Tag Archives: music

Original Interview with Edna Aizenberg and Margalit Bejarano

Edna Aizenberg and Margalit Bejarano, Eds. 2012. Contemporary Sephardic Identity in the Americas: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

The following review and interview were done by Aviad Moreno, Ph.D. candidate and teaching fellow in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University and adjunct lecturer at Achva Academic College. His current research observes the role of migration networks in the emigration of Spanish Moroccan Jews to Israel and Latin America. His forthcoming book deals with European-oriented modernity in the Minute Book of the Jewish Junta of Tangier.  He may be contacted at aviad.moreno[at]gmail.com.

Contemporary Sephardic Identity in the Americas: An Interdisciplinary Approach offers a comparative and interdisciplinary overview of contemporary Sephardic identities in the Americas. The book is interdisciplinary not only in the narrow sense of combining studies from a variety of academic disciplines (from history to musicology).  Furthermore, thanks to the rather pioneering decision made by the editors, it binds together case studies from Canada to Argentina, passing through the phenomenon of internal migration within the Americas. By so deciding, they have presented a fresh attitude towards Sephardic studies altogether, which disposes of traditional academic and regional barriers and invites new audiences to view the Sephardic Diaspora through a more universal perspective.  The exceptional decision to publish the book entirely in English, despite its extensive focus on Latin American communities, both reflects and contributes to this important mission.

Another chief factor making this book unique is its focus on the twentieth century, during which the centers of Jewish Diaspora have shifted westwards from Europe, Africa and Asia to the Americas, producing a new spirit among the entire Jewish nation.  Consequently, the Americas are today home to the largest number of Sephardic Jews living outside of Israel. Despite the fact that several communities in this vast region have been left untouched by the editors, the book succeeds well in giving voice to a largely silent (or silenced) Sephardim throughout its historical evolution over the last 100 years in the Americas. Subsequently it may well contribute, from an unexpected standpoint, to the ongoing re-evaluation of traditional Ashkenazi-centered narratives that still predominate much of the academic literature in Jewish historiography.

Aviad Moreno: How has the idea for the book evolved?

Edna Aizenberg: For a full explanation, see bottom of p. xiii and top of xiv in the introduction to the book: “The idea for the book emerged, etc.” There was a symposium that began to look at certain imbalances in Sephardic Studies in the Americas, with an abundance of works on Crypto-Jews in Latin America, for instance, and almost nothing on the last hundred years; what there was tended to be atomized by community or language.  We wanted a contemporary and global approach.

Margalit Bejarano: The Division for Latin America, Spain and Portugal at the Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University conducted a study on Sephardim in Latin America that demonstrated the far reaching impact that the communities of origin in the Middle East and North Africa had on their descendants. We organized a symposium with scholars studying Sephardim in different countries in North, Central and South America, with the objective of comparing the experiences of Sephardim of different origins in different environments. The interesting exchange of ideas brought us to the idea of publishing that book.

Moreno: The time frame of the book is confined mainly to the last 100 years. Why does this specific period in the history of the Sephardim in the Americas merit unique scholarly attention?
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Sephardic Cello Music – October 11 at Shearith Israel

Jewish Music for Cello in Our Times
Thursday, October 11, 7:30PM
Congregation Shearith Israel (2 West 70th St, New York, NY 10023)

The world premiere of the Sephardic-themed suite for cello and percussion “Scalerica d’Oro” by award-winning composer Joelle Wallach will be featured at a concert of Jewish-themed cello music  at Congregation Shearith Israel on October 11, 2012 at 7:30PM.

Award-winning cellist Regina Mushabac will be the soloist.  Winner of  the prestigious Concert Artists Guild Award and numerous other honors, she has performed in Europe, Latin America, and throughout the U.S.  Professor of cello at the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory in Cleveland,  she was trained by the two distinguished cellists, Leonard Rose and Janos Starker. The Boston Globe has called her “a phenomenal cellist with a vivid stage presence.” Continue reading

Original Review: Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic

Amy Horowitz. Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2010. 251 pages.

 Mediterranean Israeli Music and the Politics of the Aesthetic

Reviewed by Samuel R. Thomas (Graduate Center of the City University of New York)

This book is a welcome addition to the growing literature in English on music in Sephardi and Mizraḥi communities in Israel. Amy Horowitz sheds light on a popular musical genre, focusing on key artists involved in its development and the role that their music played in negotiating a complex and volatile terrain for identity politics in Israel during the 1970s and 1980s. Horowitz systematically charts the seemingly unruly nature of Mediterranean Israeli music – also known as Musika Mizraḥit – by providing important historical, sociological, and ethnic context and by exploring many of the streams of influence that discombobulate listeners seeking to define the parameters of the genre. But rather than looking at Mediterranean Israeli music as being based on a collection of asymmetrical, perhaps haphazard appropriations, Horowitz advances and successfully supports the thesis that the musical genre was developed by artists with the express intent of drawing together “appropriate appropriations” (30). In so doing, these artists contributed to advancing a pan-ethnic identity in Israel – of a Sephardi, Mizraḥi, Oriental nature – that could stand in contradistinction to a hegemonic Ashkenazi ethnicity. Horowitz’s study adds a welcome statement about the integral role of notions of inheritance and appropriation on identity formation. These notions are all too often employed in the service of political ideologies. She challenges this binary structure and the ideologies that accompany it, instead offering a strong example of how the recognition of a continuum between inheritance and appropriation is actually more germane for appreciating the role of musical expression in the formation of identity. With this book, Horowitz adds a resonant voice to the scholarly discourse about Mizraḥi identity. Continue reading