There are several hundred Sephardic families in Bogota. Before the SSC’s involvement in the community most of these families had very few religious experiences and practices. There wasn’t any kosher food available in Bogota, not even at The Jewish Center’s Social Hall.
The SSC recognized the need improve the quality of Jewish life in the community and sent Rabbi Moshe Yerushalmi (shohet, mohel and teacher) and Rabbi Ari Azancot (Chief Rabbi of Bogota), and later Rabbi Haim Ovadia (rabbi, teacher and hazan) to Bogota. With the help of these Rabbis, the spiritual dynamics of the Sephardic Jewish Community in Bogota improved.
The once non-kosher kitchen in the Jewish Center has become kosher for all affairs. A higher level of Jewish observance and awareness was adopted throughout the community. The mikvah that had been used by three families was refurbished and is busy nearly every evening of the week.
Today Rabbi Moshe Yerushalmi retains his post and actively continues to provide additional kashrut services for the growing observant community. Rabbi Shlomo Elharar (Chief Rabbi, dayan and spiritual leader), has filled the position of Chief Rabbi of Bogota replacing Rabbi Azancot. Avraham Ben Guigui, a candidate for graduation, has been serving the Bogota community as the High Holiday hazan for several years.
In 1994, Bogota hosted the annual conference of the International Sephardic Rabbinical Assembly (ISRA, SSC’s rabbinical graduates and honorary graduates from around the world), with the Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi Doron in attendance. This great honor to the Bogota community could not have been accomplished without the SSC graduates’ presence.
There are 12,000 Jews in Bogota, of whom about 5,000 are Sephardic. There are presently two SSC rabbinic graduates serving as spiritual leaders of the community.
A generous individual from Bogota was so impressed with the SSC’s outreach efforts he gave $18,000 to Rabbi Kassin (Dean of SSC) when he was visiting.