This Sephardi studies scholar sees preserving Ladino as an ‘act of resistance’ against Trump – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Devin Naar says Ladino connects Jews with Latinos and Muslims, two communities he considers marginalized in Trumps America. (Meryl Schenker Photography/The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at Washington University)

(JTA) One-year-old Vidal doesnt know the significance behind the lullaby his father sings him at bedtime. He knows it helps him fall asleep, but notthat the Ladino song is part of an effort to teach himwhat served asthe lingua franca of Sephardi Jews of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years.

And he doesnt know that whenhe says his first words, he will join a shrinking cadre of Ladino speakers, most of them elderly, who hold the keys to a culture that is on the brink of extinction.

To lose a language is to lose a world, and were on the cusp of that,his father, Devin Naar, told JTA.

Naar, a professor of Sephardic studies at the University of Washington, is deeply passionate about preserving Ladino which is also known as Judeo-Spanish, Judezmo or Judio the language his grandfathers family spoke in their native Greece. By teaching Vidal Ladino, Naar hopes to fulfill a longtime dream of transmitting itslegacyto his son.

In recent months, theres something else at stake too. The 33-year-old Seattle resident sees the linguistic roots of Ladino, which include Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish and Arabic, as providing a way to connect Jews with Latinos and Muslims.Preserving Ladino is a specific political act of resistance in Trumps America, Naar said.

Its a language of linguistic fusion that is based in Spanish but really brings together a lot of other linguistic elements that I think give it a special resonance, especially in todays world, because it serves as bridge language between different cultures between Jewish culture, between Spanish culture and between the Muslim world, Naar said.

President Donald Trump has signed executive orders to builda wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to banimmigrants from some Muslim majority countries.

If Trump is interested in building a wall, Judezmo serves as a bridge, and I think that we need bridges such as this in our time, Naarsaid.

Naars grandfather came to the United States with most of his familyin 1924 from Salonica, Greece, in the midst of discriminatory measures being passed against Jews there. Family members left behind later perished inthe Holocaust, along with 95 percent of the citys Jews.

In the U.S., there were other difficulties. Naars grandfather heard anti-Semitic slurs and other insults from bigots who mistook him forSouth American or Middle Eastern.

Speaking Ladino serves as a method of reclaiming that heritage and activating that heritage not only for personal and family reasons but for political reasons, Naar said.

Devin Naars grandfather, far right, in Salonica, Greece, in the early 1920s, before they moved to the U.S. (Courtesy of Naar)

Ladino emerged following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, when the communitydispersed throughout the Ottoman Empire and came in contact with local languages as well as different Iberian dialects. At its height in the beginning of the 20th century, the languagehad abouthalf a million speakers, Naar estimated.

Estimates of current Ladino speakers vary widely, from between 160,000-300,000 people with some familiarity withthe language to around 50,000-100,000 speakers. Most of the population today is elderly, but there is renewedinterest in the language in some universities in the U.S. and Israel as well asamong Sephardi Jews.

Teaching VidalLadino has its challenges there is no complete English-Ladino dictionary and most speakers are older.Naarwas recently reading Vidal a childrens book about a dinosaur with slippery flippers and found himselfat a loss for how to translate that expression into Ladino. He consulted a scholar in Israel and a local Ladino speaker to get it right.

Its a learning process for me, both speaking to him and recognizing the limits of my vocabulary and trying to expand my vocabulary, Naarsaid.

But he isnt alone. Naar enlisted the help of a Seattle-basedgroup of elderly Ladino speakers, who translated Little Red Riding Hood into the language as a gift to Vidal. And his wife, Andrea, speaks to their sonin a mix of English, Spanish and Ladino.

Rachel Amado Bortnick, the founder of an online community for Ladino speakers, told JTA thatshe had only heard of one other casein the last decade of a child being taught to speak Ladino.

Theres no community that uses it daily its very challenging, to put it mildly, to actually pass on the language in the way that a person like me grew up in, said Bortnick, who learned Ladino as a child in her native Turkey.

Naars interest in the language goes back to his family history. He grew up hearing his grandfather and older relatives speak the language.

But by the time he started college in 2001, he had only learned a few words: greetings, curses, food-related words and liturgical passages. Questions from classmates about his last name, which did not sound like the Ashkenazi Jewish names they were familiar with, motivated him to dig deeper into his heritage.

He started studying Sephardi history and asked his grandfather to teach him Ladino.

A year later, Naar was able to read letters detailing the fate of family members who had perished in Auschwitz. The letters, written in Ladino by a family friend after World War II, had been tucked away in a closet, and some of Naars family members had been unaware of their existence and the details they provided ofthe deaths of family members.

The older generation, they couldnt believe it. They hadnt heard somebody speak like that in years, so that was very powerful for me, Naar said.

Now hes doing his part to pass the language on to the next generation and with it, a set of values.

One of my goals in trying to teach Vidal Ladino would be so that he has a sense of connection and awareness, not only of where he comes from, but also how the culture that he is connected to is connected to many other people, so that if he sees that immigrants in general or Spanish-speaking immigrants or Muslims in America are being maligned, I hope that he would be inspired to stand up.

Devin Naar is reading his son, Vidal, childrens books in Ladino as well as translating books from English into the language. (Courtesy of Naar)

Continue reading here:
This Sephardi studies scholar sees preserving Ladino as an ‘act of resistance’ against Trump – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

This Sephardi Jew sees preserving Ladino as ‘act of resistance’ against Trump – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Devin Naar says Ladino connects Jews with Latinos and Muslims, two communities he considers marginalized in Trumps America. (Meryl Schenker Photography/The Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at Washington University)

(JTA) One-year-old Vidal doesnt know the significance behind the lullaby his father sings him at bedtime. He knows it helps him fall asleep, but notthat the Ladino song is part of an effort to teach himwhat served asthe lingua franca of Sephardi Jews of the Ottoman Empire for over 500 years.

And he doesnt know that whenhe says his first words, he will join a shrinking cadre of Ladino speakers, most of them elderly, who hold the keys to a culture that is on the brink of extinction.

To lose a language is to lose a world, and were on the cusp of that,his father, Devin Naar, told JTA.

Naar, a professor of Sephardic studies at the University of Washington, is deeply passionate about preserving Ladino which is also known as Judeo-Spanish, Judezmo or Judio the language his grandfathers family spoke in their native Greece. By teaching Vidal Ladino, Naar hopes to fulfill a longtime dream of transmitting itslegacyto his son.

In recent months, theres something else at stake too. The 33-year-old Seattle resident sees the linguistic roots of Ladino, which include Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish and Arabic, as providing a way to connect Jews with Latinos and Muslims.Preserving Ladino is a specific political act of resistance in Trumps America, Naar said.

Its a language of linguistic fusion that is based in Spanish but really brings together a lot of other linguistic elements that I think give it a special resonance, especially in todays world, because it serves as bridge language between different cultures between Jewish culture, between Spanish culture and between the Muslim world, Naar said.

President Donald Trump has signed executive orders to builda wall between the U.S. and Mexico and to banimmigrants from some Muslim majority countries.

If Trump is interested in building a wall, Judezmo serves as a bridge, and I think that we need bridges such as this in our time, Naarsaid.

Naars grandfather came to the United States with most of his familyin 1924 from Salonica, Greece, in the midst of discriminatory measures being passed against Jews there. Family members left behind later perished inthe Holocaust, along with 95 percent of the citys Jews.

In the U.S., there were other difficulties. Naars grandfather heard anti-Semitic slurs and other insults from bigots who mistook him forSouth American or Middle Eastern.

Speaking Ladino serves as a method of reclaiming that heritage and activating that heritage not only for personal and family reasons but for political reasons, Naar said.

