December 2000
  • The True Adventures of a Syrian American Writer: Joe Sutton's Story

  • New Poem with Ladino Accent Wins Prize

  •      by Stephen Rosenbaum
  • L.A.'s "Conversations on Roots & Identity 3" Explores Iranian American Issues

  •      by Gita Khashabi
  • Jewish Time in Berkeley

  •     by Jordan Elgrably
  • Two Reviews of "Morocco," the New Show at the Jewish Museum

  •     by Habiba Boumlik/Dalia Kandiyoti + Holland Cotter (NY Times)
  • Sephardic Halakha As an Alternate Paradigm for Authentic Jewish Continuity

  •     by Zvi Zohar
  • December Calendar    send us your news and views

  • Inside News

  • Happy Holidays
    "Venice Temple" by Rachel Wahba

    The Truth As I Saw It: Joseph Sutton's Story

    Syrian Jewish writer and Los Angeles native Joe Sutton (b. 1940) has just published his first novel. Morning Pages, the Almost True Story of My Life (Creative Arts Book Co., Berkeley 2000), is a loosely fictionalized version of his youth growing up in L.A. during the 1950s, one of five boys of a Syrian family from Brooklyn. After a promising high school football career, Sutton won a football scholarship to the University of Oregon. It wasn't until the late 1960s while he was working as a teacher in South-Central, however, that Sutton realized he wanted to become a writer. And where else do aspiring writers go to live the boho life and write fiction? San Francisco. A familiar face on the Bay Area writers scene, these days Joe Sutton writes for a variety of magazines, including Writer's Digest and Writers' Journal. He has written many short stories and his first collection, The Immortal Mouth and Other Stories, will be published in 2001 by Creative Arts.
    click here to read about Sutton's recent reading and a brief Q & A

    New Poem with Ladino Accent Wins Prize

    Stephen Rosenbaum has just won the Bay Area Clinical Legal Education Association (CLEA) First Place poetry prize for his poem Los Bibilikos de Rossmoor. Rosenbaum won the Shoshannah SHABABO PRIZE FOR FICTION for his story ìThe Last Pesach of Isaac Amateauî in the 1998 National Sephardi Literary Contest.
    Los Bibilikos de Rossmoor

    Long before nightingales
    sang love songs
    while Albert and Luiza
    dined on plastic patio furniture,
    conquistadores and sacerdotes
    landed with their flags and crucifixes
    to affix the names of saints
    in the Valley of Mount Diablo

    Lo the Landlords of the Latter Day Elders
    San Pablo, oh
    San Ramon
    O San Ygnacio, oh but
    seldom San Anseimo.
    Like colonial gentry,
    they renamed conquests for Britannia
    and Suburbia.
    And built with sod and asphalt and brick
    the manors of Rossmoor,
    paving over the graves of Saklan Indians
    and Mexican peasants
    with faux lagoons and putting greens.

    continue here


    Conversations on Roots & Identity 3: Iran

    Gita Khashabi
    The meaning of roots and identity was given a thorough, emotional and thought-provoking examination in the third of the Los Angeles dialogue series, "Conversations: Iran"  The event took place in Century City at the home of Shahin Shahabi. Elham Ezzati, the evening's host, focused on spirituality and identity, with a personal introduction on her experience with Judaism growing up, first in Iran, and later in England and the U.S. Ezzati practices psycho-spiritual therapy and engages in meditation and healing practices. She contributes articles to journals on psychology and Iranian topics. She left Iran at the age of 9 and spoke of her struggle to construct her own identity as an Iranian American. Gita Khashabi, an artist and writer attending at the invitation of her friend Shida Pegahi, writes from a very personal place on the evening:

    continue here

    Jewish Time in Berkeley

    While visiting Berkeley recently, I learned of the Judah Magnes Museum's new exhibit, "Telling Time: To Everything There is a Season," which is the Magnes' most extensive exhibit in its 37-year history (the show remains in place through November 2001). Right before I arrived, in fact, the exhibit apparently doubled in size, and now includes a few items from other cultures, among them Tibetan, Mexican and African-American. Time seemed an excellent subject to explore the very meaning of Jewish identity and the relationship between Jewish and other cultures in a historical framework. As the museum's executive director, Susan Morris notes, "Every culture uses traditionas to mark time. The more people understand how one culture lives, the more they may understand another. By collecting and displaying works as a public trust, we hope to help fight intolerance."

