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As Yom HaShoah is upon us, we want to share a few opportunities to understand the Sephardic experience during the Holocaust.  May we always remember….May we never forget. IMG_3929

‘The Longest Journey: The Last Days of the Jewish Community of Rhodes’ can be rented online from Vimeo and viewed.
It is a ‘must-see’ for those wanting to know the story of the tragic end of the hundreds years old community that existed in Rhodes.
‘The CDEC and the Shoah Museum of Rome present: THE LONGEST JOURNEY. RHODES-AUSCHWITZ (2013) a film by Ruggero Gabbai, historical research by Liliana Picciotto and Marcello Pezzetti.IMG_3930IMG_3931
On July 23, 1944, the Nazis deported almost the entire Jewish population of the island of Rhodes, while the Italian authorities that had been in charge of the Island from 1912 until the Armistice of September 8, 1943, stood by. It was late in the war, and German capitulation seemed imminent, yet the Nazi commanders did not hesitate to inflict the longest journey their criminal machine had ever planned, on this small, vibrant community nestled in this faraway island. The journey took 24 days under harrowing conditions, an atrocious transition from the Mediterranean sun to the grey hell of Auschwitz.
The Longest Journey weaves together testimonies of some of the few Jews to have survived Auschwitz, focusing on Stella Levi, Sami Modiano and Albert Israel.IMG_3932

The survivors, along with the film crew, returned to Rhodes from their respective lives in New York, Rome and Brussels. Each one with a powerful cinematic presence, the three recount memories of family and communal life, interactions with the local Greeks, Turks and Italians, cultural transitions, as well as the tragic last days of their community. The film provides a kaleidoscopic view of Jewish life in Rhodes under Italian dominion before the War.

Through the lens of these narrators, their early lives in Rhodes unfold as a sort of ‘paradise lost.’
See it now, on Demand
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/longestjourney/169693284

IMG_3933‘Trezoros: The Lost Jews of Kastoria’ is airing on PBS stations across the United States THIS WEEK- check your local listings. ( These are a few we saw listed. Check local listings.
South Florida, Thursday 8:30 pm
San Francisco, KQED, Friday 9:30 pm
Los Angeles, Wednesday KCET 6:30 pm
And 9pm)
“The documentary chronicles life in the picturesque town of Kastoria, where Jews and Christians lived in harmony and friendship for over two thousand years. The title Trezoros is the Ladino/Judeo/Spanish term of endearment meaning “treasures.” The film takes the audience on a journey from the joyful innocence of the pre-war years through the heartbreaking struggles of the Holocaust, to a unique place in time and history highlighting a Greek Jewish culture lost forever.

In October 1940, the peaceful life of the community changed forever with the invasion of Greece by Axis forces. Initially occupied by Italy, the Jewish community remained, but after Mussolini fell from power, the Nazis took control of the town, eventually gathering all the residents in a single day, and sent them to concentration camps.

Using never-before-seen archival footage, Trezoros vividly brings to life just one of many Jewish communities that had existed in Greece for centuries and even millennia before the end of World War II. The film is a story told by its survivors, with interviews filmed on location in Kastoria, Thessaloniki, Athens, Tsur Moshe, Tel Aviv, Miami, and New York.

Directed by Lawrence Russo, and co-directed and produced by Larry Confino, the film was widely praised on the film festival circuit with screenings in London, Cannes, Melbourne, Sydney, New York, and Los Angeles. Russo co-founded the independent studio The Shooting Gallery (Laws of Gravity, Sling Blade) and directed the Emmy-nominated PBS short film series ShortCuts. Producer/Co-Director, Confino is the Founder of Synapse Productions and Executive Director of ImageRescue, Inc. Based in New York City, Confino has produced documentaries and commercial projects on a multitude of subjects around the world.

Trezoros is an inspiring story of survival that resonates universally and is of particular interest to Jewish and Greek communities worldwide. The poignant story of one family’s experience helps honor the memory of the once vibrant community and reminds us of man’s inhumanity to man and also of the enduring spirit of the people who survived the horrors of the war. As George Santayana wrote in The Life of Reason, 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

Check your local listings for the PBS schedule.”

