For three millennia, the Jews of Persia endured and overcame obstacles on the path to survival. Known as the "People of the Book," Jews have long recognized the importance of oral and written textual tradition, and the concomitant obligation to educate ourselves and our children, across time and continents, wherever we reside.
Founded with pride in this tradition, Sephardic Heritage Alliance, Inc. "SHAI" is committed to educating young and old alike. SHAI's mission to fuse our heritage with our future, to pass tradition from generation to generation remains vital. For nearly three decades, SHAI has responded to the community's calls for senior support, educational scholarships, cultural programming, professional networking, educational, health, sports, forums, and much more. SHAI remains committed to serving the evolving needs of our community.
In 1992, a group of 13 friends in their mid-30s, found themselves at a crossroad frequently visited by immigrants of a new land. Having left Iran as young adults the group established their lives in a new homeland, New York, rich with opportunity and democratic freedoms. Yet, amidst their success, they were concerned about maintaining their ancestral legacy. Would America soon assimilate their young children into her great melting pot? Would their stories of a past life in a distant country, with snow-capped mountains and rich Farsi maxims, suffice to sustain the next generation? Seeking to instill a meaningful balance for their young children, these forward thinking friends moved to establish a platform, for the future, by which the Persian identity and heritage would be preserved and passed down from generation to generation. And so, the Sephardic Heritage Alliance, Inc, SHAI, was born.
Two and a half decades later, SHAI remains committed to its founders¹ core vision. Education is the cornerstone of SHAI¹s mission. As such, this commitment to keep its youth cohesive, well rounded and focused has evolved into a strong collaboration with local educational leaders, local government, and other non-profit organizations and institutions. The SHAI Scholarship Fund awards financially-deserving students with the means to pursue their education and obtain the tools for life. Remarkably, to date, with the help of the community, by distributing in excess of $2.0 million, SHAI has assisted over 1,200 deserving students in the United States and in Israel in achieving their educational goals.
SHAI takes seriously its commitment to cultivating the next generation of leaders. SHAI¹s thriving Young SHAI division supports its young adults¹ professional and social networking ambitions. SHAI takes pride in the fact that these events have resulted in closely knit bonds of friendship and the like.
SHAI underwrites programs designed to expose young children to Persian music, language and culture with Persian dance and Persian language instruction and has also worked to secure Farsi language instruction in the Great Neck Public School district. SHAI also underwrites the cost of a weekly Youth Activities Sports program to provide a fun and safe sports environment for kids.
In its second decade of existence, SHAI mobilized to serve the needs of its senior population. SHAI is proud to be the largest non-governmental sponsor of the Town of North Hempstead¹s Great Neck Social Center. SHAI is pleased to support the vitality and independence of the one hundred and fifty matriarchs and patriarchs of the community who attend. Three times a week, at no cost to them, seniors socialize, dine, and exercise. They also receive vital health care, educational information, and county social services.
SHAI proudly hosts an annual holiday Coat and Toy drive, a community-wide forum on the environment, a blood drive, educational panels in collaboration with local schools, parenting workshops, and health and wellness seminars. SHAI is also honored to organize a robust, multi-generational contingent of over 350 people each year in the Celebrate Israel Parade in Manhattan. Marching up Fifth Avenue, SHAI¹s unique 20 x 30 foot Israeli flag always gets aerial media coverage.
SHAI's youth services include a winter sports program, youth outings, and the Teen Leadership Program that provides some fifty youths an enriching and educational summer camp, free of charge, in Great Neck, NY.
SHAI has made an innumerable impact on the lives of many. All those who served on SHAI's Board over the past twenty years have integrated diverse opinions and energy into a sustainable organization that prides itself on transparency and democracy. The vision of a group of 13 young immigrant parents has resulted in a 25 year journey to preserve, educate and elevate an entire community of children, parents, families, and institutions.