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In Memory of Walter “Ze’ev” Lacquer (1921-2018), A”H, the recently deceased scholar of Zionism, the Middle East Conflict, the Soviet Union, terrorism, and the Holocaust. A distinguished scholar who spoke six languages, including Hebrew and Arabic, taught at top universities around the world and published more than 25 books, Lacquer’s probing intellect enabled him to see deep historical tendencies at work before they burst upon the international stage, most recently by predicting the rise of populist nationalism and authoritarianism in Russia. Lacquer’s erudition and sober pessimism will remain bulwarks for future generations against the twin dangers of superficial thinking and ungrounded optimism. May the memory of this righteous one be for a blessing.
9 October 2018
Click here to dedicate a future issue of The Sephardi Ideas Monthly in honor/memory of a loved one
Sephardi Ideas Monthly is a continuing series of essays from the rich, multi-dimensional world of Sephardi thought that is delivered to your inbox on the second Monday of every month. This issue was delayed on account of Columbus Day. 

For the month of October, Sephardi Ideas Monthly explores the role played by a Sephardic Jewish family, the Levys, in preserving one of America’s most important National Historic Landmarks, Monticello, the architectural masterpiece that Thomas Jefferson built just outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. We trace the trajectory of this extraordinary tale through an interview with Marc Leespon, author of Saving Monticello: The Levy Family’s Epic Quest to Rescue the House that Jefferson Built (2001). 

19th century albumin print of a presumably posthumous painted portrait, “depicts Commodore Levy holding a scroll inscribed Author of the Abolition of Flogging in the Navy of the United States”
(Photo courtesy of U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command). Commodore Levy’s papers are in the collection of The American Jewish Historical Society, a Partner with ASF of The Center for Jewish History. 

Saving Monticello: The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House that Jefferson Built

Leepson’s book examines the decline of Monticello soon after Jefferson’s death while delineating the line of the Levy family, Monticello’s redeemers. The Levy family includes exceptional figures, such as Dr. Samuel Nunez, the 18th century, crypto-Jewish pioneer who originally brought the family to the colony of Georgia, and Jefferson Levy, the 19th century lawyer, three-term New York City Congressman, and real estate and stock speculator who played a pivotal role in restoring Monticello to its original glory.
However, the most compelling figure in the story of Monticello and the Levy family is Uriah P. Levy (1792-1862), the first Jewish Commodore in the history of the United States Navy. Levy led the movement to abolish the Naval practice of flogging and during the course of his decorated but turbulent naval career, Levy was court-martialed six times (and killed a man in self-defense during a one-sided duel). Truth be told, Levy’s naval career really began at age ten when he ran away from home to serve as cabin boy on various shipping vessels before dutifully returning home to Philadelphia at age thirteen for his Bar Mitzvah. A deep admirer of Jefferson, he commissioned different statues of the sage from Monticello, including one that stands today in the Capitol Rotunda. Uriah Levy purchased Monticello in 1834, quite possibly in response to a question from the Marquis de Lafayette.
Click here to read the interview with Marc Leespon
The important role played by the Levy family in preserving Monticello wasn’t always recognized, sometimes because of anti-Semitic animus. Leepson’s book has helped spread the word about the Levy family’s unheralded yet invaluable 89-year stewardship of Monticello. Sephardi Ideas Monthly is delighted to retell this remarkable and important story through an interview with Leepson, who graciously and thoughtfully answered our questions, often in great detail.
The Monthly Sage החכם החודשי 

The monthly sage for October, 2018, is Hacham Moshe Maimaran (1738-80).

R’ Maimran was born in Meknes, Morocco, the city where he served as religious judge even as a young man, while also heading a yeshiva that didn’t have a fixed address. Recognizing R’ Maimran’s stature as a scholar and educator, the city’s sages ruled that a synagogue should be built in R’ Maimran’s home, where he then educated a generation of students.

During the course of his career R’ Maimran authored commentaries on the Bible, Talmud, and various Medieval legal codes, while also writing down sermons that he would deliver in local synagogues.

In a passage from one sermon, featured below, R’ Maimran explains why it’s not sufficient to learn Torah. Instead, the Torah needs to be sung.  But R’ Maimran’s concerns aren’t exclusively aesthetic. Instead, he offers an instrumental-ethical reason why the Torah should be sung: you remember what you sing. Likewise, and on a deeper, emotional level, singing the Torah enables the Bible to become integrated into your personality.

It does not suffice to engage in Torah through reflection. It should be voiced, with a melody and tune, as the Talmud says, 'concerning anyone who reads without a melody or studies without a song, the verse states: So too I gave them statutes that were not good...' So that when it is fully enunciated with a holy melody…it becomes inscribed in the person's heart and is bequeathed to him as a gift.
                                                                                             Continue reading....
Feature Photo:
 US Navy Captain Gary “Yuri” Tabach and Joshua Landes, in association with the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, dedicated (see video here) a statue of Commodore Uriah P. Levy on 16 December 2011, near Independence Mall on the grounds of “The Synagogue of the American Revolution,” Philadelphia’s Mikveh Israel, an historic American and classic Sephardic synagogue close to the ASF’s heart. The location is fitting given Commodore Levy’s decades of service and sacrifices on behalf of American liberty.
(Photo courtesy of  Mark I. Wolfson/Mikveh Israel History)
American Sephardi Federation
American Sephardi Federation
Sephardi Ideas Monthly
Sephardi Ideas Monthly
Upcoming Events:

Nosotros: Strengthening Bonds Between Jewish and Latino Communities
 The Second Edition

Thursday, 11 October, at 7:30PM
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street 
New York City

Admission is complimentary!

