It was an expose on the lies and greed of a huge international conglomerate, bent on invading our neighborhood, that started it all. The investigative report of COMMUNITY Magazine's first cover story, titled "Corporate Giant Picks a Fight with Local Community," caused a stir that resonated deep into the boardrooms of Corporate America. As a result of that and subsequent follow-up reports, much to our community's delight, the world's largest convenience store chain, 7-Eleven, Inc., was forced to abandon its legally questionable plans to open a superstore next-door to Congregation Bnai Yosef - our community's busiest synagogue. But perhaps the most significant aspect of that November 2001 feature was not the eventual departure of 7-Eleven from our neighborhood, but the arrival of COMMUNITY Magazine into our lives.
Nearly a decade later, COMMUNITY is not only still covering the issues that matter most to our community, but as in the case of the unwanted 7-Eleven, also still helping to solve them. From the education of our children to the health of our elderly, the topics that matter most have been brought to the forefront in a thorough, compelling and thoughtful manner. This commitment to journalistic excellence and genuine caring for the community, have played an important role in the ascent of COMMUNITY to become the most widely circulated Sephardic monthly in the world.
While COMMUNITY was not the first work to be published by the non-profit Bnei Aram Soba organization, it was the most ambitious. For years, the community based organization had been publishing the Aram Soba newsletter, a four page weekly Torah publication that is a translation of Hacham Ovadia Yosef's Ma'ayan Hashavuah. As the newsletter grew in popularity, many were requesting to advertise in the publication. Instead of changing the entire format of the newsletter to accommodate these requests, COMMUNITY Magazine was established. Like the newsletter, the mission of the magazine was to enrich and educate our community with the traditions and heritage of the Syrian and Near Eastern Jewish communities. But the magazine was given the added missions of informing the community about contemporary matters and bringing to the forefront the issues that affect our lives. Over the years, COMMUNITY has stayed true to its mission, covering both the challenges and milestones of our community. Each issue has been the subject of acclaim from readers - and also advertisers.
In addition to the cover story of our first issue, which played a big part in preventing an unwanted element from entering our neighborhoods, there have been several other features that bear special mention. The March 2002 cover story "Yeshiva Dropouts," elicited a huge response. As a result, some community leaders who are actively seeking to combat this problem said that their job was made easier thank to the community's increased awareness. Similarly, the September 2003 cover story, "Not Back to School," highlighted the urgent need for increased capacity in our yeshiva high schools. Just three years later, our community counted at least four new high schools. The January 2006 report on the effects of cell phone use in school, titled "Cell Phone High" prompted several schools to reevaluate their cell phone policies and enforcement activities.
But perhaps most significant are the various profiles of the leaders and personalities who affected our lives over the years (see the table below). From Nouri Dayan a.h., who was instrumental in building Ahi Ezer, to Charles A. Serouya a.h., who is largely responsible for our community's continued adherence to its tradition, each of the individuals that have graced our pages rightfully earned the honor. Perhaps the most memorable was the special commemorative edition on the great leader, Hacham Baruch Ben-Haim z.s.l., who lead our community for over half a century. The July 2005 issue which bore his smiling face on the cover and included a special 32 page color insert with exclusive pictures and stories of his contribution to our community and to the Torah, was our most sought after issue ever and has quickly become a collector's item.
One of the most important values that Hacham Baruch instilled in his students was to seek constant improvement - not resting on the laurels of even the greatest accomplishment. This lesson has become a guiding principle at COMMUNITY Magazine; and together with the firm commitment to continue our mission to inform, educate and improve, we look forward to many more years of service to our community and our readers.