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July 17, 2009

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/IIWTil Ill lllllm IHImiWlirlimmuJHHNH  mUaill  ilUiqmllU[dllX/[ t' Jl Y]I[ I1flUJmiLl1  lmNJ,, HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JULY 17, 2009 PAGE 13A New generation seeks to reclaim Sephardic cultural roots By Amy Klein HOBOKEN, N.J. (JTA)-- Daniel Saks' crazy black curls bounce on stage with him to the wiry, deafening sound of guitars, horns and drums as the front man for DeLeon--an indie rock band with 15th century Spanish influences infused with cadences of the ancient Sephardic traditionmbelts out plaintive tunes in Eng- lish, Hebrew, Spanish and Ladino. For the most part, the 150 twenty-something hipsters dancing to DeLeon's music at Maxwell's lounge, 20 minutes from Manhattan, have no Snapshots of Sephardic culture By Amy Klein LOS ANGELES (JTA)--There are dozens of ways to enjoy modern Sephardic culture, art that draws upon traditions from regions such as Spain, Portugal, the Middle East, North Africa, the Far East, Italy, Rome and Greece. The culture includes music, literature, history, cooking, art and theater. Here are just some samples. LISTEN: De Leon: Indie rock band with 15th century Spanish influences infused with cadences of the ancient Sephardic tradition. Pharoah's Daughter: Jewish folk group infuses an eclectic instrumental blend of traditional Ju- daic tunes with Arabic rhythm and African beats in "Haran," an infectiously beautiful album full of haunting joy. Vanessa Paloma: Singer, performer, scholar and writer specializing in Sephardic women's songs and their connection to women's spiritual expression. v=mMlqeR-NV30 Peter Svarzbein Vanessa Paloma, a singer and scholar, is now living in Morocco, where she can find out more about her past. READ: "Cry of The Peacock," by Gina Nahai (Crown, 1991): The Iranian Jewish author's first novel (she's writing her fifth) charts seven generations of a Jewish family begin- ning in 18th-century Persia to modern-day Iran. "The Rabbi's Cat" and "The Rabbi's Cat 2," by Joann Sfar (Pantheon Books, 2005, 2008): A funny and wiry graphic novel about an Algerian rabbi in the 1930s whose cat sometimes speaks but always narrates these tales that investigate Jewish, Arab and French culture. "Dropped From Heaven," by Sophie Judah (Schocken, 2007): A collection of mov- ing stories about the everyday life of a fictional community of Indian Jews (Bene Israel) as its ancient culture confronts the modern world. "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World," by Lucette Lagnado (Harper Perennial: Reprint edition, 2008): Lagnado's memoir of her father and her family's life in cosmopolitan Cairo and their painful relocation to poverty in America. "The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature," edited by Ilan Stavans (Shocken, 2005): This anthology of fiction, memoirs, essays and poetry from 28 writers spans more than 150 years and offers a collective portrait of the "other Jews," Sephardim who long for their lost ancestral home even as they create a vibrant, multifaceted literary tradition in exile. "Sephardic Jews in Amercia: A Diasporic History," by Aviva Ben Ur (New York University Press, 2009). WATCH: New York Separdic Jewish Film Festival: The 14th annual festival opens Feb. 4, 2010. "SYNFELD," a Syrian spoof of the popular "Seinfeld" sitcom: "The Hebrew Mamita': Actress/poet/playwright/native New Yorker Vanessa Hidary Original 2003 Def Jam Poetry Slam video: watch?v=ubdGjzzJiVs TASTE: "Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen," by Jennifer FeliciaAbadi (Harvard Common Press, 2007): Part memoir, part cookbook, Abadi tells stories and recipes from her Syrian grandmother's kitchen. "Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews," by Poopa Dweck, Michael J. Cohen and Quentin Bacon, (Ecco, 2007): Now considered the Syrian cooks' bible, "Aromas of Aleppo" presents more than 180 Syrian Jewish recipes. "Arabesque: ATaste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon," by Claudia Roden (Knopf, 2006): The