    continue here

    "Morocco" at the Jewish Museum

    Habiba Boumlik and Dalia Kandiyoti

    Photo of Esther Play for Purim,Tanger, 1914                                                Hamsas, amulets against "the evil eye"

    The long-anticipated show on Morocco is finally up and running at the Jewish Museum. While the organizers of the exhibit, including Dr. Vivian Mann, are frank about their use of Orientalist imagery, "Morocco" may well represent a lost opportunity. One might have anticipated a different kind of show, displaying both the folkloric and exotic aspects that are the focus of this exhibit, but also including a range of creative and intellectual works of Moroccan Jewry. Dedicated largely to artifacts and displaying few traces of modernity, this exhibit emphasizes the timeless, instead of the continuous culture of Moroccan Jewry.

    There are over 180 objects displayed relating to various aspects of religious, artistic, and economic life. The brief historical context offered in the first room underlines the close ties between Jews and Muslims; of special notice is the declaration of King Mohamed V, who refused to apply certain Vichy laws in Morocco; when asked during WWII by a Nazi commander, the monarch replied, "We have no Jews in Morocco. Only Moroccan citizens." In this room one also finds a menorah dating back to the 4th or 5th century, a testimony to the length of Jewish settlement in Morocco.

    continue reading the review here

    click here for other reactions to the exhibit on Morocco

    click here to read Holland Cotter's NY Times review


    Sephardic Halakha As an Alternate Paradigm for Authentic Jewish Continuity

    Zvi Zohar
        Shalom Hartman Institute

    In this article, I shall attempt to characterize the response of Sephardic rabbis to the challenges of modernity. My general thesis is that their response is different, in significant and interesting ways, from that of their Ash-
    kenazic-European peers. Moreover, the modalities of this "difference'" suggest valuable alternate paths of Jewish authenticity, beyond the denominational schism that has shattered Occidental Jewish life in modern times.

    The Coalescence of Orthodoxy in Europe

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, European Jewry underwent processes of Haskalah ("Enlightenment") and secularization, accompanied by intense internal social and ideological tensions. Many rabbis felt that these
    changes threatened the very existence of traditional Judaism and, in order to counter these threats, they formulated a counter-strategy which became known as "Orthodoxy." Understandably, Orthodox leaders declared that they were simply preserving and continuing the ways of life and the beliefs of pre-modern Judaism. However, such contentions are at variance with socio-historical reality, writes Jacob Katz:

                 The claim of the Orthodox to be no more than the guardians of
                  the pure Judaism of old is a fiction. In fact, Orthodoxy was a
                  method of confronting deviant trends, and of responding to the
                  very same stimuli which produced these trends, albeit with a
                  conscious effort to deny such extrinsic motivations.1

    continue here

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    December Calendar
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    Open through Feb. 11 N.Y.,Morocco: Jews and Art in a Muslim Land, Jewish Museum, 5th Ave. at 92nd St. Exhibit, which runs through Feb. 11, 2001, focuses on Morocco's multicultural art and traditions and the history of Jewish life in Morocco for over 2,000 years. More than 180 objects, among them Orientalist paintings by well-known European artists such as Eugene Delacroix and Alfred Dehudenocq; beautiful jewelry and ceremonial objects of silver and gold; sumptuous textiles and costumes; and 19th and 20th century photographs will be on display. "The exhibition will depict a culture frm the vantage point of 'outsiders'---Orientalist painters and photographers---and from the 'insider's' perspective of the objects Jews created for themselves and others. Vistors will be encouraged to consider the impact of Muslims, Jews, and Europeans on Moroccan cultureóa venerable culture that developed from Berber traditions." 212-423-3200.


