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 In honor of  the Algerian-born, French-Sephardi philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy and his audience for the sold-out screening of Peshmurga at the Museum of Jewish Heritage on 2 October who refused to be cowed by an ISIS bomb threat 
9 October 2017
Sephardi Ideas Monthly  is a continuing series of essays from the rich, multi-dimensional world of Sephardi thought that is traditionally delivered to your inbox on the second Monday of every month.

This month’s Sephardi Ideas Monthly is the second installment in our three-part series featuring the writings of Professor Daniel J. Elazar on the political concept of “covenant.” Professor Elazar (1934-1999) served as the first President of The American Sephardi Federation from 1973-75 and enjoyed a highly successful career as a political scientist, specializing in the Jewish political tradition and Federalism. Professor Elazar also studied various issues connected to Israel and world Jewry before making aliyah to Israel where he founded and served as President of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 

Professor Daniel J. Elazar, A”H, first President of The American Sephardi Federation and Founder of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs 
(Photo courtesy of JCPA

Daniel J. Elazar

In the essay for September, “Covenant as a Political Concept,” Professor Elazar delineated how the idea of covenant was born in Biblical Israel and exerted a deep influence down through modern times, especially in the founding of the United States. This month’s article, “Covenant and Constitutionalism: The Great Frontier and the Matrix of Federal Democracy,” is taken from the Introduction to Volume 3 of Professor Elazar’s four-volume series, The Covenant Tradition in Politics, and in the essay Elazar traces how Reform Protestant “neo-covenantal models,” rooted in Biblical precedents, shaped the American polity.  Even when Enlightenment philosophy contributed to secularizing covenantal principles, Elazar nevertheless emphasizes that, “covenantal foundations remain and manifest themselves… in unexpected ways in every generation.”
Click here to read “Covenant and Constitutionalism: The Great Frontier and the Matrix of Federal Democracy” by Daniel Elazar
In order to draw out how covenantal ideas generate “a politics of equals based on negotiation and bargaining and designed to be as open as possible,” Professor Elazar contrasts the covenantal model with hierarchical and organic models of politics in which regimes are established, not through openly and freely arrived at agreements, but through force or by accident. Intriguingly, Professor Elazar sees these three fundamental alternatives at play in Federalist Paper No. 1. There, writes Professor Elazar, Alexander Hamilton lists the three forms, “from which all polities are derived and through which all are organized: hierarchical, organic, or covenantal — asThe Federalist put it…: force, accident, or reflection and choice.”

In making these distinctions, Hamilton was of course arguing that Americans should chose to ratify the Constitution. Professor Elazar accordingly sees constitutionalism, particularly in its American form, as “a modern reinterpretation of the covenantal tradition that gave it flesh and blood and enabled it to become the instrument of liberty, equality, justice and democracy that it did.” That said, being a modern reinterpretation of the originally Biblical idea, the pact that constituted America was “made ‘under God’ rather than with the Supreme Being.” The difference between these two formulations may seem minor, but is profound.

Regarding that profound difference, Professor Elazar would have concurred with the sentiment articulated by his mentor at the University of Chicago, Leo Strauss: “I share the hope in America and the faith in America, but… that faith and that hope cannot be of the same character as that faith and that hope which a Jew has in regard to Judaism… No one claims that the faith in America and the hope for America is based on explicit divine promises (“Progress or Return?,” University of Chicago Hillel, Chicago, Il, November 1952) .”
Feature Photo:
Constructing a Sukkah, a symbol of Israel’s Covenant with HaShem, Ghardaïa, Algeria, circa 1950s (Photo courtesy of Diarna: The Geo-Museum of North African and Middle Eastern Jewish)
Sephardi Ideas Monthly  is honored to introduce our readers to Professor Daniel Elazar, one of the outstanding political thinkers of the twentieth century and a man whose commitment to Jewish and universal concerns grew naturally out of his deep grounding in classic Sephardi Judaism. Our exploration of Professor Elazar’s writings will continue in November with “Covenant and the American Polity.”

