News & Views from Ivri-NASAWI

Week of December 20,1999

### Dr. Daniel J. Elazar, Advisory Board member, Dec.1 ###

Political scientist, author and Sephardic activist Daniel J. Elazar died on Wed., Dec. 1 at the age of 65. The author of "The Other Jews, The Sephardim Today," and dozens of other books and hundreds of articles, Elazar provided early encouragement to the founders of Ivri-NASAWI. An ardent spokesman for equal rights and representation of Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews in Israel, Elazar divided his time between his Philadelphia think-tank, the Center for Jewish Community Studies, and his Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, where he worked as a consultant to the Israeli government. A respected scholar on Federalism, he taught at Temple University in Philadelphia and Bar Ilan in Israel. Among his many books are "The Jewish Polity" and "Israel, Building a New Society." May Daniel Elazar's memory be a blessing.

A Shlosim Service for Dr. Elazar will be held in Los Angeles on Wed., Dec. 29, 7:30 pm, at Temple Beth-Am, 1039 Olympic Blvd. corner of Olympic and La  Cienega Blvds. RSVP to the Center for Jewish Community Studies, Ms. Debora De Simone, tel (215) 772-0564, fax 772-0566, email:

### Ammiel Alcalay's New Book Voted One of Village Voice's Top 25 ###

In the Dec. lit parade of the Village Voice, New York's oldest alternative weekly, Ivri-NASAWI cofounder Ammiel Alcalay's new collection of essays, "Memories of Our Future, Selected Essays, 1982-1999" (City Lights) has been voted one of the 25 favorite books of the year. Writes a Village Voice literary editor, "Ammiel Alcalay, a poet with a Ph.D., a Sephardic-Croatian Jew, and a political renegade, writes like he's a kind of lonely overpass to ignored global backroads. He fervently gives voice to the overlooked and misunderstood, like Arab Jews and progressive Yugoslavians. He writes about Sephardi and mizrahi traditions in thickly layered, erudite personal essays; and he surveys a range of literature from the Mediterranean, poetically championing mizrahi Jews like Samir Naqqash alongside Palestinian poets like Mahmoud Darwish. 'It is simply a fact that Jews [have always] lived throughout the Mediterranean and Arab world,' he insists, in typically brave, polemical prose that mourns their invisibility: 'Now [those] Jews are crowded into a tiny, claustrophobic space that knows no windows to its native terrain.' Always contentious, he uses his experience, passions, and literary skill to challenge the standard line on 20th-century Jewishness. 'My [own] name,' he writes, demonstrates how 'Hebrew and Arabic [have] not only existed side by side but were incorporated into one.'

"Memories of the Future" is available in your local bookshop, or from City Lights,

### Sculptor Oded Halahmy Hosts "Memories and Visions”" in New York  ###

Sculptor Oded Halahmy, a native of Iraq who has divided his career as an artist between Israel and the United States, donated his New York studio to Ivri-NASAWI for a salon/fundraiser on Dec. 8. “Memories and Visions” featured guest writers Ammiel Alcalay and Ella Habiba Shohat reading from their latest books.  Moroccan-born vocalist and composer Gérard Edery contributed beautifully-performed songs from the Sephardic and Judeo-Arabic traditions. Among the many special guests were writers Sasson Somekh, Richard Kostelanetz  and Gil Anidjar, musician Liz Magnes, and producer Jacob Bender. Oded  Halahmy, whose work has been widely exhibited in Europe and Israel,  frequently donates his space to progressive Jewish organizations. He hopes to launch an Israeli/Palestinian/Arab/Jewish foundation for peace and arts in  2001.