 

 

 

Tomorrow is a cooking day…..and tomorrow night marks the first night of Passover – the first Seder. We’re all busy preparing our homes, shopping, and preparing for the holiday.  I thank you for allowing me to share one last message before we begin the Festival.
This is a time for gathering together. We read the Haggadah and tell the story of our delivery as a people from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the land of Israel. It is a cornerstone of our being a people. So central is the journey from slavery to freedom, from oppression to self-reliance, that we retell this story each year. We can only appreciate our freedom if we remember our enslavement. We can only appreciate our wholeness of we remember our brokenness. We can only appreciate our own land of Israel, a home for all the Jewish people, if we recall our desperation and desolation when we had nowhere else to turn.
So – we tell the story, year after year, from generation to generation. And with the telling, we serve our favorite foods. Again, passing from one generation to the next our savory dishes, favorite recipes, each with a special name, with special textures and flavors and all with their own memories. These are the stories – and the foods, that bind us together as a people and keep us connected as a family. How very strong is the bond that stories – and food – provides!
Our family Passover seder this year will bring together a big group – mashala!- all somehow connected to my grandparents, of blessed memory, Isaac (Hacco) Hasson and Sarota Benveniste Hasson. Both were born on the Island of Rhodes (at the time part of the Ottoman empire, Turkey), at the end of the 19th century. Could they ever had imagined that over a hundred years later, their children, grandchildren, down to their great great great grandchildren would still be connected, gathering together (in person and via Facebook) to remember their names, remember their stories, and together carry on the traditions that they, too, brought forth from the generations before them! How wonderful that is!
Our Seder will include readings, stories and songs in English, Hebrew and Ladino, the Judeo-Spanish of our Sephardic family. The foods will be leaven free with flavors and names related to our Turkish, Spanish, Mediterranean roots.
We hope the recipes, stories and links we’ve shared with each other help to entice, and enrich our experiences and strengthen our bonds.

May you enjoy your time together with family and friends; may you tell the story of our people and the lessons of our journey. May you tell stories and remember those of our families who are no longer with us physically, so their memories stay alive in our hearts and those of our children and their lives continue to bless us. May we keep the traditions of our ancestors and create new ones with our children. May our gatherings bring blessings – and may our hands, the hands that prepare these foods that nourish our souls and keep our traditions alive, always be blessed.
Pesah Alegre!
~ Bendichas Manos

Marcia Weingarten
http://BendichasManos.com
On Facebook: Bendichas Manos!

 

Thanks to Neil Sheff who has grown up in Los Angeles with the Rhodeslis and absorbed the soul of this community – we now can hear the words, melodies and tones of the Haggadah as it’s been chanted by our parents and grandparents in the Rhodesli tradition.  Neil, a leader of the Sephardic community throughout the world, is also the President of the Sephardic Educational Center as well as a practicing attorney in Beverly Hills, CA.  Click on the links below, close your eyes and let your heart smile (as mine has been doing all evening!).  You’ll love this!

Neil…..this is an unbelievably beautiful gift you have given us.  It’s like having long missed generations here with us again. Thank you, Pasha!

Neil Sheff – Pesah 1  

Neil Sheff – Pesah 2

Neil Sheff – Pesah 3

Neil Sheff – Pesah 4

Neil Sheff – Pesah 5

Neil Sheff – Pesah 6

Neil Sheff – Pesah 7

 

 

My cousin Avi introduced the ‘Bibhilu’ to our Passover Seder, a beautiful Moroccan tradition which Rabbi Daniel Bouskila explains in an article in the Jewish Journal a few years ago.  It is so deep and rich with meaning, so beautiful, that I am printing that story here (the link no longer seems to work.)

How beautiful and woven with richness is our tradition!   May we all have opportunities to share these traditions and always add new ones to our families, as well!

Pesah blessings, my friends!

