The Jewish Community of Seine-sur-Mer

Conversation with Rav David Moha

Tell us about the Jewish community of Seine-sur-Mer

It all started in a village near the city of Oran in Algeria. At the end of the war in Algeria in 1962, France withdrew and the Jews had to flee the country to Marseille. Later, for work reasons, we moved to Seine-sur-Mer, near Toulon. My father worked in the French navy, whose main base is in the port of Toulon. Along with his work, he provided kosher food to Jewish sailors. Every Shabbat he went on foot to Toulon, seven kilometers from the Seine-sur-Mer. To form the Jewish community, he simply took the phone book, listing all the Jewish names. The first gathering was held during the Mimouna at the end of the festival of Pessach in 1977. For a few years, we gathered at Yom Kippur, then during Shabbats. At the beginning, there were 150 families who have grown to 350 today.

We took the initiative in the region to organize big parties with speakers from Israel, among others – the commander of the Exodus and IDF generals. At that time we mobilized 5,000,000 francs for the Jewish state, a considerable sum for our community.

Five special features of the Jewish community of Seine-sur-Mer

  • Ahavat Israel – love for all Jews
  • Hospitality
  • We do not speak lashon hara, no gossip. Rather than talking about people, we prefer to deal with other topics.
  • We have always had very special relations with the mayor. “My house is your house,” he told me. This is true with one exception, when the Communist Party took power and hoisted the Palestinian flag on the prefecture.
  • Close links with Israel; Our community is twinned with Mazkeret Batya and the city of Seine-sur-Mer is twinned with Ashkelon

Tell us about one of the keys to the success of your community that you would like to share with other communities around the world.

It’s very simple: first of all, every person who comes to us, to me he/she is more important than me. Secondly, we all try to work for Israel and each of us is like a flag of the Jewish State.

OTS Amiel Bakehila Partner Profile: Rabbi Shraga Nathan Dahan

Rabbi Shraga Nathan Dahan

Rabbi Shraga Nathan Dahan served as the Technology Consultant for the Genesis Project, which sent an Israeli spacecraft to the moon earlier this year. He participated in a recent delegation to Switzerland where he spoke to the Jewish communities of Geneva, Annemasse and Lucerne about technology, Jewish law, and innovation in Israel.

Rabbi Shraga Natan Dahan, a resident of Beit Shemesh, is affiliated with the Rabbinate and holds Masters degrees from a number of academic institutions in Israel and the world in management and technology (Lev Institute, Technion and Polytechnic New York). He is a certified mediator and serves as teaching instructor and halachic consultant in fertility, medicine security and technology.

What did you bring to the communities that you visited as part of the OTS Amiel BaKehila delegation?

My role was to share with them halachic and technological challenges of the Genesis (Bereshit) project – the first Israeli spacecraft to reach the moon, on which I served as the technology consultant. I helped the project find solutions to the dilemmas and challenges which arose between the scientific and technological world and the need to maintain Jewish life without compromise in any field of practice.

How did you take from your trip?

During an intense week, we got to meet the various communities, youth, children, seniors and community leaders. We began our visit at a meeting with the educational administrators, where we learned about the many challenges that they confront. Later in Geneva, we met with Mrs. Nurit Brown, the energetic head of the Geneva Shalva organization who arranged everything for our delegation led by Mr. Bernard Zanzori and Ms. Elisheva Lisha. I found our encounters with the various communities fascinating and empowering.

Please write about an interesting experience or story from the delegation

Sabbath in the French Jewish community of Annemasse was an uplifting experience. We met with the rabbi and his family and had Shabbat dinner with them and other academics. We had meaningful conversations about Torah, science and what was in between – it inspired us for the rest of the week.

One highlight was our participation in the ‘Geneva Action” week, as part of a ‘Women’s Day’ organized by Shalva to strengthen Jewish women. It was a prestigious and distinguished seminar for women which hosted many diverse lecturers from  Switzerland and around the world, including members of the OTS Amiel BaKehila delegation. Mr. Bernard Zanzori, who specializes in parental education, opened round tables on education, and Ms. Elisheva Lisha – an expert in education and therapy, joined with innovative methods and conducted “laughter yoga” workshops for women and children. In addition to activities with children, I spoke about the connection between aesthetics, Judaism and what is in between. The lecture sparked a fascinating discussion and was another layer in connecting with community members.

What did you learn from the experience?

OTS Amiel BaKehila is a fascinating and empowering project that brings people together and is a vital and refreshing breath of fresh air for communities that are often preoccupied with everyday life. We are thankful for the community’s appreciation for volunteers and dedication, wherever we come from.

Do you have a message that you would like to convey to the community?

Blessed is Israel who deals with grace and builds a better and more correct world.

Israel Portnoy – Musician/Songwriter

Israel Portnoy- Musician/Songwriter

Israel Portnoy was Born is Cheshire, just outside of Manchester (UK) into a Musial family of 9 children. His parents were the Rabbincal couple of the local community of “Hale Synagogue”. From the age of 8, Israel could be heard leading the services at the synagogue and singing at wedding ceremonies. He began writing his own songs from as young as 6 years old and would record himself on cassette tapes. He initially started playing piano at around age 5 and at the age of 11 he discovered guitar after (as he puts it) his younger brother “overtook him on the piano”. At the age of 16 he moved to Israel alone initially to study in a Talmudical college and subsequently moved on to music school and cantorial schools. It was in Israel that he  formed a band with his brother Mendy, aptly named “PORTNOY” (also fondly referred to as “the PORTNOY Brothers”) and they have literally travelled the world together with their music.   Israel is a multi-instrumentalist as well as a Cantor and has has filled the roll as cantor in places as far and wide as New Zealand, Bratislava and Los Angeles. In May 2019, whilst living in “Moshav Mevo Modi’im”, a forest-fire wiped out his entire home and home-studio (complete with over 15 instruments and many recordings and lyrics, never to be seen or heard again).

Israel’s music style is deeply rooted in an eclectic mix of liturgical music, growing up on the bima in the synagogue and has since been influenced by everyone from the Beatles (particularly George Harrison) to Paul Simon and Eric Clapton. His writing style varies but there is an undeniable soul-drenched bluesy sound in most of what he performs. Since moving to Israel, has also enjoyed soaking up the colours of modern Israeli music. He is a versatile musician and can be seen effortlessly appropriating his repertoire to the crowds’ specific tastes.

Yael Elbaz- IDF Cybersecurity Expert

Yael Elbaz – IDF Cybersecurity Expert

Yael Elbaz is a Senior Consultant and Cybersecurity Project Manager at Ernst and Young’s Cyber Division. Yael draws on her experience as an Intelligence officer in the Israeli Sigint National Unit (aka unit 8200), and a techno-intelligence team leader to ensure the highest standards of security for international and Israeli high-tech corporations.

After studying as a Bruriah scholar at Ohr Torah Stone’s Midreshet Lindenbaum in Jerusalem, Yael joined the IDF and was accepted into the elite military intelligence unit, where she served for 5 years in various positions. These roles involved in-depth technical analysis and operational activities in high pressure emergency scenarios.

During her military service, Yael volunteered at numerous projects including “CyberGirlz” and “SheCodes”, non-profit organizations focused on female empowerment in the cyber and technology industry in Israel, and “Magshimim”, a national program dedicated to incorporating youths from under developed populations into high impact cyber related roles in the IDF.

As a Modern Orthodox woman in the booming Israeli high-tech sector, Yael is a true believer in bursting through the glass ceiling to fulfill her potential and supports other women and minorities in similar situations.