### Ethnographer/author Ruth Behar Voted One of Century's Top 50 Latinas ###

If Sephardic Jews won more popularity polls, they might not suffer such invisibility in the world at large. As it happens, one of I-N's cofounders, Cuban-American ethnographer, poet, professor and editor Ruth Behar, was voted one of the century s top 50 Latinas in a readers  poll in the November issue of Latina magazine. Other such women include Celia Cruz, Salma Hayek and Gloria Estefan, who (in one of those well-kept secrets) is also Sephardic. Behar, the recipient of several prestigious awards, including a MacArthur, is the author most recently of "The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart" (Beacon Books). Of late Behar has been at work on her first novel. It is also her ambition to put together a documentary film on the Jews of Cuba, and she is seeking support for the project. Please write

### Ha'aretz Documents Continuing Anti-Sephardi Discrimination in Israel ###

A feature by Sara Leibovitch-Dar in the Dec. 17 international edition of Ha'aretz investigates claims of misrepresentation and bias against Sephardi/Mizrahi cultures and history at Ben-Gurion University. "A Question of Class" includes interviews with several BGU professors and administrators and paints a picture of continuing bias against non-European Jewry.

Says musicologist Dr. Avraham Eilam-Amzaleg, "We, the Sephardis, are not part of [the university elite]. They don't believe we have a culture. They don't consider Sephardi [mizrachi] subjects to have cultural value. They didn't understand why students flocked to my classes. When I asked why I couldn't get a permanent post, they had one reply: there are none available. There was a post for someone who taught classical music. There was a post for a teacher of Yiddish. When the new immigrants from Russia arrived, the campus suddenly filled up with new immigrant teachers. I have nothing against the immigrants, but where do I fit in? With all respect to Bach and Mozart--and I am a fan of theirs--we have to understand that we are not in Europe and that in this country the Sephardi culture has to be studied. Negating that culture means relegating the people whose culture that is to an inferior social level."

Dr. Dan Manor, a native of Morocco who teaches in the Eliassar Center for the Study of Sephardi Jewry founded by Dr. Morris Romani, insists that "Racism is a fact in this country, but how can I prove it?...Morocco's Jews have an extensive literature, and it's a pity that this is not reflected in the university. "Notes Dr. Haim Sa'adon, who was born in Israel to Tunisian parents:  "In Tunisia, there were 180 Jewish newspapers, and that is a country which Israel viewed as backward and primitive." And Prof. Aboutbul argues, "The history of the Jewish people should be the history of the entire Jewish people, not only half the people."

### Ivri-NASAWI Receives 2nd Grant for The Poetry of Peace series ###

One of the raisons d'etre of Ivri-NASAWI is to show how the cultures of Jews, Arabs and other Levantines/Middle Easterners is inextricably bound together, and to celebrate these affinities through cultural activism. Previous efforts include "Arabs and Jews Beyond Boundaries: Culture, Identity and Community," a concert and symposia coproduced by the Getty Research Institute; Open Tent's "Middle East Film Fest: A Cultural Conversation" organized and supported by a coalition of non-profit organizations in Los Angeles; and most recently, "The Poetry of Peace, Spiritual Music of the Middle East," produced in October 1999 in partnership with the World Festival of Sacred Music-the Americas, with coproducing entities Middle East Peace Network and Gate Productions. The Los Angeles Arts Commission and the Ford Amphitheater have underscored their support of this kind of programming by awarding Ivri-NASAWI a new grant for the 2000 "Summer Nights at the Ford" series. The value of the grant according to Patrick Hediger, Ford general manager, is $10-12K. This will get the ball rolling for the next project under Ivri-NASAWI's aegis, "Middle East Arts Festival 2000." Additional partners/producers/sponsors are sought: please write

### Ella Shohat Publishes Transnational Anthology of Multicultural Feminism ###

Prof. Ella Habiba Shohat, a native of Israel whose family hails from Baghdad, Iraq and who became known internationally as a mizrahi activist, film scholar and feminist, has just published Talking Visions: Multicultural Feminism in a Transnational Age. Acting as editor, Shohat has assembled an impressive array of testimony and art from a diverse range of cultures and viewpoints. Copublished by MIT with the New Museum of Contemporary Art, Talking Visions is a hardcover, beautifully produced book. Shohat read dramatically from the collection at an Ivri-NASAWI salon in New York on Dec. 8, drawing parallels between the experience of such writers as Maria Hinojosa and Coco Fusco with her own identity as a Mizrahi Jewish woman. A cofounder of Ivri-NASAWI, Shohat is Prof. of Cultural Studies and Women’s Studies at the City University of New York. Talking Visions is available at or for phone orders, (617) 625-8569.

