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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

DePauw presents evening of Sephardic Culture

Friday, March 6, 2009

DePauw University Professor Masha Belyavski-Frank took this photo of a synagogue during a trip to the Balkans.
Anyone interested in learning about the Sephardim branch of Judaism needs to head to DePauw University for "The Nightingale and the Rose: An Evening of Sephardic Culture" taking place Sunday at 7:30 p.m. at the Green Center.

Sepharad is the Hebrew word for Spain. It refers to the Jewish community that made its home in Spain for more than a thousand years, until their expulsion and exile in 1492. Sephardim and Ashkenazim are the two major branches of Jewish people. This event will feature cultural aspects of Sepharad.

DePauw Professor Linda Elman taught a first-year seminar about Christian, Jewish and Muslim Spain last fall and became interested in putting together some sort of event about the culture of the time.

Elman's freshmen students will be making traditional Sepharad dishes for those attending this event.

Typical Sephardic cooking does not include bagels and lox, chopped liver, latkes, gefilte fish or matzah ball soup. Instead, it includes food such as bourekas, and phyllo dough pastries filled with cheese or spinach.

Elman explained that in 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand commanded that all Jews who refused to convert to Christianity be expelled from Spain. The Jews were given four months to leave Spain.

According to the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture (FASSAC) it is estimated that 100,000 Jews left Spain at this time. All Jews commemorate this expulsion from Spain every year on the holiday of Tisha B'Av.

Many Spanish Jews settled in Portugal, which allowed the practice of Judaism until 1497 when King Manuel of Portugal agreed to marry the daughter of Spain's monarchs. One of the conditions for the marriage was the expulsion of Portugal's Jewish community. In actuality, only eight Jews were exiled from Portugal and the rest converted, under duress, to Christianity.

In the first Sephardi Diaspora, a large number of Jews settled in North Africa and in the Ottoman Empire, especially, Turkey and Greece. Spanish exiles brought with them a unique culture, language (Ladino) and traditions. Many of these immigrants continued to speak Ladino until the 20th century.

Most American Jews today are Ashkenazic, descended from Jews who emigrated from Germany and Eastern Europe from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s, although most of the early Jewish settlers of this country were Sephardic.

The first Jewish congregation in North America, Shearith Israel, founded in what is now New York in 1684, was Sephardic and is still active. The first Jewish congregation in the city of Philadelphia, Congregation Mikveh Israel, founded in 1740, was also a Sephardic one, and is also still active.

"When the Sephardic Jews were exiled, they took the culture, food and music with them. This event is an opportunity to find out about them," said Elman.

"The whole community is invited to attend," she added.

There will be music by DePauw Senior Shie Kantor, and Choir Director and Professor of Vocal Music Gabriel Crouch and a guest guitarist from northern Europe. There will also be an audience sing-a-long.

Professor Masha Belyavski-Frank, who teaches Russian and Russian literature, will show some of her slides taken during a visit to the Balkans.

The event is free and open to the public. It is in the large ensemble room in the Green Center, located on the second floor of the building on the west side in the new corridor.

Persons who would like information about the event can contact Professor Elman at 765-658-4815.

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