    Dec 16, N.Y., Sat., 5:30 pm "West Beirut" Screens With Director The Arab World Film Society and Alwan present Ziad Doueiri's 1998 "West Beirut" (Lebanon/France, 105 minutes, 35mm, color in Arabic and French with English subtitles).  The director will be present after the film for a Q & A. What's the story? Tarek (Rami Doueiri), Omar (Mohamad Chamas), and May (Rola Al Amin) roam the streets of the city, exploring, making Super 8 films, listening to American pop music, and searching for their next adventure. Their parents worry that they're becoming too wild, but the kids don't care. They are teenagers having fun and anything seems possible. A common situation in any country, at any time -- only this is Beirut, Lebanon in 1975, a city split by the first stirrings of war. Read a review of the film.   Cantor Film Center @ NYU on 36 East 8th St at University Place, New York Subway: N, R to 8th St, 6 to Astor Place
    General admission $8, $5 for students with valid ID and senior citizens Hotline at (212)807-9420 or or

    Dec 16, L.A., Sat., 8:00 pm Kurdish Tanbur/Music of Iran and Persian Contemporary Dance Pejman Hadadi on tombak and daf, with Aliakbar Moradi on tanbur; Banafsheh Sayyad & Namah Ensemble. Presented by the Persian Arts Society, at UCLA's Schoenberg Hall. Tickets $22, $25 at the door, $15 UCLA students. (310) 470-5177.

    Dec. 20, L.A, 8:00 pm The Levantine Project will hold the third of its monthly meetings at The Complex, Flight Theater, 6472 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. This new series focuses on (re)building a cooperative and pluralistic society through dialogue, reconciliation, cultural renewal, grassroots initiatives, peace and justice. The Levantine Project is organized by Open Tent Middle East Coalition, which includes diverse non-profit organizations, individuals and businesses who advocate for peace in the Middle East and among Middle Eastern descendents in the United States. Every third Wednesday of the month. RSVP with Open Tent 323-650-3157 or email .


    Dec. 25, S.F., Mon., 10 am-4 pm Judah L Magnes Museum Family Day See the "Telling Time" exhibit and indulge in art projects, music, exhibition tours and refreshments. 2911 Russell St., Berkeley. (510) 549-6950.


    Dec. 27, Wed., N.Y. Mossa Curiel de Buildner's IHOT (International House of Trance) and Pharoah's Daughter Perform at 7th Annual Jewish Music Festival In its seventh year at the Knitting Factory, the Jewish Music Festival (aka Jews-a-palooza) is a week-long event celebrating traditional and non-traditional Jewish musical culture. For the first time, the IHOT Project will be presented on a special double-bill with Pharoah's Daughter (formed in '93 by  vocalist Basya Schechter, this folk ensemble is informed by both klezmer and Middle Eastern influences). The audience will be transported deep into North Africa and the Middle East, with explorations connecting Afro-Brazilian trance music (Candomblé) with its Moroccan brother, gnawa. Expect, too, Moroccan rhythms and Turkish melodies, mixed within the framework of Jewish liturgical music, all culminating in an ectatic celebration of these multicultural influences, and their relation to each other. The Knitting Factory, Main Space, 74 Leonard St., NYC, four blocks south of Canal, between Broadway and Church (take 1, 9,  A, E, C trains). IHOT at 8 pm, Pharoah's Daughter 10 pm. Admission $12. (212) 219-3006.

    Dec. 28, L.A., 8 pm RebbeSoul-O One-Man Show. The Knitting Factory! This is a play, so don't be late! Knitting Factory, Hollywood (AlterKnit Lounge) 7021 Hollywood Blvd; enter on Sycamore. $8 admission. (323) 463-0204.  Plenty of parking in the back! Fancy that... in Hollywood! What a concept!


    Dec./Jan. DC, 7-9 pm Duties of the Heart  Sundays,ongoing (call to confirm).  This group examines works of Jewish philosophy ---ancient, modern, and in-between (e.g., Pirkei Avot, Primo Levi, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, A.J. Heschel, and Chaim Luzatto)---with a view to how text  can transform our lives. Launched as a 1996 Jewish Study Center course of the same name, the group is now sponsored by the DCJCCís Center for Jewish Living and Learning and continues informally, with participants choosing texts, sharing leadership, and occasionally inviting guest speakers.  During the winter session, teacher Sam Zaremba will examine  Texts for the winter are works of Chafetz Chaim (ethical texts from an early 20th-century commentator) and Duties of the Heart by Bachya Ibn Pakuda (the ethical/mystical text from which the original course and study group derived their names). New participants are always welcome, and it is not necessary to have read a text in order to join the discussion; however, it is suggested that new participants call before attending to confirm meeting times and text. Contact: Sam Zaremba, (301) 984-2136

    The Progressive Jewish Radio Hour at WBAI broadcasts in New York Sundays, 11 am Tune in locally or go here to listen over the Net.