The Jewish Journal
April 21, 2005
The Blessing of Bibhilu

A Sephardic ritual calls attention to God’s place at the seder table.

BY RABBI DANIEL BOUSKILA

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/the_blessing_of_bibhilu_20050422/
A book’s opening chapter is crucial to setting the mood and aura for the remainder of the book’s journey. Likewise, the opening scene of a film usually helps set the tone for what will ensue.

The Passover seder is both a reader’s experience and a moviegoer’s. We sit around the table and read the haggadah, and we also witness a host of rituals. But how does the seder leader creatively capture an audience and draw it into the experience from the beginning?

My father is neither novelist nor screenwriter, but from childhood he exposed me to a Moroccan seder ritual that immediately drew all those around the table into the full experience of a seder. This ritual is affectionately known amongst Moroccans as Bibhilu.

Following the kiddush, the karpas, and the yahatz (division of the matzah), the leader takes the brass seder plate, adorned with all of the ritual items, and he begins to walk around the table, waving the seder plate over each person’s head. As the plate is being waved, the entire gathering at the seder chants in unison: “Bibhilu yatsanu mimitsrayim” (“In a hurry we left Egypt”). When my father did this, each of us wondered whether he would simply wave the plate above our heads or knock us over the head with it. This ritual created lots of positive energy — between the anticipation of your turn under the plate and the chanting in unison of Bibhilu.

Yes, it’s a lot of fun. But is there a deeper spiritual meaning, or is this ritual simply some gimmick meant to create excitement among those who might be otherwise bored?

Throughout my life, I have always celebrated the seder in Moroccan fashion, Bibhilu and all. But only a few years ago did I first see a Moroccan haggadah.

At the beginning, there was, as in all haggadot, a drawing of the seder plate, illustrating the placement of each ritual item, which generally followed the Sephardic tradition. I had always known that Sephardic Jews arrange the seder plate differently than Ashkenazim, but again, I never knew why.

The Sephardic pattern, I knew, derives from tradition attributed to the great kabbalist from Safed known as the Ari (Rabbi Isaac Luria). In this haggadah, the drawing not only reflected the Ari’s Sephardic arrangement, but it added something that I had never seen, something which suddenly tied together for me the logic behind the Sephardic arrangement, and the reason behind the Moroccan Bibhilu ritual. Next to each ritual item on the plate was written one of the 10 kabbalistic sefirot, the mystical dimensions describing the sacred attributes of God. The three matzahs correspond to keter (crown), chochmah (wisdom) and binah (understanding); the shank bone corresponds to hesed (kindness); the egg corresponds to gevurah (strength); the bitter herbs correspond to tiferet (beauty); the charoset corresponds to netzach (victory), the karpas corresponds to hod (splendor), the hazeret corresponds to yesod (foundation); and the seder plate itself represents malchut (kingship).

It suddenly dawned upon me that, with this mystical arrangement, the seder plate is no longer just a platter carrying a selection of ritual items. The Ari’s Sephardic arrangement transformed the seder plate into a sacred representation of God, which means that when the seder plate is waved above your head during Bibhilu, you are being blessed by the spiritual strength of the Shekhina. The body of God, as represented by the sefirot, is now being waved above your head, and for the rest of the evening, the presence of the seder plate on the table represents the presence of the Shekhina in your midst.

From then on the Bibhilu ritual suddenly meant a lot more to me, because I now understood that, in addition to drawing in the audience, the Bibhilu ritual also represented a spiritual blessing for each participant as he or she prepares to set off on the haggadah’s storytelling journey from slavery to freedom.

As an American Jew raised in a Moroccan Jewish home, the Bibhilu ritual will always be part of my life. Having experienced it from childhood, and now coming full circle to understand its meaning, I will always look at the seder plate as a source of blessing and sanctity throughout the evening. Whether you are Moroccan or not, this ritual can become a powerful way to help infuse your seder with a newfound spiritual depth.

As it turns out, my father is now in a wheelchair, so he has transferred this privilege and responsibility to me. And yes, after all of those years under the seder plate, it’s lots of fun banging my father over the head while we all chant Bibhilu.

