Known to all convivially as “Rabbi Sammy,” Rabbi Sam Kassin is everyone’s friend and one of the most recognized men in Israel in the field of Jewish education. His training, education and charismatic personality – a powerful combination – have helped him shape the image of the Shehebar Sephardic Center into a well-respected global educational center.
The son of Esther Sutton and Ezra Kassin, Rabbi Kassin descends from a long line of rabbis that dates back to 1600, with roots in Spain. One of 10 children, he was born in 1944 in New York but raised in Miami Beach, Florida.
Rabbi Kassin did not have the opportunity to study Torah until he was 16. But from the moment he opened the books of his ancestors in Ner Israel Yeshiva in Baltimore, Maryland, he was hooked. After four years in Baltimore, Sam followed his heart to Israel where he spent four more years studying at the famous Porat Yoseph Yeshiva in Jerusalem. It was there that he developed a close relationship with the Gadol Hador, the Gaon, Rabbi Ovadia Yoseph, then Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, who personally ordained Sam as a rabbi in 1971.
In 1972, Rabbi Kassin returned to the United States at the request of Rabbi Moshe Shamah, a prominent rabbi, to establish a high school for the children of the Syrian Jewish community in Brooklyn. Rabbi Kassin stayed on as principal of the Sephardic High School for five years. Following his tenure there he returned to Israel and from 1977-1980 directed the one-year program for American youth at Aish Hatorah Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
In 1980, Dr. Joe Nessim, president and founder of the Sephardic Educational Center, recruited Rabbi Kassin to be its first director. A year later together with Rabbi Eliyahu Shamoula, Rabbi Kassin opened SSC yeshiva in the Old City.
Now three decades old, the yeshiva has grown in number, reach and purpose into the present day Shehebar Sephardic Center with an unparalleled record of accomplishment. In 1998, the SSC won the Jerusalem Prize.