The American Sephardi Federation thanks the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs for granting permission to reprint Professor Elazar’s articles for Sephardi Ideas Monthly
American Sephardi Federation
American Sephardi Federation
Upcoming Events:

The American Sephardi Federation and New York Jewish Travel Guide proudly present: 

Jewish Heritage of Malta
An evening exploring a beautiful island's connection to Jewish history and culture

Monday, October 23
6:00 - 8:30 p.m.

Leo & Julia Forchheimer Auditorium and
Paul S. & Sylvia Steinberg Great Hall
Center for Jewish History
15 W 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
Evidence of Jewish history dates back to Roman times (4-5 Century) as seen at the St. Paul’s Catacomb site at Rabat, Malta, where several Jewish catacombs (pictured above) can be found alongside Christian burials.  

The contemporary Maltese Jewish community is composed of immigrants from Gibraltar, England, North Africa, Portugal, and Turkey, arriving over the course of French and British rule starting in 1798.  During the early 20th century, the islands Jews did not have a rabbi of their own and rabbis would often be flown in from Sicily to perform ceremonies.  During World War II, Malta was the only European country not requiring visas for Jews fleeing German rule. Numerous Maltese Jews, moreover, fought Germany in the British Army during the war. Today, a small but active community of under 200 Jews live on Malta with their own synagogue and rabbis.

Featuring guest speaker Dr. John Baldacchino (Director, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arts Institute), the program will present multimedia presentations showing Jewish heritage sites in Malta today.

Please click here to reserve tickets

Presented in Partnership with:
The Malta Tourism Authority
Exclusively Malta Luxury Travel, Ltd.
Corinthia Palace Hotel & Spa


Jewish Heritage of the Deccan Book Talk with 
Dr. George Michell, Editor 
Kenneth X. Robbins, Author

Thursday, October 26
6:30 p.m.

Oded Halahmy Gallery at ASF
Center for Jewish History
15 W 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
Please join us to celebrate the Deccan Heritage Foundation's new publication; Jewish Heritage of the Deccan; Mumbai, The Northern Konan, Pune.

Co-authored by Kenneth X. Robbins and Pushkar Sohoni, this guidebook is illustrated with splendid, newly commissioned photographs by Surendra Kumar. It is the first such publication to describe the synagogues, cemeteries, libraries, schools and research centers of the Bene Israel community and the more recent émigré Baghdadi Jews in the state of Maharashtra, India. Monuments and sites of both communities are preserved in Mumbai (Bombay) and Pune (Poona), as well as in the smaller towns in the northern Konkan region. 

Descriptions are arranged according to itineraries to encourage citizens of Mumbai and Pune, as well as visitors to these cities and the towns of the Konkan, to discover this often overlooked aspect of local history. Intended as a handy reference to the Jewish presence in Maharashtra, the volume should contribute to a better appreciation of this significant aspect of Deccan history, and hopefully to the preservation of Jewish sites and monuments for future generations.
DR. GEORGE MICHELL trained as an architect and studied Indian archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London. He has conducted research projects at many historical sites in India, including Hampi Vijayanagara. Among his many publications are Architecture and Art of the Deccan Sultanates, Mughal Architecture & Gardens, Falaknuma Palace, Hyderabad, Late Temple Architecture of India, and Mansions of Chettinad. He is based in London, and is a founding trustee of the Deccan Heritage Foundation in the UK.
KENNETH X. ROBBINS is a psychiatrist based in Washington D.C., as well as a collector of South Asian art, and historian of expatriate communities in India. He is co-editor of African Elites in India: Habshi Amarat (Ahmedabad, 2006) and Western Jews in India (New Delhi, 2013), and curator of an exhibition on Jews in India held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi, in 2017. He is also interested in Maharajas, Nawabs and Indian Princely States. 

