Sephardic Community Safed
|קהילה ספרדית בצפת|
|Tzfat’s Sephardic residents and Institutions.|
Approximately half of the Safed population is comprised of Jews whose families come from traditionally Sephardic lands.
The Hebrew word “Sepharad” means “Spain.” Until the Middle Ages, a large percentage of world Jewry lived in Spain and were referred to as “Sephardi” Jews. Other sizable populations of Jews included those who lived in Northern France and Germany and these Jews were referred to as “Ashkanazi” Jews.
After Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, the terms “Sephardi” and “Ashkanazi” widened to include the new lands where these refugees settled. The term “Sephardic” came to refer to Jews who lived in North African and Arab countries including Tunisia, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Iraq, Algeria and Egypt as well as Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria.
 Sepharadic Community in Tzfat
Historically, the Jews who returned to Israel during and after the Expulsion were Sephardic. They came either directly from Spain and Portugal or within the first few generations after the expulsion by way of an intermediary country. The rabbis of Tzfat during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries were almost exclusively Sephardic and the Tzfat community followed the Sephardic customs and traditions. Ashkanazi Jews began to immigrate to Tzfat in the 1700's.
Through the centuries members of both communities fled Tzfat after natural disasters and periodic Arab riots. By the 1948 War of Independence the two communities were roughly equal in size -- approximately 2000 individuals in all.
 Sephardic Immigration
The United Nations reported that, following the War of Independence, an estimated 600,000 Jews were expelled or forced to flee from their homes in North African and Arab countries. Almost all of these Jews came to Israel and the government began to create housing for these refugees in new development towns as well as in existing towns and cities throughout Israel. Tzfat, with its existing infrastructure, was a natural destination for many of these new immigrants who largely settled in the new Canaan and Darom neighborhoods as well as in the historical Old Jewish Quarter and Artists Quarter.
 Present Community
By the early 21st century the Sephardic community in Tzfat included approximately half of the city’s residents. Since the 1990s all of the mayors of Tzfat have belonged to Sephardic communities, children and grandchildren of the original immigrants who arrived in the 1940s and 1950s.
 Political Life
Many members of the community are involved in the religious life of Tzfat, including its political infrastructure. The ultra-orthodox Shas political party wields significant authority within the city’s political political life and many of the members of the National Religious party are Sephardic.
 Religious Life
There are several Sephardic “yeshivot” -- seminaries -- in Tzfat including Ohr Yakar, Yeted Tshuva and Alkabetz. Almost every neighborhood has a Sephardic synagogue which include the prayer styles of the mainly Tunisian and Moroccan congregants. The Chief Rabbi of Tzfat, Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, is an authority for Sephardi and Ashkanazi residents alike, as well as for many non-residents of the city who look up to him and respect his “halachic” -- Jewish law -- rulings.