13 July 2009

Sephardim: A culture check

Modern Sephardic culture was addressed today by JTA.org. The story by Amy Klein touches on items from many regions.
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.
Under LISTEN, find

De Leon: Indie rock band with 15th century Spanish influences and Sephardic tradition. http://jdubrecords.org/artists.php?id=22

Pharoah's Daughter: Jewish folk group performing traditional Judaic tunes with Arabic rhythm and African beats.

Vanessa Paloma - singer, performer, scholar and writer - specializes in Sephardic women's songs and their connection to women's spiritual expression.

I'm adding in our cousin Galeet Dardashti's group, Divahn.

Under READ, there's

Iranian Jewish author Gina Nahai's first novel (1991) “Cry of The Peacock." Insiders know the book's characters were based on her family's interesting individuals and the family wasn't very happy about it. She's now writing her fifth book, charting seven generations of a Jewish family beginning in 18th-century Persia to modern-day Iran.

The article does not include the books of Farideh Goldin, Dalia Sofer nor Roya Hakkakian, whose books focus on different aspects of Iranian Jewish life.

Algeria is represented by Joann Sfar's “The Rabbi's Cat” and “The Rabbi's Cat 2,” by Joann Sfar (Pantheon Books, 2005, 2008). These graphic novels spotlight a rabbi's cat who narrates the stories.

Bene Israel Indian auhor Sophie Judah's "Dropped from Heaven" (Shocken, 2007) is a story collection about the everyday life of a fictional Bene Israel community.

Lucette Lagnado's “The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World,” (Harper Perennial: Reprint, 2008) is a memoir of her father and her family's life in Cairo and a relocation to American poverty.

Spanning 150 years with writings of 28 authors covers fiction, memoirs, essays and poetry in “The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature,” edited by Ilan Stavans (Shocken, 2005).

Aviva Ben Hur's “Sephardic Jews in America: A Diasporic History" (New York University Press, 2009) is a new one to read.

There's information on the NY Sephardic Film Festival, a Syrian spoof of "Seinfeld" (Jerry's mother is Syrian) and more.

If Sephardic cuisine is your thing, as it is mine, there are several good books noted:

Syria: "Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen," by Jennifer Felicia Abadi (Harvard Common Press, 2007), and “Aromas of Aleppo: The Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews,” by Poopa Dweck, Michael J. Cohen and Quentin Bacon, (Ecco, 2007)

Morocco: “Arabesque: A Taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon,” by Claudia Roden (Knopf, 2006).

Iraqi: “Mama Nazima's Jewish Iraqi Cuisine,” by Rivka Goldman (Hippocrene Books, 2006).

There is no Persian Jewish cookbook as classic Persian cooking is the same for all. A few dishes require some minor adjustments, such as not marinating chicken in yoghurt and saffron), but most are the same for Jewish Iranians as for others.

The Bible of Iranian cooking, in my opinion, is "New Food for Life," which is now a little difficult to find, but well worth the search.

Read the complete article here.

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