Sephardi Ideas Monthly is a continuing series of essays from the rich, multi-dimensional world of Sephardi thought. We will return to the regular schedule of delivery on the second Monday of the month for the June edition.
For the month of May, Sephardi Ideas Monthly revisits our classic “Sephardi Spotlight Interview” with the global superstar, Enrico Macias, originally published in the 2015 issue of American Sephardi Federation’s print magazine, The Sephardi Report.
Enrico performs an impromptu duet of “Oh, Guitare” with ASF Pomegranate Award recipient and Kuwaiti star Ema Shah, 20th NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival, 30 March 2017
(Photo courtesy of Chrystie Sherman)
Sephardi Spotlight Interview: Enrcio Macias
Macias was born Gaston Ghrenassia in Constantine, Algeria, in 1938, and he began his musical career at age 15 as a guitarist in Cheikh Raymond Leyris’ legendary orchestra. He later married Cheikh Raymond’s daughter, but the young couple was compelled to flee the Algerian Civil War for France in 1961 when Cheikh Raymond was murdered on the streets of Constantine.
On the ship over Ghrenassia penned a song, “Adieu Mon Pays” (“Goodbye, My Country”) that captured the universal pathos of the emigrant’s experience and that became a hit when he recorded and released the tune in 1962 as “Enrico Macias.”
Macias would go on to become one of the most famous and popular musicians on the planet, performing in front of 120,000 people in Moscow in 1964, appearing in Carnegie Hall in 1968, and being asked by Anwar Sadat to perform at the pyramids in 1978. He has sung in Ladino, Italian, Spanish, Turkish, Yiddish, Greek, English, French, and, of course, Arabic and Hebrew.
Macias’ Sephardi identity manifests itself in his open and enthusiastic declarations of love of the Land of Israel and the Jewish tradition, a love that naturally co-exists with his Andalusian, Arab, and Jewish cultural roots and that can be heard anytime Macias takes the stage.
A beloved friend of the ASF, Macias has taken the stage three times at the NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival: at the 17th Festival when he was honored with the ASF Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement, at the 18th Festival when the ASF’s National Sephardic Library & Archives dedicated its music library in his honor, and at the 20th Festival when he performed in honor of ASF Pomegranate Award Lifetime Achievement recipient Mr. André Azoulay, Senior Counselor to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI. (This year Enrico made a special appearance at Mr. Azoulay’s Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques at Essaouira, Morocco).
The sage for the month of May is one of the great 20th century leaders of Libyan Jewry, Hacham Frija (Yeshua) Zoaretz.
Born in Tripoli in 1907, it quickly became apparent that the young Zoaretz was a highly talented student. At age seventeen he began to study with Hacham Kamos Nachaisi, and at the age of 21, Hacham Frija was sent by the Tripoli rabbinate to serve as rabbi, cantor, shochet (ritual slaughterer), halakhic adjudicator, and Hebrew teacher in Khoms, a port city east of Tripoli along Libya’s Mediterranean coast.
While serving as rabbi and educator, Hacham Frija became known for his religious Zionism, composing songs of longing for the Land of Israel, and instilling a love of Hebrew among his students. He also actively assisted the Jewish Agency in bringing Jews to Israel, political activity that in 1940 led to charges of espionage and landed him in jail for two years.
Hacham Frija was finally able to make Aliyah in 1949, and, once in Israel, he became active in the Hapoel Mizrachi movement. In 1955 he was elected to the Third Knesset as a member of the National Religious Party. His political activism didn’t hamper his scholarly work; Hacham Frija authored a number of books detailing the life, customs, and the heritage of the Jewish Libyan community.
At the age of 83, Hacham Frija was granted the National Religious Party Honorary Award, and he passed away a few years later on 9 Iyar, 5743 (1993). After his death, a Talmud Torah was founded in his honor in Netanya's Shikun Vatikim neighborhood, while a street in Shikun Vatikim bears Hacham Frija Zoaretz’s name.
In his book Hochmot Nashim (“The Wisdom of Women”), Hacham Frija describes how the Jewish women of Libya would collect money every New Moon for the Sephardi yeshivot of Jerusalem:
There were a few women in Tripoli, the capital, and from the nearby provincial towns who maintained the Rachel Imeinu Fund, the proceeds of which were designated for the renowned Sephardi yeshivot of Jerusalem. It was principally women who donated to this fund…. Some of the women who had these charity boxes would go from house to house on the eve of every New Moon to collect donations for Rachel Imeinu and were, of course, graciously received; each woman donated in keeping with her ability.
