Rabbi Shalom Ezran

Rabbi Shalom Ezran

Taken from a JIMENA interview in December, 2010 about San Francisco’s Magain David Synogogue

What is your background, where did you come from?

My family is from Morocco. My two grandfathers were prominent rabbis in Jerusalem. My grandfather, Rabbi Shmuel Ezran Shalom, was head of the Rabbinical Court of North African Jewry in Jerusalem and my other grandfather, Ha’Rav Yosef Shlush was also very active in the Moroccan and North African community in Jerusalem. My father studied in Yeshiva Porat Yosef in the Old City of Jerusalem and was also a Rabbi. I am continuing this tradition.

When did you come to San Francisco?

I first came to San Francisco in 1976 and I served as a Rabbi here for two years and then moved to Los Angeles to open up a Jewish school. I returned to San Francisco in 1990 and have served as Magain David’s Rabbi since then.

When was the Magain David Synagogue established and who founded it?

This Synagogue was originally a church. It was purchased by Congregation Beth Shalom and in 1936 the Sephardic community of San Francisco bought it from them. This is the original Sephardic Synagogue and community center in town.

The original members of the synagogue were mainly Jews from the Far East, whose origins were in Iraq. They came from India, Burma, Hong Kong and Singapore and established the first Sephardic community of San Francisco.

What kind of programs and activities are happening here?

Our synagogue emphasizes morning Minyanim, Shabbat and Holiday services. Last summer we were fortunate to have morning and evening Minyanim, which is unusual here in San Francisco. Some of our members had lost loved ones and pushed very hard to have an evening Minyan. After a while, we were no longer able to continue the evening Minyan and now we have only morning Minyan. At Magain David we understand the importance of community and socializing and we practice our traditions and customs during parties and social gatherings, especially during the Holidays. We have parties and meals for Hanukkah, Purim, Rosh Hashanah, and Sukkot. During Sukkot we build a Sukkah that can hold 100 people! We celebrate every holiday according to Jewish traditions and Sephardic customs. People respond favorably to our Holiday celebrations. I also provide lessons to children and adults.

Do you have children and young families at your Synagogue?

Absolutely. I say to my congregation, that I cannot tolerate noise from adults during services, but from children the noise is music to my ears. Sometimes, the parents want to quiet their children, but I tell them not to. I want children to feel free and happy in this synogogue. Thank G-D we have a good number of children who come here and when they do, they seem to love it! It seems as though they feel like Magain David is their second home, which is exactly how I want them to feel.

Where do your members come from? Are they all Sephardic?

At Magain David we practice the Mizrahi and Sephardic customs, but in absolutely no way do we exclude anyone. We welcome everyone to this synagogue. We have Ashkenazim that come and enjoy Mizrahi and Sephardic customs and I taught Ashkenazi children for their Bar Mitzvah’s here in this synagogue. We are welcoming anyone who wants to join us and to enjoy Mizrahi and Sephardic customs.

Do the Mizrahi and Sephardic members come from all over North Africa and the Middle East?

This is the beautiful thing at Magain David. Unfortunately in many places, Sephardim try to divide themselves. Some say “We are from Iraq, we are from Yemen, we are from Syria…” Thank G-D in this synagogue, we are combining everyone together with ease. We have Moroccan Jews, we have people from the Far East, we have Israelis, we have Yemenite Jews, and we have people from Libya. We are integrating everyone, easily.

How do you envision this Synagogue in ten years?

I am really concerned about the future of this synagogue. Unfortunately, many of our members are becoming too old to come to services. Younger generations are not attached to the synagogue and to prayers and to the culture. We are trying our best to make them come and they are coming, but not in the numbers I want to see. I feel the future of the Synagogue is based on education. It’s based on families who continue to pass down and embrace Jewish traditions and values. We need more public relations and marketing to make our Synagogue better known in the Bay Area.

Are there any last words you would like to share with JIMENA’s members or the San Francisco Jewish community?

When we talk about Sephardic tradition and customs and ways of life, it’s in no way to antagonize anybody, it’s only to preserve what we love and what we respect. I believe every Jewish person should support JIMENA, Sephardim and Ashkenazim because our culture and history is important for all Jewish people. JIMENA is not just a “Sephardim thing” – it is a Jewish thing that we should all support. I hope that all Jews, regardless of their background, will have high self-esteem, creativity and will continue to practice the Jewish traditions and values that have been passed down to us for thousands of years.