Devin Naars grandfather, far right, in Salonica, Greece, in the early 1920s, before they moved to the U.S. (Courtesy of Naar)

Ladino emerged following the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492, when the communitydispersed throughout the Ottoman Empire and came in contact with local languages as well as different Iberian dialects. At its height in the beginning of the 20th century, the languagehad abouthalf a million speakers, Naar estimated.

Estimates of current Ladino speakers vary widely, from between 160,000-300,000 people with some familiarity withthe language to around 50,000-100,000 speakers. Most of the population today is elderly, but there is renewedinterest in the language in some universities in the U.S. and Israel as well asamong Sephardi Jews.

Teaching VidalLadino has its challenges there is no complete English-Ladino dictionary and most speakers are older.Naarwas recently reading Vidal a childrens book about a dinosaur with slippery flippers and found himselfat a loss for how to translate that expression into Ladino. He consulted a scholar in Israel and a local Ladino speaker to get it right.

Its a learning process for me, both speaking to him and recognizing the limits of my vocabulary and trying to expand my vocabulary, Naarsaid.

But he isnt alone. Naar enlisted the help of a Seattle-basedgroup of elderly Ladino speakers, who translated Little Red Riding Hood into the language as a gift to Vidal. And his wife, Andrea, speaks to their sonin a mix of English, Spanish and Ladino.

Rachel Amado Bortnick, the founder of an online community for Ladino speakers, told JTA thatshe had only heard of one other casein the last decade of a child being taught to speak Ladino.

Theres no community that uses it daily its very challenging, to put it mildly, to actually pass on the language in the way that a person like me grew up in, said Bortnick, who learned Ladino as a child in her native Turkey.

Naars interest in the language goes back to his family history. He grew up hearing his grandfather and older relatives speak the language.

But by the time he started college in 2001, he had only learned a few words: greetings, curses, food-related words and liturgical passages. Questions from classmates about his last name, which did not sound like the Ashkenazi Jewish names they were familiar with, motivated him to dig deeper into his heritage.

He started studying Sephardi history and asked his grandfather to teach him Ladino.

A year later, Naar was able to read letters detailing the fate of family members who had perished in Auschwitz. The letters, written in Ladino by a family friend after World War II, had been tucked away in a closet, and some of Naars family members had been unaware of their existence and the details they provided ofthe deaths of family members.

The older generation, they couldnt believe it. They hadnt heard somebody speak like that in years, so that was very powerful for me, Naar said.

Now hes doing his part to pass the language on to the next generation and with it, a set of values.

One of my goals in trying to teach Vidal Ladino would be so that he has a sense of connection and awareness, not only of where he comes from, but also how the culture that he is connected to is connected to many other people, so that if he sees that immigrants in general or Spanish-speaking immigrants or Muslims in America are being maligned, I hope that he would be inspired to stand up.

Devin Naar is reading his son, Vidal, childrens books in Ladino as well as translating books from English into the language. (Courtesy of Naar)

Here is the original post:
This Sephardi Jew sees preserving Ladino as ‘act of resistance’ against Trump – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Andre Azoulay to Receive American Sephardi Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award – Morocco World News

New York The American Sephardi Federations (ASF) 20th Anniversary Edition of the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival will celebrate Moroccos culture of co-existence between Muslims and Jews on Opening Night, Thursday, March 30th.

Andr Azoulay, Counsellor to Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, is to receive ASFs Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement in recognition of his remarkable lifes work bridging religious divides through artistic and other cultural endeavors.

Azoulays fte, co-presented with Association Mimouna, will feature live performances by French-Algerian recording legend Enrico Macias, Kuwaiti star and human rights activist Ema Shah, Israeli-Moroccan singer Neta Elkayam and Amit Hai Cohen, and French-Moroccan opera singer David Serero, the great-grandson of Moroccos former Chief Rabbi, Haim David Serero of Fez.

In 1992, to revitalize the historical, cultural, and spiritual legacy of his hometown, Azoulay founded the Essaouira-Mogador Foundation. The Festival of the Andalousies Atlantiques, one of the foundations eight cultural festivals, is the only one in the world where the stages are exclusively dedicated to Muslim and Jewish musicians, singers, and dancers.

Azoulay is a strong supporter of the Association Mimouna, a movement of young Moroccan Muslims who preserve and promote the Moroccan Jewish heritage as an essential part of their Moroccan identity.

Morocco is a vibrant and welcoming country; an exception to the global trend of increasing intolerance, says Jason Guberman-P., Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation, who recently visited Morocco, Egypt, Israel, and Cyprus as part of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Mission.

HM King Mohammed VI has restored 167 Jewish shrines and cemeteries, and Moroccans are proud of their effusive Jewish legacy. Indeed Moroccos constitution celebrates its one and indivisible national identity defined by its Jewish, Arab, Amazigh and other elements.

Counsellor Azoulay has made it his lifes mission to perpetuate this Moroccan ideal, which values openness, moderation, tolerance and [the] dialog for mutual understanding between all the cultures and the civilizations of the world. In honoring Counsellor Azoulay, ASF hopes that others will emulate his enlightened example, added Mr. Guberman.

On Opening Night ASF will also be honoring filmmakers Zeva Oelbaum and Sabine Krayenbhl (Letter from Baghdad) with the Pomegranate Award for Directors, as well as Davina Pardo, who is receiving the new Rising Star Pomegranate Award dedicated in memory of the 2012 Pomegranate Award-winning Israeli-Moroccan Director Ronit Elkabetz.

Opening night is a star-studded celebration of the spirit of inclusiveness that is the Sephardi world and which we represent throughout the festival in film, says Artistic Director Sara Nodjoumi. Only at the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival could such a diverse array of performers Jews and Muslims, Moroccans, Israelis, and Kuwaitis come together in song.

The Pomegranate Award is designed by renowned Baghdad-born artist and ASF Board member Oded Halahmy, proprietor of the Pomegranate Gallery in Soho and Jaffa.

The Festival will take place at the Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th Street). The complete list of films and ticket information can be found at http://www.nysephardifilmfestival.org.

Join the Conversation. What do you think?

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Andre Azoulay to Receive American Sephardi Federation’s Lifetime Achievement Award – Morocco World News

A Woman’s Place | The Huffington Post – Huffington Post

This is a very charming and quite a “feel good” film. It is about many things: a close-knit, earthy, easy-going, but pious Sephardic community in Jerusalem; delicious Sephardic foods that look so tasty the viewer wants to reach over and take something. The film is about loving wive and loving husbands–and about the collapse of the women’s balcony in their shul which destroys their Torah, plunges the Rabbi’s wife into a coma, and the Rabbi into madness.

Despite this catastrophe, the film is a comedy. And, this is not all that the film is about.

The film presents a clash between an Ashkenazi rabbi (Rabbi David)–a young, good-looking, but rather harsh zealot–and a group of vibrant, traditional, kind-hearted and perhaps overly idealized Sephardic women whose balcony is now gone. In the absence of their regular Rabbi Menashe, Rabbi David supervises the repairs; he constructs a small and crowded cage for the effervescent women, rather than their old, open, and spacious balcony.

With the money that the women have themselves raised for a new balcony, Rabbi David instead commissions a new Torah. Clearly, both are needed. He praises the women as the Torah–and thus, preaches that women do not need the Torah or Torah study. But he wants them to rebel against the traditions of their mothers and dress more modestly, and follow new religious rules at home.

Rabbi David has picked the wrong group of women to tyrannize. These women are quite happy with their religious and communal lives and do not wish to change them.

Rabbi David seems to exert an almost hypnotic control over their hapless husbands who are mourning their rabbi (whose hand they kiss when they see him) but who has temporarily lost his mind.

The battle is on. The women banish their husbands; they protest and demonstrate outside Rabbi David’s yeshiva. Without giving away the ending, let me say that the Sephardic women–and young love–win this battle.

