News & Views from Ivri-NASAWI

Week of February 10, 2000
###  "Conversations on Roots and Identity" Debuts in New York on Feb. 15  ###

A new forum for dialogue, sponsored by Ivri-NASAWI, will engender discussion on the nature of Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewish culture and identity.  Topics will include the politics of representation in American Jewish life and the mainstream media, and in Israel.  Discussants will also examine the symbiotic nature of relationships between Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews and the cultures of their host countries, such as Spain, Turkey, Greece, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia.  The forum is free for members of Ivri-NASAWI and non-members are also welcome.  The evening includes light refreshments.  The forum will be followed by a call for participants to join Ivri-NASAWI's action committees, to help with programming, membership, publication and other issues vital to the growth of a grassroots Sephardi/Mizrahi organization.  Tues., Feb. 15, 7:30 pm, home of writer Gloria Levitas, 230 W. 79 Street, #91S, in Manhattan.  To RSVP, call Joyce Maio at 212.362.9074.  Phone day of forum only, 212.595.3924.

### Mideast Line, New Mizrahi Website, Launches From Israel  ###

Who gets represented in the media?  Which Jewish culture is unfurled at the Jewish Museum?  Who has access to education, health and welfare in the State of Israel?  Are some people more equal than others?  These questions reflect the politics of culture and representation, and are addressed on a major new website called Mideastline.  Established in January 2000 by Mizrahi activists including Sami Shalom Chetrit, Mideastline offers news items, forums, bulletins and media reviews, along with a Music Store, a Book Store and a country-by-country look at the cultures of the Middle East.  If you click on Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey or Palestine, for instance, you can pick up local TV/radio broadcasts, or read excerpts in the local press.  There is also a page devoted to women's studies and affairs in the Middle East which affect women's rights.

Mideastline advocates for the free expression of opinion, brings other, non-Jewish people of the Middle East into the dialogue, and prohibits hate speech or racist propaganda of any kind on its site.  While many areas of Mideastline are still under construction, one area which promises to be a salve after reading the more thorny advocacy essays is the page devoted to Middle Eastern and Mediterranean poetry.  Check back with this site frequently, and be sure to read the articles posted by Zvi Ben-Dor, Shiko Behar, Ella Shohat and other Middle Eastern Jews who write about representation of Mizrahi identity, among other contemporary topics.

###  "Rethinking Arabs and Jews: Interdisciplinary Perspectives" in DC on Feb. 25  ###

Leah Harris, a Georgetown graduate student of Iraqi Jewish descent, has organized a compelling symposium on campus for Friday, Feb. 25, 2000, from 10:00 AM- 3:00 PM.  Georgetown University, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Boardroom.  For RSVP and directions, call Blanca Madani of the National Resource Center for the Middle East, 202.687.9101.  Part I includes Mark Cohen, speaking on "Jews and Arabs in History: Myth and Counter-Myth Revisited"; Joseph Massad: "Palestinians and Jewish History"; and Ella Habiba Shohat on "The Aporias of the National: Toward a Mizrahi Historiography.  Part II includes Najwa Al-Qattan: "Across the Courtyard and in the Courthouse: Residential Space,  Legal Justice, and Sectarian Boundaries in Ottoman Damascus"; Joel Beinin: "Egypt and Israel Since the 1979 Peace Treaty: Cultural Politics in a Regime of Imposed Normalization"; and Walter Armbrust: "A Survey of Difference in Egyptian Popular Culture." Discussion follows, 2:30-3:00 pm.

Speaking of which, you may be interested in a recent book about Arab-Jewish encounters and dialogue, "Dialogue, Conflict Resolution, and Change: Arab-Jewish Encounters in Israel," by Mohammed Abu-Nimer of the International Peace and Conflict Resolution Program, School of International Service, American University.  The book was published bu SUNY press, May 1999.  You can find it via or order it from or, tel. 607 277-2211,  fax 1.800.688.2877.  Professor Abu-Nimer can be e-mailed at  A new website devoted to the subject, Project Encounter, incorporates Arab, Jewish, Israeli, Palestinian, Spanish, Bosnia and Kosovar movements and organisations:

###  "Bon Judesmo: the Cultural Project of Amsterdam's Sephardic Jews" at UCLA Feb. 13 ?###

Who are the Sephardic Jews of Holland?  Find out on Sunday, Feb. 13, 1 pm, as UCLA's Center for Jewish Studies hosts a lecture in the Maurice Amado Distinguished Lecture Series in Sephardic Studies, with Prof. Yosef Kaplan of Hebrew University, Jerusalem.  Kaplan will return to the scene  of many of his historical studies, examining the Sephardic social elite of that community during the 17th and 18th centuries.  He will focus on the nature of its cultural interaction with the surrounding non-Jewish society.  UCLA Faculty Center, parking in Lot 2 ($5), enter at Hilgard and Westholme Ave.  RSVP 310.206.4836.  Email for more info:

### Feb. 17 Conference on "Contours of Sephardic Identity in the Early Modern World"  ###

On Feb. 17, 2000, a conference at Ohio State University in Columbus will explore the multiple dimensions of Sephardic identity of the past, announces Dr. Aviva Ben-Ur of Princeton's Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies Caucus.