The Philos Project and American Sephardi Federation cordially invite you to “Nosotros," an exhibition composed of pieces by Latino artists celebrating the shared history and culture of Jewish and Latino communities, and expressing hope for a more positive future. Latin American artistry is rich with Sephardi and Crypto-Jewish allusions and symbols.

The exhibit is titled “Nosotros,” the Spanish word for “us,” and all of the art represents the growing relationship between the Jewish and Hispanic communities in New York and around the world. The exhibit is one of the many things Jesse Rojo, The Philos Project's Hispanic Affairs Director, is doing to bridge the gap between Hispanics and the Middle East.

Rachael Reynolds, a graduate from our 2018 Philos Leadership Institute (PLI) cohort, is one of the featured artists. She will be showcasing portraits she took on PLI that compare the lives of Christians living freely in Israel to the lives of Christian refugees in Jordan. Through her project, Rachael is not only advocating for the protection of Christians in Arab states, but also elevating Israel as the model for state protection of religious freedom in the Middle East.

We look forward to seeing you!

The Jewish Genealogical Society and The American Sephardi Federation Present:

Branching out from Sepharad: Solving a Converso Mystery with Sarina Roffé 

Sunday, 21 October, at 2:00PM
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street 
New York City

Ticket Info: 
For non-members: $5 at the door 
Free for 

Sarina Roffé, professional genealogist, founder of the Sephardic Heritage Project, and author of Branching Out from Sepharad: A Global Journey of Selected Rabbinic Families with Biographies and Genealogies (Forward by Professor Walter P. Zenner, Sephardic Heritage Project, 2017), outlines the history and expulsion of Jews in Spain, their history in Syria, and immigration to the Americas.

She discusses the Kassin rabbinic dynasty from the 12th century through the 50-year leadership of Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin in Brooklyn, and solves a Converso mystery.

We look forward to seeing you!

ASF Sephardi Scholars Series Presents:

Synagogues of Iran: Design and Development in Urban Context

Monday, 22 October, at 7:00PM
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street 
New York City

Please click 
here to make a reservation

Professor Mohammad Gharipour will discuss his research and recently published book, Synagogues of the Islamic World: Architecture, Design, and Identity (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), which explores how the architecture of synagogues in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain responded to contextual issues and traditions, as well as how these contexts influenced the design and evolution of synagogues. The book considers patterns of the development of synagogues in urban contexts in connection with urban elements and monuments, while revealing how synagogues reflect the culture of the Jewish minority at macro and micro scales.

This presentation is being made possible by the generous support of The Cahnman Foundation.

Mohammad Gharipour is Associate Professor at the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University at Baltimore, Maryland. He obtained his Masters in Architecture from the University of Tehran and a Ph.D. in Architecture and Landscape History from Georgia Institute of Technology. He has received several awards, including the Hamad Bin Khalifa Fellowship in Islamic Art, the Spiro Kostof Fellowship Award from the Society of Architectural Historians, the National Endowment in Humanities Faculty Award, and was recognized as "one of the twelve minority scholars in the US who are making their mark in academia" in 2016 by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education Magazine. Professor Gharipour's books include Bazaar in the Islamic City (American University of Cairo Press, 2012), Persian Gardens and Pavilions: Reflections in Poetry, Arts, and History (I.B. Tauris, 2013), Calligraphy and Architecture in the Muslim World (co-edited with Irvin Schick, Edinburgh University Press, 2013), The City in the Muslim Word: Depictions by Western Travelers (co-edited with Nilay Ozlu, Routledge, 2014), and Sacred Precincts: The Religious Architecture of Non-Muslim Communities across the Islamic World (Brill, 2014). He is the director and founding editor of the International Journal of Islamic Architecture (

We look forward to seeing you!

The American Sephardi Federation and Reimagine Present:

Crafting a Memory; Preserving a Memory

How do you want to present yourself to, and be remembered by, someone who never knew you in your life?
What facet of your existence do you want the world to be aware of in 100+ years?

Tuesday, 30 October, 4:30PM - 6:30PM
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street 
New York City

Please note that there are two parts to this event:
1.) Tour of the Spanish and Portuguese cemetery on 21st St west of 6th Ave,
2.) A workshop in American Sephardi Federation at The Center for Jewish History.

Please click here to make a reservation

One of the public things that people leave behind after they die are epitaphs and final disposition markers. These texts are curated presentations of a life lived and represent what people think of their life's achievements and how they want to be remembered by others. Join us as we think about this question and craft our own presentations, framed by the larger question of: what remains of this text and these tombstones after 100+ years?

Visit: to learn more!

"Let's bring death out of the shadows and into the light."

We look forward to seeing you!

Yemenite Faces and Scenes & Episodes in Yemenite History

The Teimani Experience, which closed on 5 June, continues in part with a photographic exhibit in our Leon Levy Gallery and an art exhibit in the Myron Habib, A"H, Memorial Display.

On view until 11 October

Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street 
New York City

Yemenite Faces and Scenes: Photographs by Naftali Hilger

Intrepid photographer and photo-journalist Naftali Hilger traveled extensively in Yemen in the late 1980s and early 1990s photographing structures, street scenes, and the last remnants of Jewish life. These images—including of Yemenite children learning to read Torah upside-down in their father’s shop and a family relaxing in their diwan (salon)—depict an existence that has faded into history as the ever-shrinking community has found refuge in a government compound at Sana’a.

Episodes in Yemenite History: Paintings by Tiya Nachum

A series of eight paintings by the artist and sculptor Tiya Nachum of Encino, CA. The paintings reflect the tragedies and triumphs of Yemenite Jewish history, from the Mawza exile to the founding of the Inbal Dance Troupe by Sara Levy. Each painting tells a story and each story is a history onto itself.

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

Contact us by email 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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