The acting is superb (Abraham Celektar, Igal Naor, Evelin Hagoel, Aviv Alush, Assaf Ben Shimon), as is the music (Ahuva Ozeri), direction (Emil Ben Shimon), and cinematography. Menemsha Films distributes this film in the United States.

This is good, light entertainment for very troubled times.

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A Woman’s Place | The Huffington Post – Huffington Post

Chief rabbi urges Netanyahu to speak out against US anti-Semitism – The Times of Israel

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef implored Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak up Monday about a recent wave of anti-Semitism and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries in the United States.

Yosef called on Netanyahu and Israeli diplomats not to be silent about the phenomenon of Jewish cemetery desecration.

We have to raise a very clear voice to work as much as possible to stop these anti-Semitic acts, he said.

Your voice is the voice our brothers in the Diaspora expect to hear. They are looking to you; you must do everything in your power to prevent these acts of hatred, he added.

Yosef spoke at a ceremony marking a deadly 1992 bombing at the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires.

The past two months have seen three incidents of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries and a rash of over 100 bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions.

Jewish tombstones lay vandalized at Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP)

Netanyahu is usually vocal against global anti-Semitism but has issued a fairly muted response to recent acts targeting US Jewish institutions. Critics in Israel say Netanyahu may be looking to protect his ally, US President Donald Trump, who is accused of stirring up xenophobia.

During a visit to the White House last month, the prime minister defended Trump against charges of turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism, saying there is no greater supporter of the Jewish people and the Jewish state than Donald Trump.

US President Donald Trump, right, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, February 15, 2017. (AFP/ SAUL LOEB)

After Trump issued his first explicit condemnation of anti-Semitism, which he described as horrible, painful and a sad reminder, Netanyahu said, It is very important that President Trump took a strong stand against anti-Semitism.

Speaking at an event for the Jewish community in late February at the Great Synagogue in Sydney, during a state visit, Netanyahu described anti-Semitism as a growing trend that needs to be combated.

We have a battle against those who seek to demonize our people and against the resurgent anti-Semitism we see in many parts of the world, he said, adding that it is something that we need to fight together.

The prime minister said that in addition to Trump taking a strong stand against anti-Semitism it is important that we all continue to do so in the years ahead, adding that it is important in Europe, it is important in America.

Excerpt from:
Chief rabbi urges Netanyahu to speak out against US anti-Semitism – The Times of Israel

The Sephardi eclipse – Jerusalem Post Israel News

EGYPTIAN WORKERS carry out restoration work at a synagogue in Cairo.. (photo credit:REUTERS)

For many centuries Sephardi thinking, culture and law dominated the Jewish world. While kudos must be given to Rabbenu Gershom, Rashi and the Tosafot in the Ashkenazi world, there is no doubt that Judaism would have been impoverished without the genius, creativity and leadership of Judah Halevi and Moses ben Maimon. In addition, the foundational code of Jewish law the Shulchan Aruch was the work of 1492 exile Joseph Karo and it was only later that Rabbi Moses Isserles in Krakow wrote an Ashkenazi gloss on the Sephardi code of the law. Ashkenaz was central, but Sepharad was dominant.

But this dynamic began to change dramatically as we enter the modern period. All of the modern denominations of Judaism from Reform to ultra-Orthodox were founded in Central Europe, Hassidism struck roots in Ukraine and Poland, Jews were granted emancipation beginning in France in 1790 and both the Socialist Bund and various forms of Zionism were the creation of the Russian Pale of Settlement. The Jews of Spain, Portugal and North Africa as well as all Jews from Arab and Islamic lands seemed to have disappeared from the radar of Jewish history. This eclipse is shocking. Has it been overstated? While some historians would point to the exile of Jews from Spain in 1492 as the beginning of the end, the reality is that great Sephardi creativity continued to be a hallmark of Jewish civilization in the early modern period, in those years between the realities of Jewish autonomy in the medieval world and the revolutions of modernity. An outstanding example of Sephardi fortitude in the face of traumatic exile was the community of Safed. In the 16th century this town boasted the greatest Jewish mystical minds as well as brilliant business acumen as a textile and clothing manufacture center. Exile did not weaken Sephardi Jewry but stimulated roots of genius and creativity. Rabbi Isaac Lurias Kabbalah was both traditional and iconoclastic in ways that are barely imagined today. Sephardi thought was still supreme.

Another culprit that is accused of causing the Sephardi eclipse is the Shabbetai Zevi failed messianic movement of the mid-17th century. There was apocalypse in the air and Jews were not immune to an unbalanced young man from Izmir in the Ottoman Empire who claimed to be Gershom Scholems Mystical Messiah. When the Sultan heard of Shabbetais plans to seize power from the overlords of the Land of Israel, he arrested Shabbetai and gave him the choice of conversion to Islam or death.

For the most part, Shabbetais embrace of Islam ended the movement of messianic redemption, from Poland to Yemen. Indeed, perhaps this was the moment in the Jewish world when the Jewish masses ignored the warnings of their rabbi and thus weakened rabbinic authority. Since the source of the movement was the greatest Islamic empire and since that Ottoman empire was facing a true decline until it was known in the early 20th century as The Sick Man of Europe perhaps that heralded the Sephardic eclipse in the face of Ashkenaz.

Or likely, the Sephardi eclipse is overstated. Ladino language and culture flourished in cities like Salonika, where there was a thriving Jewish press and very active Zionist organizations. In North Africa the French Alliance promoted advanced education and prepared its Jewish students for life in the real world. If we go to Istanbul, we have the leadership of the Hakham Bashi in Jewish religious life and thriving synagogues and institutions.

Beyond the Sephardi world, going into other Arab and Islamic lands, there is aliya of Jews to Israel from Yemen long before the mass exodus with the creation of the Jewish state. There is also a thriving business, political and middle class in Iraq.

Once the Zionist movement became a reality life did worsen for Jews in Arab and Islamic lands even though they had always been humiliated institutionally via the dhimmi status but the achievements of the non-Ashkenazi world were considerable although not foundational. That there has been a crossover between the two worlds can be seen in Shas a Sephardic protest movement basically founded and inspired by Mitnagdim. With the founding of the State of Israel, perhaps the Sephardi eclipse is ending.

With half the Jewish population of the State of Israel descended from Jews of the Sephardi and Mizrahi worlds, one wonders if the Askenazi hold on Jewish destiny will diminish. Only time will tell.

We are moving into a new phase of history.

The author is a rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Anshei Sholom in West Palm Beach, Florida.

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Editor’s Notes: Israelis have reason for concern ahead of future war

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The Sephardi eclipse – Jerusalem Post Israel News

Sephardic Studies | Yeshiva University, New York

Rabbi Dr. Herbert C. Dobrinsky, Vice President for University Affairs, Co-Founder of Sephardic Studies Programs and Consultant to Jacob E. Safra Institute of Sephardic Studies and all other Sephardic Divisions

Rabbi Moshe Tessone, Director of Sephardic Community Program, YU Jewish Studies Faculty (teaches courses at Yeshiva College and at Stern College for Women), and Faculty at the Philip and Sarah Belz School of Jewish Music (teaches Sephardic Liturgical Music and Cantillation)

Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim, Sephardic Rosh Yeshiva Chairholder, Maxwell R. Maybaum Chair in Talmud and Sephardic Halakhic Codes (teaches Talmud class for 20-24 students (majority 65-75% are Sephardim) a leading Sephardic Rabbinic Authority for the Greater Sephardic Community)

Rabbi Abraham Sarfaty, Faculty member of YU’s Mazer Yeshiva Program and an assistant to Rosh Kollel, Rabbi Hershel Schachter of the Marcos and Adina Katz Kollel. Also, instructor of Sephardic Halakha and Codes to Maybaum Fellows at RIETS.