This conference is sponsored by The Melton Center for Jewish Studies in conjunction with The Department of History, The Middle East Studies Center and The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, The Ohio State University.  For further information, contact Maurea Al-Khouri, office associate, at the Melton Center at (614) 292-0967.

###  Exiled Algerian Poet/Publisher Reads in French in Los Angeles Feb. 19 ###

Zineb Laouedj, the recipient of Villa Aurora's 1999/2000 "Feuchtwanger Fellowship" for a writer-in-exile, in cooperation with the Getty Research Institute and PEN Center USA West, will be giving a rare reading of her poetry in French (translated by the author from Arabic).  Zineb Laouedj and her husband Waciny Laouedj are a celebrated couple in the Algerian diaspora, and much of their efforts to promote the country's secular and  intellectual culture has brought censure and violence from the Algerian Islamic fundamentalists.  Together they direct an independent publishing forum, the Maison d'Édition Espaces-Libres, and have published an anthology of Arab-language short stories from the African continent.

Zineb Laouedj is currently researching her next book on the legendary Algerian woman writer, Zoukha Saoudi, and is translating the autobiography of German Jewish author Lion Feuchtwanger, "The Devil in France," into Arabic.  Hear Zineb Laouedj in French (with some English hand-outs) on Sat., Feb. 19, 3 pm, at the Lycée International of Los Angeles, 4155 Russel Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. For more info, call 323.665 4526.

###  International Seminar on Turkish-Jewish Encounters in Amsterdam March 29 ###

If you really want to examine Turkish Jewish history, go to Amsterdam for a seminar on Wed., March 29. "Turkish Jewish Encounters" is organized by the Special Chair of Jewish Studies and SOTA: Research Centre on Turkestan and Azerbaijan.  The seminar will be held in Het Trippenhuis, Kloveniers, burgwal 29, Amsterdam between 10.30-16.00 pm. The working language will be English. Participation costs will be 35 flounders, including coffee, tea and a kosher lunch).  Program: Prof. Benjamin Braude, Boston University, Department of History on :The Ottoman Empire and the Jews"; Prof. Ilbert Ortayli, University of Ankara, Department of Political Sciences, on "The Jews and the Turkish Republic"; Mario Levi, author, Istanbul, on "Jews in Contemporary Turkey and Turkish-Jewish Relations Today".  After the session there will be opportunity for questions and discussion. Procedure for Application: please fill in the return slip below and return to SOTA, Postbus 9642, 2003 LP Haarlem, and transfer fl. 35 to bank-account ABN-AMRO to the name of, Stichting Bijzondere Leerstoel Joodse Studies Amsterdam. Please mark your payment with: studiedag 29 maart 2000.  Your application is definitive after receiving of your payment and your return-slip. The dead line is 21 March 2000.  Your participation will be confirmed with an invitation.  For more info via email:

###  Victor Perera Benefits Conclude with $10,000 For Author ###

In July 1998, author Victor Perera suffered a severe stroke, which left him unable to continue his writing.  A cofounder of Ivri-NASAWI, Perera wrote one of the great books about Sephardic culture, published in the ?90s: "The Cross and the Pear Tree, A Sephardic Journey" (UC Press).  He also wrote four other booksMusician members who have performed for Perera's benefit include Judy Frankel, Adam and Laila del Monte, John Bilezikjian, the group Za'atar, vocalist Ljuba Davis and vocalist Stefani Valadez.  Guest speakers at Perera benefits include Councilman Michael Feuer, author Trudi Alexy, KPFA news director Aileen Alfandary and Consulate of Israel deputy Uriel Palti.  As an organization dedicated to the rich legacy and thriving contemporary expressions of Sephardic and Middle Eastern Jewry, Ivri-NASAWI is proud to have been of service to Victor Perera.  We nominated Victor Perera for the IX Juan Rulfo International Award for Latin American and Caribbean Literature, a nomination we are renewing in 2000 (your letters of support are welcome and may sent to Ivri-NASAWI's Los Angeles headquarters).

We are also extremely pleased to announce that Victor has improved immeasurably in recent months, and has moved out of the Soquel care facility into his own living quarters.  With continued good health and therapy, we hope that he will one day be able to return to his important literary work.  If you would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to help Victor Perera, please make your check to "Circle of Hearts", write "VP/IN" in the memo line, and mail to Myra Lappin, M.D., Chair, VP Benefit, 445 Cervantes, Portola Valley CA 94028.  Perera receives 100% of all contributions.  If you would like to make a contribution to Ivri-NASAWI to support Sephardic culture, or join as a member, please see the end of this document.

