A new Sephardi synagogue in Rhawnhurst is set to open by the start of Rosh Hashanah.
Rabbi Elchanan Abergel will lead Congregation Dibrot Eliyahu, which will primarily function as a haven for Sephardi Jews but will be welcoming of Jews of all stripes.
“We’re working very hard to complete the job for the High Holidays,” Abergel said.
Abergel previously led Congregation Mesilat Yesharim, which had a small room situated atop Congregation B’nai Israel-Ohev Zedek in Rhawnhurst. Expansion was necessary for Mesilat Yesharim, which needed room to accommodate its growing congregation, including women and children.
Dibrut Eliyahu, which is being built in a converted house on Solly Avenue, will feature an upstairs playroom for children. The adults will pray downstairs.
Abergel’s father, Rabbi Eliyahu Abergel, previously served as chief judge of the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court. The family unit is ever important to Abergel, who said he places a priority on preventing intermarriages. He recently helped a congregant’s wife and child convert to Judaism from Christianity.
Dibrot Eliyahu, which translates to “Elijah’s words,” will fill a need in the local Jewish community for Sephardi rituals, Abergel said. Elan Sanker, a Sephardi congregant who is helping get the synagogue off the ground, previously belonged to both Mesilat Yesharim and B’nai Israel-Ohev Zedek, which is an Ashkenazi synagogue. His family prayed at the latter because of its larger size, but his heart was with the former.
Sanker doesn’t have to split time between synagogues anymore.
At B’nai Israel-Ohev Zedek, his daughter held a leadership role in Bnei Akiva of North America, which he described as “religious Boy Scouts,” and he hopes for the new synagogue to have a youth program that focused on love of Torah, love of Israel and love of community.
In November, Dibrut Eliyahu will receive a new Torah, and a celebration will ensue. It will be a symbolic christening of the new space. Before that, though, Dibrut Eliyahu will mark its opening with the High Holidays.