(December 10, 2021, New York City, JNS thread) the American Sephardic Federation (ASF) is delighted to announce the appointment of a renowned educator and community builder Reuben Chimonov as the ASF National Director of Sephardi House & Young Leadership. Ruben will take the helm of this important mission as one of the most senior Sephardic members of the Jewish communal leadership ranks, as well as one of the only millennials to hold such a position. Ruben brings diverse experiences and impressive skills to the critical challenges facing American Jewry, especially young Jews facing anti-Semitism, alienation, and divisive ideologies.
RubenThe appointment of to lead a revival of Sephardic Jewish life on college campuses across North America underscores the importance of cultivating the next generation of leadership, a goal that is vital to Jewish continuity. At ASF, Ruben worked to bring awareness to the diversity and vitality of the Jewish people, as well as the classical Sephardic teachings that have been a source of strength, resilience and unity through the ages.
As National Director, Ruben educate, train and support ASF Sephardi House Fellows, a group of outstanding Jewish students selected annually from college campuses across the United States. This year’s scholarship recipients will be announced shortly.
Ruben was born in Uzbekistan in the former Soviet Union to a Bukharan Jewish family, at the crossroads of Sephardic, Mizrahi, Persian and Russian-speaking Jewish cultures. He immigrated to the United States at the age of six and was raised and attended a Jewish day school in the Ladino-speaking Sephardic community of Seattle. He is fluent in Hebrew, Arabic, Persian, Russian and Spanish. Ruben is also a famous calligrapher whose work combines Hebrew, Arabic and Persian. Reuben, a ASF Broome & Allen Fellow and lecturer at ASF Institute of Jewish Experience, graduated from University of Washington Specialized program with three majors: languages and cultures of the Near East, Jewish studies and international studies (Middle East orientation) from Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies.
“My entire professional life has been devoted to bringing to light the eclectic mosaic of the Jewish world, particularly through the exploration of Sephardic and Mizrahi communities. We stand at a critical moment, which presents many urgent challenges but also an opportunity to strengthen the Jewish people and our engagement in the world. As an educator, community builder, social entrepreneur, and proud Sephardic and Mizrahi Jew, I am very excited to embrace this opportunity with all my ability. With great enthusiasm and gratitude to my ancestors, I – in humble partnership with many others – look forward to uplifting and celebrating the diversity, spirit and knowledge of the greater Sephardic world as an integral part of the Jewish experience, according to Ruben.
In a number of previous roles and as a social entrepreneur, Ruben has championed Jewish diversity, inclusiveness and pluralism as a fundamental component of Jewish identity. Ruben’s groundbreaking work as founding executive director of the Sephardic Mizrahi Q Network, a supportive and indispensable community for LGBTQ+ Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, has won accolades across the Jewish world. The SMQN works with the fiscal sponsorship of the ASF. Ruben is one of multiple ASF Board and staff members who serve on JIMENA’s Sephardic Leadership Advisory Committee, supported by the Jewish Community Response and Impact Fund. He was also Director of Community Engagement and Education at Queens College Hillel, Vice President of Education and Community Engagement at ASF Young Leaders, Coordinator of the Diarna Geo-Museum of North African & Middle Eastern Jewish Life Summer Internship Program, and Director of Educational Experiences and Programming for the Jewish-Muslim Solidarity Committee.
“RubenThe unique gift of mentorship and passion for Jewish languages and history will enable Sephardi House to foster deeper Jewish learning on campus, while cultivating leaders and community builders among today’s students.” noted Joshua Benaim, the visionary founder of The Sephardic house of ASF. “We need a revival of Jewish education and the academic community. New digital technologies have the potential to bring people together like never before. Centuries ago, the Jewish world was connected by ship or the Silk Road, and a responsum of Maimonides written in Andalusia or Cairo could be transported by merchants and end up in Sicily or Yemen. Today, digital communications have the potential to restore the spiritual Silk Road and connect the ideas and culture of the greater Sephardic Jewish world to a new generation of Jewish students, wherever they study, who may even serve campus ambassadors among other religions. and communities”.
“The creation of this fully-funded, full-time National Director position is a testament to Josh Benaim’s vision and his success with the community. The Sephardic house of ASF to uplift, amplify and empower young Jews with the gentleness and light of our common Sephardic intellectual and cultural heritage,” say it Jason Guberman, Executive Director of ASF.
the ASF President, David Dangoor noted: “It is wonderful and reassuring that younger generations of Middle Eastern and North African Jews are now more actively, and as leaders, proud to share their heritage. They understand the importance of making it better known as part of the Jewish experience and a broader perspective. While older generations were busy acclimating to their new and recent American diaspora, young people can now actively share what they have learned from them and through a loving educational curiosity for wisdom, openness and unique constructive diplomacy of the great Sephardic tradition.
Launched in 2020, the first national cohort of the Sephardi House Fellowship included 13 students on campuses across the United States, ranging from UCLA to CCNY’s Macaulay Honors College. Described by students as “life-changing” and a “source of strength,” the first cohort was featured in Tablet magazine‘s”The new Sephardic generation.” Sephardi House seeks to create a warm and welcoming environment in which to experience the great diversity, depth and vitality of the Jewish people. Sephardi House was designed by Joshua Benaim, alumnus of Harvard University and Harvard Business School as well as founder and CEO of Aria, and developed in conjunction with Jason Guberman (executive director of the American Sephardi Federation) and Reuben Chimonov. Sephardi House envisions a national ecosystem encompassing scholars, student leaders, campus clubs, an inspiring and innovative interdisciplinary curriculum, and engaging cultural programming. At a time when being Jewish on campus isn’t always easy, Sephardi House is committed to making a difference. Learn more about https://sephardi.house