###  Save the Jewish Legacy in Prague With a Letter   ###

The rich history of Prague Jewry, quite apart from the literary legacy of Franz Kafka, includes numerous Sephardic Jews.  Today, pressure is being put on the Jewish community in Prague by the Czech government to allow the Ceska Pojistovna Insurance Company to build residential properties on the site currently occupied by the old Jewish cemetery in the Jewish Quarter of Prague.  This cemetery is 800 years old and, having survived the Nazi destruction of Jewish religious sites in Central and Eastern Europe, is the last of its kind. The cemetery contains the grave of, amongst other great luminaries, the Maharal (Rabbi Judah Loewe, scholar, kabbalist, and creator of the Golem).  It is a site of immense Jewish religious, historic and cultural value.  The Chief Rabbi of Prague, Rabbi Efraim Sidon, has asked for Jews worldwide to take swift action to prevent the desecration of the cemetery.  Please pass on your concerns to all the following addresses, and also circulate this note to anyone who will be interested.  Many thanks.  (The source of this message is a recent article in the Jewish Tribune and a letter written by Rabbi Sidon to the London Committee for the preservation of the Jewish cemeteries in Europe.)  Please write air mail (60 cents from the United States) to the following three:

###   New Play Dramatizes Argentine Human Rights Atrocities and the Struggle for Freedom  ###

"Oigo" or "I Hear," is a musical dramatization of Argentina's "Dirty War" during which thousands were "disappeared" or tortured.  The play uses poetry, sign language and South American folk music in this full-length production, written by Adina L. Ruskin.  Sephardic vocalist, composer and thespian Gérard Edery stars.  Previews for the six-week run begin February 29 at the John Houseman Theatre Studio, at 450 West 42nd Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, in New York City.  Tickets are $16.50 and reservations can be made by calling 212-721-7486.  (See Jan. 15, 2000 News & Views for further description of the play.)

 ###   New Short Fiction Prize for Works in Ladino Seeks Entries  ###

Rachel Amado Bortnik informs us of the Koleksion Neve Shalom (publication series of new books in Ladino)   which has announced the Europa-Israel Short Fiction Prize in the Judeo-Spanish language.  For complete contest guidelines, email Rachel Bortnik,, or consult the Jan. 15, 2000 News & Views.

 ###  Upcoming International Anthology Seeks Jewish Fabulist Fiction   ###

Invisible Cities Press of Montpelier, Vermont seeks short stories for an international anthology of Jewish fabulist fiction.  Fable.  Fantasy.  Myth. Magical realism.  Sephardi/Mizrahi-themed work encouraged.  For guidelines, send SASE to D. Jaffe, Editor, 57 Broadlawn Park, Apt. 26A, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467.  E-mail:

###  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.   We currently seek contributors.  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

###  New Members Join Ivri-NASAWI  ###

A warm welcome to professional and lay members who have joined Ivri-NASAWI on the past three weeks, including Ruth Tsoffar (Ann Arbor), Sheppard Wahnon (NY), Mairin M. Khazzom (Berkeley), Rita Arditti (Cambridge), Michelle Koukhab (Washington, DC), Ellen Weissbuch (L.A.) and Danny Feingold (L.A.). Thanks also go to renewing members Ruth Behar (Ann Arbor), Diane Matza (Clinton, NY), Lidia Shaddow (L.A.), Dr. Judith Cohen (Toronto), Miriam Benchetrit Creamer (L.A.) and Micaela Amateau Amato (Boalsburg, PA).

This edition of I-N's Biweekly News & Views prepared by Jordan Elgrably.

###  About Ivri-NASAWI  ###

Founded in 1996 by Jordan Elgrably, Victor Perera, Ammiel Alcalay and Ruth Behar, I-N, New Association of Sephardi/Mizrahi Artists & Writers International, is both an association linking together a wide range of Sephardi/Mizrahi creative professionals and an advocacy organization promoting these cultures in the mainstream and non-Jewish communities.  Ivri-NASAWI includes a lay membership of Jewish and non-Jewish members who support the natural pluralism of the Mediterranan, North Africa and the Middle East.

Copies of the Nov/Dec 1999 issue of NASAWI News are available with membership, or you can order individual copies @ $4.95 + .55 postage, or receive a 40% discount with the order of 10 or more plus priority postage.

You can become a sponsor of a valuable cultural program, receive a tax-deduction, and make a difference.  Among upcoming collaborative projects are:

*National Sephardi Literary Contest 2000*
*Open Tent Middle East Film Fest Series LA*
*Mimouna Festival, LA*
*Sephardic Arts Festival 2000 LA *
*Reading Series 2000, Bay Area*
*Levantine Project Encounter Groups, NY*
*Purchase of recorders/camcorders for Sephardi stories project (ESS)*
*Levantine Project syndication launch*
*Middle East Arts Festival*
Please contact us for further details.

[home] [org] [news] [calendar] [membership] [links] [open tent] [past] [nslc]