The privilege of being a Rachel Imeinu member was justly considered a great privilege that was not under any conditions to be relinquished, by neither the aged nor the infirm, and neither the winter rains nor the harsh summer weather could prevent these fundraisers from going out. And so we would see aged women bent with age, who walked with great difficulty, making a supreme effort and going out every eve of the New Moon to fulfill this good deed that required hours of tiring walking from house to house….
The Diarna Geo-Museum’s Insights Series takes us on a virtual journey through Constantine, Algeria, the stunning Mediterranean city built on 2,000-foot rocky mountaintop surrounded by gorges and home to a Jewish community for over 2,000 years. Constantine occupies a special place in the history of North African Jewish culture: legendary musician and singer Enrico Macias was born in the city, but he fled after his father-in-law, “Cheikh” Raymond Leyris, also a celebrated musician, was murdered in 1961. Diarna takes us back to Cheikh Raymond's famous Record Shop in the city center.
An opera by Giuseppe Verdi as adapted by and starring David Serero in the role of Nabucco. Building on the Biblical accounts of the Babylonian Exile found in Jeremiah and Daniel, Verdi's Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) combines political and love intrigues with some of the greatest songs ever written (including Va, pensiero, The Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves).
The American Sephardi Federation & Consulate General of Spain at New York present:
Visados para la Libertad (Visas for Freedom)
Thursday, 13 June at 7:00PM Exhibit Opening (RSVP Required)
On view until July Center for Jewish History
15 W 16th Street
New York City
“The history of the Holocaust is not merely one of villains and their victims. There were also those who did not want to stand idly by in the face of tragedy; driven by their conscience, they decided to take action. Among these are the heroes, those who risked, or even sacrificed, their own lives to save others. However, there is also another group of individuals, whose actions behind the scenes, albeit more modest, are no less deserving of remembrance and tribute. They took advantage of the scope of Influence offered by their position or profession to protect and help, as far as was at all possible, Jews condemned to extermination in Europe. This was the case of some Spanish Diplomats. In the aftermath of the World War II, The Spanish government would claim that the regime’s official policy was devoted to humanitarian concerns, which they either tolerated or hindered. It was, rather, individual diplomats, those to whom this exhibition pays homage, who did what was possible, and sometimes impossible, to save Jewish lives during the Holocaust.”
The American Sephardi Federations Institute of Jewish Experience in partnership with Association Mimouna present:
The American Sephardi Federation’s Institute of Jewish Experience in partnership with Association Mimouna present a three-day scholarly and cultural conference dedicated to exploring the uncommon commonalities shared by Moroccan Jews and Muslims. The Morocco Conference is bringing together 40 of the world’s leading academics and artists to explore the historical, spiritual, and cultural expressions of Morocco’s exceptional culture of coexistence. Scholars, dignitaries, and communal leaders will convene to share research, knowledge, and experiences to foster enhanced understanding and engagement with Morocco’s tradition of tolerance and interconnectedness as a model for other Muslim nations and, moreover, the entire world.
Thursday, 13 June at 3:00PM
Sunday, 16 June at 6:00PM Opening Night; Followed by After Party Tuesday, 18 June at 8:00PM
Thursday, 20 June at 8:00PM
Sunday, 23 June at 6:00PM Closing Night; Followed by After Party
Center for Jewish History
15 W 16th Street
New York City
Shakespeare’s classic tale of love and loss reconceived as the story of two Jewish lovers, one from a Sephardi family and one from an Ashkenazi family. Featuring Ladino and Yiddish songs. Original Jewish adaption by David Serero.
Please register here or email: email@example.com
“Join Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America for the Birthright Israel - Sephardic Israel Trip this Summer from June 27 - July 7! For 10 days, you'll be able to travel around the country with amazing people with Sephardic, Greek, and Turkish backgrounds, all while exploring everything Israel has to offer. You'll be able to ride camels in the desert, raft down the Jordan River, explore the Old City in Jerusalem, and a whole lot more. especially for Sephardic Jews from across the United States.”
Nosotros 2.0, which opened as a one-night pop-up exhibition on 11 October. continues in part as an exhibition in our Leon Levy Gallery.
On view until mid June
Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
New York City
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.
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