Professor Daniel Tsadik, Assistant Professor of Sephardic and Iranian studies at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. (Noted scholar of Iranian Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Countries and Jews Living under Islam). Also teaches undergraduate courses at YC and SCW.

Professor Ronnie Perelis, Chief Rabbi Dr. Isaac Abraham and Jelena (Rachel) Alcalay Assistant Professor of Sephardic Studies at BRGS (teaches Judeo Spanish history and literature, and history of Balkan Jewish Communities)

Rabbi Hayim Angel, Faculty YC, Professor of Bible

Rabbi Dan Cohen, Edmond J. Safra Sephardic S’gan Mashgiach at RIETS.

Rabbi Yosef Yanetz, Shoel UMaishiv, Sephardic Beit Midrash and is a member of the Yadin Yadin Kollel.

Rabbi Lawrence Hajioff, Jewish Studies Faculty, Stern College for Women

Rabbi Richard Hidary, Faculty, Stern College for Women, Assistant Professor of Jewish History

Rabbi Nissim Elnekaveh, Library Consultant on Ladino and Sephardic Materials

Rabbi Steven Schneid, Faculty Belz School of Jewish Music, teaches Safrut (Torah calligraphy according to Sephardic tradition)

Joseph Angel, YC, Assistant Professor of Bible

Rabbi Gideon Shloush, Faculty, Stern College for Women, Adjunct Instructor of Judaic Studies

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Sephardic Studies | Yeshiva University, New York

20th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival to Feature Moroccan Jewish Communities – Morocco World News

By Julia Cabrera

New York The American Sephardi Federation (ASF) open its doors on March 30 for the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival.

The week long event features the rich history of the Sephardic Jewish Community across the globe through film, with specific nights dedicated to the Moroccan, Iraqi, Greek, and Yemenite Jewish communities.

The festival will shed light on the stories of Sephardic Jews from Baghdad to Greece, Ethiopia to Switzerland, and Israel to Iran. According to ASF representative Jennifer Zwiebel, this year will be the first time that the festival dedicates a full day of films to the unrevealed suffering of Sephardic Jews from Algeria, Tunisia, and Greece during the Holocaust. Sephardim in the Shoah, will be presented on Sunday, April 2, and From Ethiopia to Israel, on Tuesday, April 4, both themes will explore the challenges of emigration.

According to Zwiebel, the festival will also host on Monday, April 3 An Evening of Empowering Sephardi Women, showcasing films that highlight gender relations between Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities.

The Young Leadership Board at ASF, will host Love, Sephardi Style, on Tuesday, April 4, which will feature films that explore the Sephardic perspective on modern love and relationships. According to Zwiebel, a discussion will be held after the film with an award-winning Jewish Iranian-American filmmaker.

For this important NYSJFF 20th Anniversary Edition, we are proud to present poignant and powerful programs that speak to the issues of our time and all time, said Sara Nodjoumi, the Artistic Director of the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival to the ASF.

There are stories of immigration, persecution, and resistance. Perspectives on everything from the making of the modern Middle East to the modern experiences of finding romance in traditional Sephardi communities. The number of quality films this year is a sign of vitality and the increasing interest in the varied experiences of Sephardim.

Behind the scenes of the festival are Nodjoumi, who produced The Iran Job and is a programming alumna of the Tribeca Film Festival, as well as the festivals Producer French opera singer, David Serero, who created and starred in ASFs l theatrical season (Merchant of Venice, Othello, and Nabucco).

The Festival will take place at the ASF, located on 5 West 16th Street. The dates and times for each film during this years event have been released.

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20th New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival to Feature Moroccan Jewish Communities – Morocco World News

Spain drops test for elderly Sephardim to become citizens – The Times of Israel

Spanish authorities have reportedly dropped the requirement for Sephardi Jews aged 70 and over to take language and culture tests to qualify for Spanish citizenship.

Five hundred years after Jews were burned at the stake, forced to convert to Christianity or thrown out of the country, Spain passed legislation in October to allow the descendants of those who were expelled in 1492 to apply for Spanish citizenship.

Similar legislation exists for those whose ancestors were booted out of Portugal.

The decision to exempt elderly applicants, reported Monday by the El Pais newspaper, was made after it emerged that the tests were deterring hundreds of elderly Turkish Jews from exercising their right to a Spanish passport.

Until now, tests on Spanish language and heritage have been compulsory for all applicants, 4,919 of whom have been naturalized as Spaniards, the report said.

A tourist walking down the historic Jewish quarter of the town of Ribadavia in Spain, September 26, 2016. (Cnaan Liphshiz/JTA)

Karen Gerson Sharon, coordinator of the Sephardic Center of Istanbul, in Turkey, said she was very happy the requirement had been waived for older applicants, although she said she would have preferred the age for test exemption to have been 65 rather than 70.

We are not a very young community, she told El Pais, adding that it was hard for elderly applicants with sight and hearing problems to cope with tests.

Gerson said the children of a friend of hers had applied for Portuguese citizenship granted under a similar law because that country does not demand exams. An 84-year-old Turkish woman had given up on the process because she was too old to travel and complete the paperwork in Spain, she said.

A register of blasphemers, heretics and Jews by the Holy Office of Toledo, Spain, 1632; Ink on paper. (Courtesy/ New Mexico History Museum)

Sephardi applications for Spanish citizenship have come from more than 100 countries, most of them Spanish-speaking, along with Morocco, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan and the US, El Pais reported.

Jews of Sephardi origin often still speak Ladino, a 15th century version of the language that bears little resemblance to modern Spanish.

The Spanish justice ministry expects an uptick in the number of Sephardi citizens given that more than 8,000 applicants have taken the language and heritage tests, the report said.

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Spain drops test for elderly Sephardim to become citizens – The Times of Israel

On the Bookshelf – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Photo Credit: Rabbi Marc Angel

Rabbi Marc Angel is the rabbi emeritus of Manhattans Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, founder and director of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals, and the author and editor of over two dozen works, including, most recently, The Wisdom of Solomon and Us and a commentary on Pirkei Avot.

What books are you currently reading?

Aside from ongoing Torah studies, I am currently reading/re-reading the works of S. Y. Agnon, the Israeli author who won the Nobel Prize in 1966, and the works of Ayn Rand.

Whats the best book on Judaism youve ever read?

The primary sources are best: Tanach, Talmud, Rambam. As for the best secondary sources, that depends on what aspect of Judaism one is studying. For psak halakha, Id recommend Mekor Chayim by Rabbi Haim David Halevy; on halacha, Menahem Alons Hamishpat HaIvri; on kabbalah, the writings of Aryeh Kaplan, especially Jewish Meditation; on Rambam, the writings of Menachem Kellner; and on Tanach, the writings of Rabbi Hayyim Angel.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Your favorite books and authors?

I was blessed with a mother who was an avid reader, and she set a magnificent example of love of reading and love of learning. As a child, I was mostly interested in books relating to sports.

Hidden gems: Which Jewish book or author should be widely known but isnt?

I am very fond of the writings of Elias Canetti, a Sephardic Jew who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981. Although his books do not focus on Judaism/the Jewish experience, they have a tremendous breadth of vision. Ive read his classic Crowds and Power several times, and I find new insights with every reading.

As someone who has written extensively on Sephardic Jewry and culture, what books (other than your own) would you recommend to someone interested in this subject?

Zvi Zohar has written important works on Sephardic chachamim of the modern period; Andre Chouraqui has written on the experience of Jews of North Africa; Jane Gerber has written about Jewish life in medieval Spain; Mair Jose Benardete has written about the Jews of Judeo-Spanish tradition; Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi has written on the experience of Conversos and ex-Conversos the list goes on and on. Sephardic Jewry is a vast topic.

What book hasnt been written that youd like to read?

