Sephardic students by providing unique offerings that respect their rich and vibrant customs and culture while seamlessly integrating them into the rest of the yeshiva’s programs with their Ashkenazi peers.
“A great many of the yeshiva’s students are Sephardim, many different kinds of Sephardi talmidim coming from places in New York, across the country, and across the world,” said Rabbi Meir Gavriel Elbaz, who leads the program. “There was a certain niche that needed to be filled, that catered to their very specific cultural backgrounds, be it their liturgy, their customs, sometimes even their foods. The school, beginning with the Rosh HaYeshiva Rabbi Yonason Sacks and Dean Moshe Sokol, was very interested in making them feel comfortable and more integrated into the larger fabric of Lander College. That’s how this program was born.”
Rabbi Elbaz grew up Queens and attended the Mirrer Yeshiva in Brooklyn, after which he received semicha in Rabbanut and Dayanut from Kollel Yechaveh Da’at in Yerushalayim under Rav David Yossef. For the last six years he taught at the Yeshiva at Sephardic Bet Midrash of Great Neck, where several current LCM students were his talmidim, and he is the Rav at Ohel Simcha Sephardic Congregation in Kew Gardens Hills in Queens.
“Rabbi Elbaz imparts a love of Torah and a passion for halacha. He profoundly understands the Sephardic students and challenges them to reach their highest potentials in avodas Hashem,” said Rabbi Sacks.
Some of the specialized programs include: a daily Sephardic Shacharit minyan, chaburot dedicated to Sephardic halachot, history and liturgy, Shabbatons and Shabbat meals in the heart of the Sephardic community of Kew Gardens Hills, and hillulot for Sephardic great sages.
“We hope the talmidim are instilled with a sense of pride of their background and able to shine in their individual roles,” Rabbi Elbaz said, “by tapping into their cultures and using it as a pedestal to reach their fullest potentials, both in learning and in academics.”
Rabbi Sacks, Rabbi Elbaz, and other rebbeim took steps to ensure that the program won’t create two yeshivas, one Ashkenazi and one Sephardi. Even though there will be separate minyanim, everyone will attend regular shiurim and classes, and the Sephardic classes and workshops are open to Ashkenazim, several of whom often attend.
“We provide them with an outlet for their Sephardic culture and minhagim, but they realize they’re part of a greater system,” Rabbi Elbaz said. “This is another beauty of the program: The yeshiva is one and it transcends the barriers of Sephardi and Ashkenazi and all kinds of diverse backgrounds, because we’re all in this together.”