Ethan Marcus, 25, Revolutionizing Sephardic Education


@sephardicbrothe / @sephardicbrotherhood

The Jewish Week’s annual 36 Under 36 honors young leaders, entrepreneurs and change-makers who are making a difference in the life of Jewish New York. For the full list of this year’s “36ers,” click here.

What do you do?

As managing director of the Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America, I deal with the day-to-day operations of the organization and long-term strategic planning, including developing new and innovative programs to engage the next generation of young Sephardic Jews from Ladino-speaking backgrounds. During the pandemic, I led the launch of the Sephardic Digital Academy, an online educational platform with a revolutionary new approach to Sephardic Jewish education. We have had over 350 classes in the past year and engaged more than 50,000 people around the world. Over the past 15 months, I’ve been able to increase monthly membership recruitment tenfold and elevated Sephardic voices from the Ladino-speaking communities through published Op-Eds.

How has the pandemic influenced your work?

In March 2020, we completely pivoted to online education through the new Sephardic Digital Academy, which exploded in producing innovative content and individual engagement. Class participation would range between 10 for a small seminar to over 400 for a major three-part lecture series, and has included leading Sephardic academic scholars, community leaders, rabbis, and innovative thinkers in our Greek/Turkish Sephardic communities. Original content included multiple introductory Ladino classes, a three-part series on Sephardic Jews and racism in the United States, Sephardic cooking, and more. We also began reaching out to our communities and individual elderly members to see what support they needed, whether it be finances to help them stay afloat through our COVID-19 Crisis Fund or just someone to say hello to when they felt socially isolated.

Was there a formative Jewish experience that influenced your life path?

Growing up at Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue and Museum in New York, the only Greek-Jewish Romaniote synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, I was only one of a handful of children in the community. I grew up among wonderful first-generation immigrant Greek Jews, many of them Holocaust survivors. Their compassion, love of life, family, Greek Jewish identity and tradition fundamentally influenced my choice to become an active participant in the Greek Jewish and wider Sephardic community in the United States.

Do you have a favorite inspiring quote?

Kuando se eskurese, es para amaneser. (When it’s dark out, that’s because the dawn is coming.) — Ladino Proverb

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