A first-hand account of life in the days of Mashiach.

Years ago, manyrabbanimthought reading novels was a waste of time. Do you read novels? Or just non-fiction?

I believe in the importance of serious reading, and I frown on frivolous reading. Time is very short, and wisdom is vast. Serious reading might be in the form of non-fiction or fiction, just as frivolous reading can be found in both categories. In the best fiction, one can find important insights, beautiful use of language, and powerful ethical dilemmas. Great fiction can enlarge our minds and expand our horizons.

What book do you plan on reading next?

I tend to be a binge reader. I like to read all the works of one author before going on to another. At present, Im in the midst of reading the works of Agnon. When I finish with that, I plan to read the writings of Hannah Arendt.

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On the Bookshelf – The Jewish Press – JewishPress.com

Meet the Musmach – Yu News (blog)

Rabbi Mosheh Aziz 17R Brings Passion for Sephardic Heritage and Customs to the Community

Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary(RIETS) and the Yeshiva University community will celebrate the ordination of more than 130musmachim[ordained rabbis] at itsChag HaSemikhah Convocationon March 19, 2017. While most will remain engaged in either full-time post-semichaTorah study or religious workJewish education, the pulpit, outreach or non-profit workmany will pursue careers in other professions, including medicine and law.

In the weeks leading up to the celebration,YU Newswill introduce you to several of these remarkablemusmachim.

For as long as he can remember, learning and teaching Torah has been a passion for Mosheh Aziz. As a Mashadi Jew growing up in Great Neck, New York, he served as gabbai in his shuls youth minyan and was already developing Torah programming for other children while still in high school himself. So when Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Haim, Sephardic Rosh Yeshiva and Maxwell R. Maybaum Chair in Talmud and Sephardic Halakhic Codes, encouraged Aziz to pursue semicha at YUs Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in addition to his studies in the Sephardic Community Program at Yeshiva College, the decision felt like the natural next step.

I understood that havingthe solidbackground and training ofsemicha would enable me to transmit Torah more effectively and skillfully, said Aziz. I wasnt sure at the time if I wanted to practice as a full-time rabbi, but was excited at the opportunity to take on the challenge of more rigorous Torah study with Rav Ben Haim.

The personal connection he went on to develop with Rabbi Ben Haim during his years at RIETS has become one of Azizs most cherished experiences and plays a crucial role in informing his own journey as a Sephardic rabbi. It has been the greatest privilege to learn and do shimush [rabbinical apprenticeship] under my mentor, said Aziz. Having received his tradition from greatest Sephardic luminaries of the previous generation, his sheer mastery of Talmud and halacha continues to be awe-inspiring. Rav Ben Haim truly embodies the principles he teaches his students and the path he expects them to follow. There were many students in the shiur who came from diverse Sephardic backgroundsPersian, Syrian, Moroccan, and many othersand everyone felt respected and like an integral part of the shiur.

In particular, Aziz feels he benefited from Rabbi Ben Haims unwaveringly high standards. I always enjoyed the challenge of beingexpected to know the primary halachic sources in everysugya[Talmudic discussion] as well as where to find them inside, he said. If we forgot something which the Rav taught us already, he would sharply rebuke us. The demand was daunting at first; but in this way, Rav Ben Haim instilled in us the seriousness of knowing the Torah we learned.

But Aziz also enjoyed the opportunity to develop close relationships with a wide range of roshei yeshiva at RIETS and their diverse approaches to halacha and hashkafa [philosophy], as well as the comprehensive training that has prepared him for the role he now serves as rabbinic assistant at the United Mashadi Jewish Community of America (UMJCA) under Rabbi Ben Haim.

RIETS provides valuabletraining to prepare a future rabbi with theprofessional skills needed to excel in the contemporary world, said Aziz. The public speaking and drasha [homiletics] workshops gave us necessary tools to develop and deliver effective sermons. The pastoral counseling courses helped us acquire the competencies to identify social needs in the modern-day AmericanJewish community, andprovide pastoral care sensitively and responsibly. The professional track also allowed us to meet some of the most effective people in our field who can help us when we need extra support.

He added, YU and RIETS are the heart and center of the American Orthodox Jewish community, and the ability to meet some of the major players in the community as well as many of my future colleagues in the rabbinate has been very valuable.

As rabbinic assistant at UMJCA, Aziz now manages a minyan of nearly 250 singles and couples on Shabbat, in addition to teaching chatan and kallah classes with his wife, Gabby, for engaged couples in the community and Judaic studies at the Long Island Hebrew Academy in Great Neck; the couple have two daughters, Rivqa and Avigayil. Aziz has also sought to train himself in a wide range of counseling and communal skills, earning a masters degree in social work through Wurzweiler School of Social Works Clergy Program and completing a certificate in Jewish Communal Service at the school as well. In addition, he has been certified by the PUAH Institute and is training to become a shochetunder the guidance of Rabbi Chaim Loike of the Orthodox Union.

Thats because for Aziz, knowledge and action must go hand-in-hand. I believe it is especially important to learn and educate our communities inhalacha lemaaseh, practical halacha, he said. Rav Ovadia Yosef zl began his career by teachinghalacha lemaasehin the local communities and Rav Ben Haim has always advised us to teach the subject in a clear and coherent fashion.

The topic is so important to Aziz that he and his chavruta [learning partner] are close to completing a sefer[book] in the field, a practical and concise guide to the laws of mourning according to Sephardic and Mashadi custom based on the teachings of Rabbi Ben Haim, to be published this summer. This will hopefully be the first of a series ofhalacha lemaasehsefarim we will publish based on the teachings of our mentor and teacher, said Aziz.

As a communal rabbi, though, Aziz is especially passionate about conveying Sephardic tradition and culture to future generations. The Sephardic community has a rich heritagediverse communities always remained together and never branched off, he said. I hope to continue educating Sephardic communities about our heritage and help maintain unity and respect between all Jews. Sephardic communities have a tremendous amount to be proud of, with family and community values which are well worth maintaining and exemplifying.

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Meet the Musmach – Yu News (blog)

Lost Language of AJMF8 – Atlanta Jewish Times

Sarah Aroeste is passionate about two things, her love of Ladino music and sharing her culture with others. But thats not the only reason she was picked to perform five times during AJMF8. Aroeste brings so much to this years festival including her diverse cultural perspective, said AJMF Executive Director, Russell Gottschalk.

Aroestes life revolved around music throughout high school and college, where she trained in classical opera. However, it was not until she moved to Israel that her interest in Ladino music grew, thanks in part to her music coach, who shared her Sephardic background.

Upon returning to the United States, Aroeste continued to perform classical music while integrating Ladino music each performance. The outcome was a success. I had people come up to me and say that was their favorite part of the performance, said Aroeste. Thats when she realized Ladino music, not opera, was her true calling and decided to pursue it as a full-time career.

Ladino is a form of Judaea-Spanish or Judaismo language that originated in Spain. After the Castilians kicked out Jewish inhabitants in the fifteenth century, they immigrated to the Ottoman Empire and Ladino became frozen in time.

Aroeste receives her inspiration from various music genres including Israeli. I really like Israeli music because the artists understand how to navigate between their ethnicity and music. However, I was also brought up on American music, rock and roll, contemporary, electronica, jazz, and pop, said Aroeste. She is proud of her identity and attributes her passion for Ladino music to her ethnic background. Ladino contains a beautiful language and music, and I have been very fortunate to express myself through it for the past 15 years. said Aroeste.

Her concerts incorporate both entertainment and education as she informs audience members of her rich Sephardic background. You dont go into Ladino to become rich, but I love Ladino music and sharing it with people. Music crosses so many borders and Ladino is no exception. It is multifaceted and the language and themes are universal, said Aroeste. Ladino is not dead and the Jewish community can do so much to preserve it. After all, you cant understand Jewish history without Sephardic culture.