### Morris Zagha, Artist, and Karen Watts, Public Policy Analyst, Marry ###

A fine artist and digital media director at Bob Gail Enterprises, Morris Zagha married Karen Watts on August 22, 1999. Watts, formerly director of cultural affairs at the Consulate General of Israel, holds a master's in public policy from Syracuse. Zagha, one of the original artist members of NASAWI, has had several solo and group exhibits as a painter; two of his paintings, Ten  and  Supernal Man  have made the covers of Nasawi News. The couple now share their last names, becoming Morris Watts Zagha and Karen Watts Zagha.

### Jan/Feb 2000 Nasawi News Due Out Shortly, Publishers Wanted ###

Grassroots publishing and organizing is difficult, challenging work. Ivri-NASAWI is devoted to widening Jewish identity by making the general public and educators aware of the incredible diversity of Sephardi/Mizrahi experience. One of the important vehicles to illustrate the interconnectness of Jewish and other Middle Eastern cultures is our bimonthly publication, Nasawi News. We seek writers, editors, advertisers and most importantly, a Publisher and Associate Publisher for each issue. The financial contributions of the Publisher and Associate Publisher, while quite reasonable, successfully offset production, printing and mailing costs, while guaranteeing you a strong voice for pluralism in the Jewish world. Please write for more information.

### The Levantine Project Will Promote Sephardi/Mizrahi By-Lines ###

Ivri-NASAWI is in pre-production on a new syndication project which will promote the by-lines of those writing from a Sephardi or Middle Eastern Jewish vantage point. The Levantine Project will offer regular columns and special feature articles on a syndication basis to more than 300 Jewish publications in the U.S. and Canada, and to more than 200 other publications in those countries. The Levantine Project also welcomes Arab and other Middle Eastern contributors writing about culture, politics and arts, who promote a pluralistic world view. For more info, write

### Washington, DC-Baltimore Chapter to Launch February 2000 ###

After successfully organizing chapters with cultural activities in Los Angeles, New York and the San Francisco Bay Area, Ivri-NASAWI will begin operations in the Washington, DC-Baltimore region with a salon featuring Ella Habiba Shohat on Feb. 27. Among I-N partners anticipated partners are Georgetown University, Congregation Magen David, the Middle East Institute and coordinator Esther Robbins, who teaches both at Georgetown University and the Middle East InstituteI. Ivri-NASAWI began activites in Los Angeles in Jan. '97, in New York in June '98 and in the SF Bay Area in Aug. '98. Interested new DC-Baltimore partners and volunteers should write

### Seeking Acting Director for New York Chapter ###

Joyce Allegra Maio, who has been Ivri-NASAWI's New York director since the chapter's inception, will be taking an extended leave of absence. We are interesting in speaking with you if you care about Sephardi/Mizrahi cultures, Judaism, Middle East peace, and have great people skills. Please contact executive director Jordan Elgrably. (323) 650-3157.

# New Professional Members to Ivri-NASAWI #

 A warm welcome to the writers, scholars, artists and activists who have joined Ivri-NASAWI in December, among them Sasson Somekh, Yerach Gover, Yvette Raby, Jane Mushabac, Habiba Boumlik, Laila Shereen, Kathleen Alcala, Sheldon Sands, Damaris Solis de Castellar, Judy Katz-Levine, Deborah Granof, Wendy Oberlander, Maurice/Dorrie Benbeniste, and Elvire de Baere. Renewing members include Mary Koukhab, Albert Mizrahi, Ivanov Reyez, Abe Sofaer andBrenda Serotte.

COPIES OF THE NOV/DEC 1999 NASAWI NEWS are available through membership or single copies @ $4.95 each + .55 postage.

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