Please click here to reserve tickets

27th Conference of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies
“Crypto-Judaism in the Americas”

November 5 - 7
Philadelphia, PA 
Academics, genealogists, and the interested public are invited to the 27th conference of the Society for Crypto-Judaic Studies, an international academic research and cultural association devoted to the history of the descendants of Jews who were persecuted in Spain and Portugal from the 15th-18th centuries.

This year’s theme, “Crypto-Judaism in the Americas,” explores crypto-Judaism from many disciplines (e.g., anthropology, history, sociology, philosophy, literature, music, art history, etc.) and from many geographic locations or time periods, especially the issue of crypto-Jewish identity, both historic and contemporary.

Keynote speaker Professor Ronnie Perelis, PhD,  of Yeshiva University, scholar of medieval and early modern Jewish history, professor of Sephardic Studies at the Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies of Yeshiva University, and author of Narratives from the Sephardic Atlantic: Blood and Faith, will discuss the Inquisition, crypto-Judaism, and Sephardic culture. We are further proud to present noted academic, author and specialist in Spanish language, literature and Hispanic-Judaic studies, Dr. David Gitlitz, who will present “The First Practicing Crypto-Jewish Family in Mexico.”

Please click here for additional information

Nosotros: Strengthening Bonds Between Jewish and Latino Communities

Through December 2017
in ASF’s Leon Levy Memorial Display

Center for Jewish History
15 W 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

The Philos Project and American Sephardi Federation cordially invite you to “Nosotros," an art exhibit featuring the work of two renowned Latino artists, Angel Urrely (Cuba) and Carlos Ayala (Puerto Rico)--as a symbolic recognition and “step forward” to improving Jewish-Latino relations.  We thank the Dominican artist, Juan Bravo, for exhibiting his pieces for the exhibit’s Opening Night. Each piece reflects the shared roots of Jewish and Latino communities and expresses hope for a more positive future from the perspective of each respective artist.

Each artist has displayed their works in hundreds of exhibits in both the US and Latin America, having many of them included in some of the most coveted collections in the world. We are very excited to bring them and their works to celebrate the importance of uniting us (or Nosotros), the Jewish and Latino communities, and having this art displayed in a very powerful way at the American Sephardi Federation at the Center for Jewish History.

Angel Urrely is to the point. This son of Cuba does not beat around the bush. At least not for what the brush comes to reveal—his theory is clear and sharp. Each frame creates a specific, assertive and brutal connection. The reading of his work is—from the perspective of the viewer—very simple, to the point that if you assume an interpretation of what you are reading, believe me: Urrely is addressing exactly what you are thinking. Urrely has something to tell you and will let you know one way or another.
Carlos Ayala presents himself as the “Benjamin” of the tribes, the youngest of them all. This son of Puerto Rico presupposes that his youth may seem an obstacle to you, so he shows you his clutched fists from the introduction. This young man is fierce. Carlos shows us the deepest pains experienced by man, and brings them to an entertained, distracted and ill-bred public. He does not sit down to dream on the Caribbean coast and wait for boats loaded with promises. He does not have the time for it, but rather wants to remind you that even at the best moments pain is present. And at any moment it can befall us.
We look forward to having you join us!

Please click here for additional information and viewing hours

Echoes of Jewish Morocco: A Photographic Exhibit by Joshua Shamsi/Diarna Geo-Museum

Through October 20, 2017
in ASF’s Myron Habib, A”H Memorial Display
Selma L. Batkin Mezzanine

Center for Jewish History
15 W 16th Street
New York, NY 10011

Please click here for additional information and viewing hours

 and your tax-deductible contribution will help ASF preserve and promote the Greater Sephardi history, traditions, and culture as an integral part of the Jewish experience! 

Contact us by email or phone ((917) 606-8266) to learn about giving opportunities in honor or memory of loved ones

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The American Sephardi Federation is a proud partner of the Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th St., New York, NY, 10011). 

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