On July 12, JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa launched the Sephardic Leadership Institute (SLI)—a hub for Sephardi and Mizrahi leaders to expand their networks; develop skills and capacities to strengthen their communities and institutions; and share their knowledge and expertise within the Jewish world and beyond. Developed with the support of the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund, the institute kicked off with the first of a seven-part leadership development series designed for leaders of Sephardi and Mizrahi communities.

Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews comprise the largest ethnically diverse group of Jewish Americans but are often on the margins of mainstream American Jewish communal life. Furthermore, Sephardi and Mizrahi leaders lack a centralized communal infrastructure, making it difficult to engage intra-community building opportunities.

The institute aims to serve as a hub for training, networking, and leadership development for Sephardi and Mizrahi Jewish professionals and lay leaders, including administrators, rabbis, activists, educators, nonprofit professionals, social entrepreneurs, board members and volunteers.  SLI’s formation was informed by phase one of the Sephardic Jewish American Research Study to build an understanding of Sephardic communal leaders’ needs and priorities.

Committees within the institute will share their particular knowledge, expertise and recommendations with the larger Jewish communal world in an effort to help increase the knowledge, capacities, and cultural responsiveness of Jewish institutions to become more inclusive and representative of Sephardi, Mizrahi, and diverse Jewish communities. Each committee member will be published in a forthcoming journal of the institute, and many are eager to share their knowledge and expertise through training, consultations, lectures and partnership.

“In the preliminary research conducted by the institute, we learned that 100% of Sephardic leaders surveyed recognized the need for a significant investment in Sephardic communal leadership infrastructure and community engagement models. Our diverse Sephardi and Mizrahi communities are filled with brilliant, thoughtful leaders who have so much knowledge and creativity to contribute towards building inclusive and welcoming Jewish communities that are grounded in traditional Jewish values,” said JIMENA’s executive director Sarah Levin.

“We look forward to building an institute that first and foremost can help support and meet the needs of our leaders and community groups while simultaneously serving as a hub for partnership, networking, rich content, training sessions and deep knowledge for the larger Jewish communal ecosystem,” added Levin.

From July to December this year, Sephardic and Mizrahi leaders are welcome to attend seven virtual sessions run by established leaders with years of experience in their fields. These facilitators will dive into particular challenges and opportunities facing Sephardi and Mizrahi communal leaders, empowering participants with specific tools to uplift themselves and their communities, while simultaneously connected with their peers.

“We’re thrilled to offer this first-of-its-kind program for Sephardi and Mizrahi leaders,” said Levin. “As Jewish communities begin to recognize the beautiful diversity of the Jewish world, alumni from the Sephardic Leadership Institute will be ready to lead.”

Through JIMENA, the Sephardic Leadership Institute is also proud to house the first national cohort of the Sephardic Leaders Fellowship and is currently entering the second phase of the first-ever demographic study of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jewish Americans.

To learn more about the Sephardic Leadership Institute, visit http://sephardicstudy.org/.

About The Publishers
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JIMENA
Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa works to achieve universal recognition for the heritage and history of the one million Sephardic Jewish refugees from the Middle East and North Africa and their Mizrahi and Sephardi descendants. Their programs aim to ensure that the accurate history of Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews is incorporated into mainstream Jewish and Middle Eastern narratives in order to create balance in attitudes, narratives, and discourse about Middle Eastern refugees and the modern Jewish experience. For more information, please visit www.jimena.org.
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