    Nov. 30-March 1, 2001 SF Bay Area The Jewish Community of Cuba A photo exhibit by Bay Area photographer Dan Heller focuses on virtually every aspect of the Jews of Cuba. Marin Jewish Community Center, 200 North San Pedro Road, San Rafael, CA, 94903. For directions and further details click here.

    Jan. 12, 2001, Fri., N.Y., 8:00 pm Songs of the Arab World, Youssef Kassab. Washington Square Church. 135 W. 4th St. New York. $20 / $15 World Music Institute Friends. Youssef Kassab is widely regarded as the foremost singer of Arab music in America. A highly expressive vocalist, he has a  diverse repertoire which includes classical, folk and popular music  from the Middle East, including the  works of Mohammed Abdul Wahab. Since coming to the U.S. in 1970, the Syrian born singer has appeared at many major Middle  Eastern concerts and festivals. His credits include performances with the Mohammed Khary Orchestra of Lebanon, Ali Jihad Racy, and Simon  Shaheen. The program is under the  direction of ëud (lute) player Maurice Chedid, a graduate of the Conservatory of Music in Beirut. Accompaniment on kanun (zither), violin and percussion.

    Jan. 14-25, N.Y. n 10th Annual New York Jewish Film Festival Among the many films at Lincoln Center and the Jewish Museum will be Michka Saäl's Snail Position (Canada, 1999), the story of a young Sephardic woman in Montreal who sets out to make a new life for herself while coping with the return of her father after a 23-year absence. Check their websites or call the JewMu at (212) 423-3338 or The Film Society of Lincoln Center, (212) 875-5600.

    Jan. 18, S.F., 7:30 pm Conversations on Roots & Identity 3:  Syrian Jewish life will be at the heart of this living-room style discussion of culture, identity and Sephardi/Mizrahi issues. Special guest Joseph Sutton, author of the recent novel Morning Pages, will read. Poetry Center, Humanities 512, San Francisco State University, corner of Tapia & off Holloway.  For more information, call Myra Lappin (415) 338-1706.

    Jan (tba) L.A. 7:30 pm Conversations on Roots & Identity 4 This popular series raises issues of cultural roots, spiritual practice and affiliation, literary explorations and adjusting to a bicultural, American and Middle Eastern identity. Part four of the new series in L.A.  will include special guests including Penina Solomon from Libya. RSVP to (323) 650-3157 or email: .


    Inside News

    Richard Kostelanetz, multimedia artist, writer and critic, is a Fellow of Ivri-NASAWI. Visit his new website at

    The L.A. chapter meeting on Dec. 4 reviewed financials and the new plan to create the Levantine Center for Sephardic and Middle Eastern Cultures. The need to capitalize the website to offer books, CDs and services was proposed. In order to raise funds, we proposed to make a call for items to auction on E-Bay.The question was raised, in what way is Ivri-NASAWI different from other similar organizations, such as the American Sephardi Federation, Sephardic House or the Sephardic Educational Center. None of the these organizations are in fact full-fledged cultural centers with magazines. None are progressive arts organizations which focus on the Levantine option. None have an organic, primarily friendly approach to Jewish-Arab relations. It was established that Ivri-NASAWI will be folded into the Levantine Center, and that the center will offer space to complementary organizations, such as Open Tent, Al Jadid and others.

    The SF Bay Area Action Committee will meet on Dec. 19. RSVP with Myra Lappin, (415) 338-1706.  The next programs will be planned for Jan/Feb/March. Please see the announcement posted on the Bulletin Board.

    The New York chapter is on hiatus until January 2001.

    To inquire about membership in Ivri-NASAWI, click here.

    *Ivri-NASAWI lists Sephardi/Mizrahi events produced by other organizations.
    Please be sure to call in your programs with 30 days advance
    notice whenever possible. To inquire about our affordable
    web rates, call (323) 650-3157 or email

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