authority on Middle Eastern and North African food offers 150 recipes from three countries. "Mama Nazima's Jewish Iraqi Cuisine," by Rivka Goldman (Hippocrene Books, 2006): A cookbook-memoir with 100 family recipes with Mongolian, Turkish and Indian influences. Jori Klein De Leon, an Indie rock band shown in a live performance, features music with 15th century Spanish influences. idea what the songs mean. It doesn't seem to matter. "It wasn't a Ladino-fluent crowd," Saks jokes after the show, referring to the Judeo- Spanish language from the Middle Ages. "I think people can get past the language barrier. In a place like New York City, we're acclimated to hearing music in foreign languages." Saks grew up near Wash- ington listening to Sephardic music played by his mother, whose family lived in Italy for centuries after the expulsion from Spain before coming to the United States. Years later he would name his band after his great- grandfather Giorgio DeLeon and philosopher Moses De- Leon. With its haunting melodies and the Spanish timeless themes of love and God and murder, he thought the music "held up well, better than most songs." He knew there were plenty of people recording traditional music, but "I thought I could bring it to my peers and bring new light to them." DeLeon is part of a new crop of modern Jewish artists drawing on their Sephardic roots--from Spain and Por- tugal, to Morocco, Iran and Syria, to India and Greece. Many of those Jewish com- munities, although not all, were created by Jews who left Spain following the Inquisi- tion, when they were ordered to convert or leave the country by July 31,1492 (Tisha B'Av of that year). Now, more than five centu- ries later, dozens of musicians, writers, poets, playwrights, filmmakers, historians, edu- cators and chefs are reclaim- ing that culture to create a veritable Sephardic renais- sance. Many artists mine Sep- hardic culture because they want to popularize a lesser- known Jewish heritage. "People who came from Poland stick together, and they are not so interested in the people who come from Morocco or Spain," says Na- thalie Soussana, arranger of "Songs From The Garden Of Eden: Jewish Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes," a book and CD of songs in Hebrew, Arabic and Spanish, including Y'aommi Yamali, an Algerian lullaby in Arabic whose words mean "King of the Home/ May God touch you and lift up your soul." Soussana wanted some- thing that reflected her own mottled family--originally from Morocco, living in France, with an uncle with a wife from Turkey, an aunt married to an Ashkenazi, fam- ily members in Israel. Long weekends are now extra special. Stay two nights and get the third night free! Six swimming pools including Loch Ness Monster with sandy beach and water slides Four championship golf courses New luxury spa and ftness center Kids love Camp Innisbrook Just north of St. Pete/Clearwater "I think that it's like that for a lot of Jewish families" she says. One might not know that from seeing the history of Jewish culture in America. "Jewishness has tacitly been assumed to be synonymous with Germanic or Eastern European descent," Aviva Ben Ur writes in the new book "Sephardic Jews in America: A Diasporic History" (New York University Press, 2009). "What began at the turn of the 20th century as denial ofsharedeth- nicity and religion (whereby Ashkenazim failed to recog- nize Sephardim as fellow Jews) continues today in textbooks, articles, documentaries, films and popular awareness. More often than not, Sephardic Jews are simplyabsent fromanysort of portrayal of the American Jewish community." Ur prefers the term non- Ashkenazic Jews, dividing those called Sephardim into three groups: Sephardi Jews (Spanish and Portuguese- speaking Jews of Western Europe and Ladino-speaking Jews of the Ottoman empire); Mizrahi Jews (Arabic-speak- ing Jews native to the Middle East and Western Asia); and Romaniotes (Greek- speaking Jews native to the Byzantine Empire). Sephardic on page 22A SUITE SUMMER RATE $99 PER SUITE, PER NIGHT RESORT AND GOLF CLUB A SALAMANDER RESORT 800-456-2000