Sephardi Center of Manhattan’s Gala East River Cruise Will Support New Immigrants from Europe Fleeing Antisemitism

May 17, 2015 by

Clipart_Rabbi and Mrs ElkinSephardi Center of Manhattan’s Gala East River Cruise Will Support New Immigrants from Europe Fleeing Antisemitism

On Tuesday, May 12, the Sephardi Center of Manhattan is offering a Glatt Kosher Sunset Cruise on the East River of Manhattan. The cruise, which will be the Sephardi Center’s fundraising gala, is open to the entire community.

There will be a live music concert with an orchestra from Paris led by David Abitol and the opportunity to share piyoutim and other traditional songs of the rich, authentic Sephardi culture and heritage.

There will also be a Chinese auction and a raffle with a round trip to Israel as a grand prize.

Boarding for the cruise, which will leave from East 23rd Street at 2430 FDR Drive in Manhattan, will begin at 7pm, with sailing scheduled for 8. The two-hour cruise will return to dock at 10pm, but passengers may stay on the ship until 11. Formal attire is recommended and will add to the glamor of the festive evening.

Value Sephardi Culture

Just two years old, the Sephardi Center, located on West 100th Street and Columbus Avenue, has become an important anchor of Sephardi life on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. An Orthodox-Sephardi synagogue offering daily, Shabbat, and Yom Tov services as well as a cultural center featuring guest speakers, programs, dinners, and family activities, the Sephardi Center is a community, attracting a wide variety of Jews, including singles and married couples, some with young children. It attracts Sephardim from all backgrounds as well as Ashkenazim who enjoy the warm, inclusive nature of the synagogue.

“What brings us together is that we value Sephardi history and traditions and are committed to advancing and celebrating all aspects of this rich heritage,” said Rabbi Avidan Elkin, the spiritual leader of the Sephardi Center.

The center offers Torah classes and events to demonstrate support for the State of Israel, such as a shiur with Leehy Shaar, the aunt of Gil-ad Shaar, z”l, one of the three teenagers who was kidnapped and murdered by terrorists in June, 2014. In the ensuing Operation Protective Edge against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, the Sephardi Center held a dinner to support the IDF.

Other recent speakers at the center include Rav Shlomo Bussu, grandson of the revered Moroccan Rabbi and Kabbalist Baba Sali (Rabbi Israel Abuhaṣeira), z”tl, as well as Rav Elie Lemmel and Rav Yehia Benchetrit from France.

Supporting New Immigrants

Proceeds from the cruise will help the Sephardi Center, which relies on donations from members, to continue and expand its programming.

But the donations will have another use as well. These days, there is a need to help the increasing number of students and families, most of them Sephardi, fleeing Europe due to the rise of antisemitism.

“This is making our task very difficult due to our budgetary constraints and the newcomers’ limited funds once they relocate to the US,” said Rabbi Elkin.

Echoing the aspirations of his congregants, the rabbi said he hopes the proceeds from cruise will enable the center to have a “positive effect on people’s lives, even beyond the metaphoric corners of our own community.”


To that end, Rabbi Elkin and his wife, Rabbanit Oshrat Elkin, keep their door open to offer daily counseling whenever needed. Their home is available to families, students, and singles from throughout the world who frequently come for Shabbat and holidays. Known for helping Jews achieve spiritual and personal growth, they work actively with Sephardic and Ashkenazic singles, and frequently advise individuals on shidduchim.

All members of the center’s board are volunteers, many with previous experience in other Jewish organizations in New York City and elsewhere. They represent the broad diversity of which the synagogue is so proud: There are Sephardim whose families come from Israel, Italy, France, and elsewhere, and Ashkenazim who come from New York and New Jersey.

The center’s membership is also diverse, with members who practice law, information technology, finance, real estate, medicine, and education.

“The Sephardic Center utilizes our members’ individual backgrounds, both cultural and professional, in a cohesive and harmonious manner. This allows us to continue building a community in which all can grow intellectually and spiritually to ensure the transmission of Sephardi culture to generations of American Sephardim,” said Rabbi Elkin.

Multilingual and Accomplished

Fluent in English, Hebrew, French, German, and Arabic, Rabbi Elkin completed a bachelor’s degree from NYU in French and German Languages and Literature as well as Economics before spending six years learning in Yeshivat Ma’or Tuviah in Mitzpeh Yericho, Israel, where he received smicha.

Since returning to the US, Rabbi Elkin has earned certification as a shochet ( and a specialist known as a menaqer, who does treboring of certain parts of the back half of kosher animals. Some of the cuts of meat from the back halves are available, such as skirt and hanger steaks, oxtails, and liver, but the muscles that require more time to be properly prepared have all but disappeared from the kosher table. Expertise such as that acquired by Rabbi Elkin could bring these cuts back.

He is also a sofer, and recently received his certification as a mohel. He has written gitten (writs of divorce) for batei din throughout New York and New Jersey, including the Beth Din of Elizabeth, and served as the spiritual leader of several Sephardic communities, including the Sephardic Center of Fair Lawn, before joining the Sephardi Center of Manhattan.

A full-time faculty member in the Mechinah Program at Yeshiva University, he teaches students from throughout the world.

Mrs. Elkin is similarly accomplished, with degrees in special education and occupational therapy from Israel’s Orot College for Women. She has taught Judaic studies to elementary-school children, and, for the past six years, has earned a reputation as teacher for Kallahs both individually and in groups. She regularly counsels women on topics including Taharat HaMishpacha and Shalom Bayit.

How to Help

Those seeking to help the Sephardi Center of Manhattan continue to grow are asked to attend the Gala Cruise and, if possible, to place a tax-deductible dedication in the journal, which, this year, will be devoted to a dating guide written by Rabbi Elkin based on Kabbalistic teachings and his 12 years of experience as a Rav counseling hundreds of singles and couples on issues such as Shalom Bayit and finding one’s soulmate.

The journal will be distributed at the event, sent to the center’s mailing list, and posted on the center’s website (

Tickets to attend the gala cruise are $175 per person and $280 per couple. Journal ad prices range from $180 to $500.


Patrons of the Gala Cruise, who donate between $760 and $10,000, will receive a full-page ad, two tickets to the event, and two raffle tickets. Patrons can dedicate their support in memory of a loved one or may earmark their funds towards one of the new initiatives planned by the center for the immediate future, including renting a bigger location to accommodate the newcomers from Europe or buying new siddurim.

For more information, visit the Gala Page on the center’s website,

“We look forward to seeing people from the wider community taking part in our big event while supporting this important cause,” said Rabbi Elkin.