May 18, 2024
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May 18, 2024
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Sephardic Congregation of Passaic-Clifton Launches Campaign for New Home

Rabbi Khayyat dancing at hachnasat sefer Torah.

Kehillat Am Yisrael Chai is known among the Passaic-Clifton community for many things, but most importantly they are a haven for Sephardic Jewry. Offering multiple davening opportunities and community events, its members have grown into a tight-knit group. Now, this congregation is searching for a new home to perpetuate their heritage in a Torah environment and build a Sephardic Torah Center. To accomplish this, they are reaching out to the community and have launched an online fundraising campaign.

Shmuel Avrahami is the gabbai and treasurer of the congregation. He’s been with Kehillat Am Yisrael Chai since its inception, and is leading the efforts to raise money for the new home. Speaking with The Jewish Link, he detailed the campaign’s goals and what they wish to build the congregation into.

“Our aim is for the Sephardic Torah Center built by Kehillat Am Yisrael Chai to be the center for Sephardic Torah learning in Northern New Jersey,” Avrahami shared. “The slogan for the campaign is Our Heritage, Our Home, and we hope this new location will be just that: a beit midrash and Torah home for all Sephardic Jews.”

Gavriel Sebbag is the vice president of the kehilla, and he echoed Avrahami’s sentiment.

“There are many types of Sephardim who stem from many different continents with their own unique traditions and heritage,” Sebbag shared. “We are striving to build something where all members of our congregation are embraced and can learn Torah, including Ashkenazim who regularly join us for minyanim. Torah is universal and all will be welcomed at our center.”

Since its creation, the kehilla has seen a rapid growth of community members and now consists of over 70 families who actively participate in the minyanim and community events. This past Rosh Hashanah there were over 150 attendees. For the new location, space to accommodate everyone is an important factor and the kehilla is actively searching for this new venue.

“For the past 20 plus years we were housed graciously by Congregation Ahavas Israel, where we rented space,” Avrahami continued. “Now, with our tremendous growth and regular daily tefilot, we have outgrown our accommodations and are in need of a new home.”

Rabbi Ron Yitzchok Eisenman of Ahavas Israel shared a letter to the community in support of the move.

“The Sefardic Congregation deserves a proper beit hakenneset where all 21 minyanim of the week can be accommodated and conducted in the proper and proud Sefardic Nusach,” Rabbi Eisenman shared in the letter. “The Sefardic Congregation must have its own facility where shiurim are held whatever the time, and all Tefillot can be conducted according to the wonderful Sefardi mesorah. It is very critical to support them now, as beginning with the Rosh Hashanah, the Ahavas Israel can no longer accommodate the Sephardic minyan, so time is of the essence. ”

Rabbi Yechezkel Khayyat is the rabbi of the kehilla. With his guidance and leadership, the congregation has flourished, fostering a strong sense of unity and belonging among its members.

(l-r) Yosef Avrahami, president; Rabbi Khayyat, chacham; Shmuel Avrahami, treasurer.

“Since I arrived here in Passaic in 2006, I have tried my best to help build and grow the Sephardic kehilla,” Rabbi Khayyat shared. “To me, it is very important and exciting to have a kehilla where we can raise our children in our mesorah, growing up in an environment infused with Sephardi psak and minhagim. As a kohen, it is also extremely meaningful for me that we have birkat kohanim every day, an opportunity to fulfill a mitzvah and bring bracha to the entire Passaic-Clifton community. Personally, I value the opportunity to help the kehila with keriyat Torah, and teaching Torah to as many people as possible, creating an environment where Sephardi practice is normative and not the exception.”

Avrahami is currently focused on doing everything he can to make the campaign a success, and is working with Rabbi Khayyat and the kehilla’s board on potential next steps. For now, though, he is extending a request to the community for fundraising support.

“This campaign means a lot to us,” Avrahami went on to say. “It’s not just the face value of raising money, it’s the opportunity to establish a home for fellow Sephardim in the area. So please support us as we go through this process: share the campaign, tweet about it, whatever you have to do. And when we do have that new home for us, we will have built it together, and it will be the most beautiful thing.”

If you’d like to support the congregation, you can donate at If you have questions about the campaign or would like to learn more, you can email Avrahami at [email protected], or Rabbi Khayyat at [email protected].

Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at

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