Aroeste is glad to be in this years Atlanta Jewish Music Festival. She will be performing at International Night, Ladino Shabbat Jam, Ladino Musical Purim Party, Purim Family Concert and at Epstein for a private event connecting children to Ladino and Sephardic music.

There are countless artists participating in this years AJMF and each one is sure to entertain. Gottschalk noted that planning the AJMF is very detailed, we have so many talented artists we would like to invite but have limited slots. In programming Aroeste we wanted to take full advantage of all she had to offer. Aroeste became a natural selection for Gottschalk due to her international background and recently released childrens album.

Aroeste enjoys working with Jewish and non-Jewish audiences and applauds Gottschalk for booking her for the AJMF. It allows various community members to gain exposure to so many different cultures and promotes the importance of Jewish diversity for everyone.

Sarah Aroeste is scheduled for five performances during the AJMF. (Photo credit: Dror-Forshee Photography)

Read more:
Lost Language of AJMF8 – Atlanta Jewish Times

Lectures and classes Feb. 27-March 5 – Arizona Daily Star

When the Nightingales Sing: The Joy of Sephardic Song Temple Emanu-El, 225 N. Country Club Road. Learn about the history of Jews in Spain, listen to Sephardic music and sing some popular Ladino songs. 12:15-1:15 p.m. Feb. 27. $70. 327-4501.

Learn To Read Music Tucson Boys Chorus Center, 5770 E. Pima St. Topics will include notes, rhythm, clefts, key signatures and musical notation. 7-8:15 p.m. Feb. 27. Free. 235-4303.

Painting Party: Sandhill Cranes Tucson Botanical Gardens, 2150 N. Alvernon Way. Karen Workman will lead through the painting process step-by-step. Bring an apron or smock. 1-4 p.m. Feb. 28. $35. 326-9686, Ext. 18.

Here Come the Hummers Saguaro National Park East, 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail. Join a park naturalist in the visitor center theater to discover the fascinating world of hummingbirds. 2-2:45 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 733-5153.

Javelinas: Our Desert Neighbors Saguaro National Park West, 2700 N. Kinney Road. Learn about this intriguing creature and how it survives in this arid environment. 2:15-2:45 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 733-5158.

Meet the Cuckoo of the Desert: The Roadrunner Saguaro National Park West. Presentation about the natural history, behaviors, traits and facts. 3:15-3:45 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 733-5158.

Get Smart About Your Vision SaddleBrooke TWO, 38759 S. Mountain View Blvd. Discussion on eye care for those who suffer from or at risk for cataracts. Call to RSVP. 4-6 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 1-646-946-6682.

Pancake Supper Church of the Painted Hills, 3295 W. Speedway. Pancakes with butter and syrup, sausage, applesauce and drink. 5-7 p.m. Feb. 28. $6. 624-5715.

Amazing Ants in the Sonoran Desert Lutheran Church of the Foothills, 5102 N. Craycroft Road. Kim Franklin. 7-9 p.m. Feb. 28. Free. 604-6897.

Mountain Lions: Beyond the Myth Saguaro National Park West. Uncover the true nature of this predator. 10:15-11 a.m. March 1. Free. 733-5158.

Creepy Crawlers: The Silent Majority Saguaro National Park West. Learn about some of the most feared and misunderstood arthropods who call the park home. 2:15-2:45 p.m. March 1. Free. 733-5158.

Living with the Desert Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte. Jo Falls teaches about a different aspect of desert home. 10 a.m.-noon. March 2. $89. 742-6455.

Play Sonoran Desert Bingo Saguaro National Park West. Learn about the plants and animals while playing bingo. 10:15-10:45 a.m. March 2. Free. 733-5158.

Living With Giants Saguaro National Park West. Learn how it provides shelter/substance for wildlife, when it flowers, growth patterns and its fight for survival. 11:15-noon. March 2. Free. 733-5158.

Beginning Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention Ellit Towne Flowingn Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road. Gentle enough for seniors and those needing to improve balance. 11 a.m. March 3. $45. 742-4600.

Lizards are Hot, Lizards are Cool Saguaro National Park West. Find out what it means when they do push ups or exhibit other odd behaviors. 3:15-3:45 p.m. March 3. Free. 733-5158.

Rainwater Harvesting Class: Tucson Water Rebate Watershed Management Group, 1137 N. Dodge Blvd. Class will reimburse up to $2,000 for residential rainwater-harvesting systems. 9 a.m.-noon. March 4. Free. 396-3266.

Tucson Lifestyle Cover Dog Search La Encantada, 2905 E. Skyline Drive. Dogs get a chance to be on the cover of Tucson Lifestyle Magazine. Benefiting the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. March 4. $30. 321-3704.

Cooking With Prickly Pear Saguaro National Park West. A live cooking demonstration to learn how to incorporate it into a diet. 3:15-3:45 p.m. March 5. Free. 733-5158.

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Lectures and classes Feb. 27-March 5 – Arizona Daily Star

Five tips for your best Passover ever – - Sponsored content … – Chicago Parent

For many Jews, Passover is the most important of all Jewish holidays. In fact, more Jewish Americans observe Passover than any other Jewish holiday. Passover is considered a big deal because many families come together to share a special ceremonial festive meal called a seder.

The staff at InterfaithFamily/Chicago has come up with five tips to help you plan your best Passover seder.

Most people use a book called a Haggadah to guide their Passover seder. There are just short of a million different versions of a Haggadah, and while there are many similarities among them, each one is very different. You can search Passover Haggadah to find some hard copy options as well as many online, such as Haggadot.com, where you can download and/or personalize. Some focus on a theme such as Israel, women, interfaith families, cartoons or music. There are so many ways to tell the story, songs to sing, ideas to decorate your table and the room, special readings to include, that each seder (Passover service in the home) is unique, so be creative!

Yes, there is beauty and joy in tradition and repetition. You can use the same Haggadah that you have used for the last 100 years with notes and wine stains all over it. There is nothing wrong with that. However, its also fun to add a new element a new reading, recipe, song, poem, craft, etc. Ask your friends to suggest something fun and unique they do at their seder and you are likely to hear many great ideas. One of our favorites is a Sephardic (Spanish/Italian Jews) tradition of hitting each other with green onions during the singing of Dayenu, (meaning, It would have been enough! a traditional Passover song about many of Gods gifts during the exodus from Egypt. The green onions represent the whips the Egyptians used on the Israelite slaves.

Passover is meant to be experienced with all our senses. You will taste many wonderful (and some not so wonderful) foods, and each will bring a distinct smell to the room especially the horseradish! Make the seder table and the room a beautiful sight by decorating for the occasion using the theme of freedom, the Red Sea, spring, plagues or the number four (there are many fours as part of a seder). Everyone present will be listening to the stories and songs you decide to include in your seder. Feel free to use clapping and tambourines as well. There are so many things on a seder table that everyone can touch. It is a custom to lean on a soft pillow during a seder since only a free person can lean during a meal.

There are many pieces to hosting a seder, including planning, shopping, cooking, cleaning, picking out a Haggadah, leading the seder, etc. You do not need to do it all yourself. It is common to ask family and friends to bring a dish to a dinner party, and you can certainly make this request for your Passover dinner, too. Passover is a time where we are encouraged to welcome the stranger. This would be a good time to invite your spouse or other relatives of another faith to take part. Each guest will enjoy being a bigger part of the seder and you will enjoy having less on your proverbial plate.

If you went into 100 homes on Passover and observed 100 seders, each one would look and feel a little different. While there are usually some common elements, part of what families tend to love about Passover is that we can each make it our own. The way you choose to do your seder is the right way; dont compare your Passover and your seder with anyone elses. What is right and meaningful for you and your family is up to you. Dont be surprised that no matter how great your seder is this year, you may decide to do things differently next yearand that seder will be the right way, also.

Want to learn more? InterfaithFamily/Chicago is hosting two free model seders on March 12 and March 19. Participants will receive a binder of recipes, readings, songs and information, taste some Passover foods and participate in a short seder.

For more information or to sign up, email JudyJ@interfaithfamily.com.

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Five tips for your best Passover ever – - Sponsored content … – Chicago Parent

Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents East of the River on 3/16 – Broadway World

Five Boroughs Music Festival (5BMF) presents the adventurous world-music ensemble East of the River in their new program, SULTANA: Music of the Sephardic Diaspora, on Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Beth Elohim in Park https://us.vocuspr.com/Publish/3318684/vcsPRAsset_3318684_88987_0d249e23-ca40-4948-bb45-e6b83ee4ecb9_0.jpegSlope, Brooklyn.

The program celebrates the ancient musical world of the Sephardic Jewish diaspora in North Africa and throughout the Ottoman Empire, taking the audience on a journey through bazaars, kitchens, dance circles, prayer houses, and public spaces. Founded by woodwind virtuosos Daphna Mor and Nina Stern, East of the River explores haunting and captivating melodies from the traditional repertoires of the Balkans, Armenia, and the Middle East, as well as from the Medieval European classical repertory. SULTANA is inspired by the experiences of Mor’s own Sephardic great-grandmother, Sultana Magrisso, who emigrated with her family from Bulgaria to British Palestine in 1944, traveling through Greece, Turkey, Syria, and Lebanon.

Five Boroughs Music Festival’s 2016-17 season concludes with a performance entitled OFF THE BEATEN TRACK: Chamber Works from Moravia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Poland and beyond by early music group Quicksilver on Friday, May 12 at 7:00 p.m. at King Manor Museum in Jamaica, Queens, and on Saturday, May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Tickets for the East of the River concert-priced at $25 for general admission, $15 for Congregation Beth Elohim members, seniors and students-are available by visiting http://www.5bmf.org. Tickets for all other 5BMF concerts are also available by visiting http://www.5bmf.org.

Program Information

EAST OF THE RIVER

Nina Stern, recorders & chalumeau Daphna Mor, recorders & voice John Hadfield, percussion Kane Mathis, oud Jesse Kotansky, violin

Thursday, March 16, 2017 at 7:30 p.m. Congregation Beth Elohim 274 Garfield Place Brooklyn, NY 11215

About East of the River East of the River, founded by internationally-renowned recorder players Nina Stern and Daphna Mor, explores the timeless gems of the Medieval European classical repertory together with virtuosic and haunting melodies of the East. Focusing on the traditions of the Middle East, Armenia, North Africa and the Balkans, East of the River’s music is arranged and interpreted by musicians whose backgrounds include classical, jazz and world music.

The group has performed on concert series including San Francisco Society for Early Music, Early Music Now (Milwaukee), Madison Early Music Festival, Academy of Early Music (Ann Arbor), Indianapolis Early Music, Five Boroughs Music Festival (New York, NY) Chautauqua Institution, Montclair State University’s Peak Performances, the Logan Series at Penn State Erie, and in New York City venues as varied as Bargemusic, Joe’s Pub, Le Poisson Rouge, Brooklyn Public Library and often performs at WQXR’s annual Chanukah celebration at The Greene Space.

Stern and Mor, called “recorder virtuosos” by The New York Times, each have impressive careers as soloists and chamber music players and have appeared as a duo with the New York Philharmonic, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Music Before 1800, and the world music ensemble Pharoah’s Daughter. In East of the River, Stern and Mor are often joined by varied performers such as acclaimed Turkish kanun virtuoso Tamer Pinarbasi, Balkan violinist Jesse Kotansky, and renowned percussionists Shane Shanahan and John Hadfield. Other collaborators include hammered dulcimer star Max ZT, composer/accordionist Uri Sharlin, oud/bass player Omer Avital and percussionist Glen Velez. East of the River’s various artists have recorded and performed with artists Yo-Yo Ma, Philip Glass, Jordi Savall, Sting, Natalie Merchant, Aerosmith, Simon Shaheen and many others.

East of the River has recorded two albums: its self-titled debut album and Levantera.

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Five Boroughs Music Festival Presents East of the River on 3/16 – Broadway World

My Sephardic Valentine – Forward

Nearly five decades after our teen romance, the Internet brought word that Joyce has written a memoir.

In it, I read of my teenage self destined for an ordinary life.

In the theater of her own escape from her parents orb and adolescent angst, she never even saw me.

Joyce was among the brightest at Sandy Koufaxs Brooklyn high school, a standout among thousands of students. The glint of her earrings, her dress, her expression and mannerisms hinted her foreign origins.

I took it all in as she enthused to her friend about a poem I had written for the school magazine, eyes wide and smiling, by a corner classroom door. Soon we both won a school-wide writing contest.

We had long telephone conversations that prompted my parents to ask, What could you be talking about?

I was 15.

We stole away to the Museum of Modern Art on weekend outings, assaulted by Picassos Guernica, splashed by Monets water lilies. Midnight Bach at Carnegie Hall was followed by a walk through the booming silence of sparkling snowflakes. I donned a brown corduroy sports jacket, found a pipe and we went kite flying.

On a lurching, screeching subway, there were the first rushes of romance.

We kissed by a lake in Central Park, rushing in so quickly our front teeth clashed.

She went off to Radcliffe, I my senior year of high school. On a college scouting trip to Cambridge, I met a distracted, disinterested college girl. Months later, knuckles rapped on my parents metal apartment door and there she stood.

A summer of explorations began. We saw Renoirs Children of Paradise, Truffauts Jules and Jim. We heard afternoon madrigals at the Cloisters. We stood before Blakes watercolors, reading, He who kisses the joy as it flies, lives in eternitys sunrise.

Just two ordinary teens in the summer of love. Right.

She would braid her hair for a romp and leave it unbound when wildness stirred.

I turned 17 and entered Brooklyn College.

That fall I bicycled past a cemetery, gliding down Avenue J in the pre-dawn dark. We met and boarded a bus to March on the Pentagon. En route, she handed me an indigo muffler she had knitted, as long as I was tall. It was the last stitch in a relationship that fast frayed.

Standing in an ocean of Vietnam War protesters, buoyed, I told her that the government could not withstand the surge. Looking at the army of gun-toting soldiers encircling the Pentagon, she said that an order to open fire would kill all our hopes.

Equally dark were her fantasies. She told me of wanting to be grabbed by older men with rough hands and then settled for a scrawny kid I knew from Hebrew school. It sullied her, she later complained as the nighttime snow fell in Seth Low Park.

For me, it was an emotional knifing.

Days later, I walked along Gravesend Bay with my father, and he tried his best to patch me up.

Weeks later, I bumped into Joyce and a group of her friends, and she stiffed-armed me with an icy greeting. It was over.

There would be a few encounters during our college years. Once, she told a friend I will be the man she marries. It was grounded on nothing I was party to.

Once she visited and flicked the ashes of her cigarette on to my floor and I wondered when she would leave.

And yet

Her memoir described our first stirrings of intimacy as sweet. She did not describe any of her many subsequent relationships as brightly.

Joyce planted deep into my taste memories the tangy sharpness of melted kasseri cheese on pita, redolent of her Cairene origins.

At a party she introduced me to her friend visiting from Portland who sold me on Reed Colleges intense liberal arts academics.

My destiny unalterably swerved.

I soon left for the Northwest and deep dives into Moby Dick and ascents of Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens, encounters with 17th century French lit and chicken husbandry, calligraphy – learned from the master who taught Steve Jobs – and beer brewing in a nascent Portlandia.

Several years on, a librarian friend offered me two tickets to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, provided I ask a certain young woman to be my date. Matilda was returning from a year abroad, a volunteer in Israel during the Yom Kippur war, briefly a denizen of the caves of Crete, explorer of the byways of Turkey.

She was lovely. Sweet. Kind. With an easy laugh. Dedicated to her family. Intent on her studies. Serious.

Immediately, Matilda and her mother embraced me with a moveable feast, featuring the sun kissed cuisine of Jewish northern Greece. There was plenty of boisterous fun topped off with Ladino sayings like El ke no kere a la ermoza beza la mokoza: If you dont want the beautiful one, you will end up kissing the one with a perpetual runny nose.

Our kiss took place at dusk one fall evening as we stood in her apartment on now trendy Hawthorne Boulevard located next to a movie theater, appropriate for this most cinematic moment. The kiss lasted a half hour or more as we thrilled each other, wordlessly declaring that we are all in, that we totally revel in each others company and that we intend to do so for a lifetime.

Matilda opened the world with me, as we traveled with our first born, age two, on our first foreign journey to Greece and Israel. Seven years later, our family of five embarked on a six-month Fulbright odyssey to Japan.

On our first foreign foray, the Parthenon in Athens and Temple Mount in Jerusalem riveted. The ethereal Mediterranean light defining both immediately became of central, transcendent significance.

Somehow my late mother-in-law, Alegre, among the elite Sephardic cooks of the world, took that light and kneaded it into her pastries and breads, her humor and powerful family bonds.

My wife has taken that light to warm every corner of our marriage.

Our children refract it magnificently. Our youngest son like me, fascinated by emerging energy technology pitches the business viability of solar power. Our daughter – heir to her social worker mothers compassion – works with some of the worlds most vulnerable refugees. Our oldest son – like me, a journalist – tells significant stories to new audiences.

It has been an ordinary life for me, if you can somehow wrap that around a career that has included an afternoon with the Nobel laureate discover of the Big Bang, cocktails with the Crown Prince of Japan, a hike with an Israeli architect who arranged to have Israelis and Palestinians work together on a riverine environmental win, or a winter morning when I was serenaded by wide-eyed children in a Moscow orphanage as communism crashed.

There is no knowing who or where I would be today if not for an encounter with a Jewish girl from Cairo in a Brooklyn high school.

Or if Esther, working the stacks of the Multnomah County Library on 10th Avenue in Portland, did not gratuitously come to imagine that Matilda and I could write a volume, together, way more captivating than any of the classics she handed over to patrons.

Or if Matilda and I did not believe it was worth embracing, together, the ordinary, day by day, for four decades and now more, to get to the poetry of the extraordinary.

She has walked side by side with me though the sands of Spains Costa Brava, across the bristly-turfed soccer fields of Kansas; along Japans Tokaido, down our childrens school hallways and across their college campuses, through Knossos on Crete and to doctors appointments and music lessons.

Without this daughter of Greece, I would never have gained entry into the cultural kingdom of Sepharad and all the riches it has bestowed.

We would never have had forged a family, and our individuality, the bedrock upon which all else rests.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

The Forward’s independent journalism depends on donations from readers like you.

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My Sephardic Valentine – Forward

What a family heirloom taught me about my ancestors, and the mysterious parts of my Jewish history – Tablet Magazine


Tablet Magazine
What a family heirloom taught me about my ancestors, and the mysterious parts of my Jewish history
Tablet Magazine
Besides what it held on the inside, I also loved the small silver vessel for what was engraved on its outside: the initials E.G., for Estrella Galante, my Sephardic great-grandmother, whose exotic life story sparked my first forays into genealogical

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What a family heirloom taught me about my ancestors, and the mysterious parts of my Jewish history – Tablet Magazine

Sephardic Chief Rabbi: Do not fear the women’s organizations – Arutz Sheva

Rabbi Yosef at Rabbinical Convention

Court’s Spokesman

Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef related for the first time to attacks aimed at him by womens organizations following the bill of divorce episode involving a woman from Tzfat in northern Israel.

In 2014, S. was given a get (halakhic divorce) in a rare and unprecedented move by a religious court in the northern city of Tzfat, seven years after her husband was severely injured in a car accident and left in a vegetative state. A halakhic divorce must be granted by the husband and accepted by the wife. The rabbinic court in this case decided that they could be the husband’s legal guardian and that he would have wanted to grant the divorce, calling it a get zicui.

That halakhic concept’s only precedents were when the woman receiving the divorce needed someone to take her place, but have never been used actively by someone who is in a position to grant a divorce. The late Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi Isaac Herzog was opposed to the use of the concept, as is YU’s Rabbi Herschel Schachter; the rabbinic court judges consulted with other well-known judges in Israel, but not with the Chief Rabbinate.

Shortly after the ruling was issued and the divorce granted, Reuven Cohen, who opposed the decision but is unconnected to the couple in question, filed an appeal with the Supreme Rabbinic Court the Chief Rabbinates highest judicial body to challenge the divorce on halakhic grounds.

Upon the decision to reopen the case, the Rabbinical Court was met with vocal opposition from womens groups and Knesset members. In addition, there was criticism from other sources about reopening a get which had already been granted and about the plaintiff not having standing in the case. The Chief Rabbi intends to convene a committee of rabbinic judges to decide on halakhic policy regarding the get zicui.

At the opening of the annual convention for rabbinical judges, taking place this week, Rabbi Yosef told the other judges: We hold by the standard among ourselves of Fear no one [when making a judgement]. If there are womens groups that want things from us, that we should allow them to do anything – do not be afraid! Fear no one. Be strong.

Theyre representing me as if I was stringent on a matter, which I was not. Almost all the rabbis were stringent on this matter. I spoke for the sake of heaven without personal concerns and they stood and disgraced me. I fulfilled the injunction of Fear no one. I call on all judges of Israel – do not fear the womens organizations, hold by Fear no man and adjudicate only according to Jewish law.

Read the original post:
Sephardic Chief Rabbi: Do not fear the women’s organizations – Arutz Sheva

Artist-in-residence will spotlight traditional Sephardic music during weekend of events – St. Louis Jewish Light

Gerard Edery, an expert in the wide-ranging music of the Sephardic Diaspora, will serve as artist-in-residence during the JEWbilation Celebration Weekend Feb. 24 to 26 at Congregation Bnai Amoona.

The weekend of events will culminate in a free concert by Edery and noted Flamenco guitarist and singer Cristian Puig at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26 in the synagogues sanctuary, 324 S. Mason Road.

Sephardic Jews trace their ancestry primarily to Spain and Portugal and have built a rich and distinctive cultural tradition that encompasses influences from around the Mediterranean region.

Edery was born in Casablanca and raised in Paris and New York City. He graduated from the Manhattan School of Music with bachelors and masters degrees in operatic performance and has sung more than 30 roles with opera companies around the United States. Widely regarded as a master singer and guitarist, Edery performs a range of ethnic folk styles and traditions from around the world, interpreting them for contemporary audiences.

The artist-in-residence weekend is part of Bnai Amoonas yearlong JEWbilation theme, exploring the diversity of Jewish traditions from around the world. Other highlights of the weekend include special Friday night and Saturday morning religious services infused with Sephardic melodies from around the world, led by Edery and Cantor Sharon Nathanson of Bnai Amoona.

The weekend is supported by the Fivel Music Fund in loving memory of Sally and Jack Fivel. Additional support for the Sunday concert is provided by the Hazzan Leon and Michal Lissek Music Endowment Fund. Beth Saltzman is chair of the committee planning the artist-in-residence weekend.

RSVPs for the Feb. 26 concert are required by Friday, Feb. 17 to 314-576-9990, ext. 126, or online at bnaiamoona.com.

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Artist-in-residence will spotlight traditional Sephardic music during weekend of events – St. Louis Jewish Light