Daniel Bouskila is rabbi at Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel.
© Copyright 2010 The Jewish Journal and JewishJournal.com
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Every year, I like to post the lyrics to two Pesah songs from the Parade of Hits we enjoy at our Seder – the Ladino versions of ‘An Only Kid’…’Un Kavretiko’ and ‘Who Knows One’…..’Kien Su Pience.’   (click on the links next to the songs to hear Yehoram Gaon sing them).

Everyone looks forward to these songs.  They help define ‘our’ Seder.  Our folks sang these songs when they were growing up, be it here in L.A., in Seattle or Montgomery, Alabama.   And their parents before them in our beloved Rhodes. (There was always a part when my Dad, of Blessed Memory, who grew up in Seattle and my Aunt Belina, of Blessed Memory, who grew up in Montgomery, would add a line to ‘Kien Su Piense’ that both their parents’ had used…. “Eloenu shebashamayim, nos iremos a Yerushalayim, con la caravana grande.'”…..we always waited for them to chime in with that!!!).  Our kids and grandchildren have learned them, their spouses and friends as well.  L’dor v’dor.  May we keep singing them for generations to come!

I find myself playing this music, along with my other favorite Ladino albums and Middle Eastern tunes when I’m in the midst of holiday cooking.  It conjures up memories of days gone by, generations past.  That invisible chain that connects us….how I love that feeling and that bond.

Have a good week as you prepare to greet your family for a Pesah Alegre…..a good, meaningful, joyful celebration together. Moadim LeSimha!

~Bendichas Manos

AN ONLY KID – LADINO VERSION: UN KAVRETIKO

Un kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el gato, y komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre, por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el perro, y modrio al gato, ke komio el kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el palo, y aharvo el perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el fuego, y kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino la agua, y amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim. por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el buey, y bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el shochet, y degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko, ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el Malach Hamavet, y degoyo al shochet, ke degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

Y vino el Santo Bendicho, y degoyo al Malach Hamavet, ke degoyo al shochet, ke degoyo al buey, ke bebio a la agua, ke amato al fuego, ke kemo al palo, ke aharvo al perro, ke modrio al gato, ke komio al kavretiko ke lo merko mi padre por dos levanim, por dos levanim.
HAD GADYA, HAD GADYA!

WHO KNOWS ONE? LADINO VERSION: KIEN SU PIENSE LADINO VERSION: KIEN SU PIENSE

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo es el uno?
UNO es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los dos?
DOS Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los tres?
TRES muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador,
baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los kuatro?
KUATRO madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y
Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los cinko?
CINKO livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los sesh?
SESH dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los siete?
SIETE dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los ocho?
OCHO dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, ” Kualo son los nueve?
NUEVE mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los diez?
DIEZ mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los onze?
ONZE ermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los doje?
DOJE hermanos kon Yosef, onze hermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

Kien su piense y entendiense alavar al Dio kriense, Kualo son los treje?
TREJE son los Ikarim, doje hermanos kon Yosef, onze hermanos sin Yosef, diez mandamientos de la Ley, nueve mezes de la prenyada, ocho dias de la millah, siete dias kon el Shabbat, sesh dias de la semana, cinko livros de la Ley, kuatro madres de Yisrael, tres muestros padres son, dos Moshe y Aharon, uno es el Kriador, baruch Hu uvaruch shemo!

I want to share a story about a song in Ladino that we sing at the Seder.  It’s a song my parents remember from their youth that I had not heard during my years growing up at our Seder table.

A few year back, my friend Murray Weiss and I were leaving a meeting and talking about the upcoming Passover holiday. Recalling our shared Sephardic backgrounds we started talking (rather singing to each other!) the various Ladino songs our families sing for this holiday.  We knew the same top choices from the Sephardic Hit Parade. Then Murray asked about “Mos Abastava”… Mos what??? Murray told me it was the Ladino version of Daiyenu. Something brand new to me!

I saw my folks later and mentioned “Mos Abastava” which they both recalled with delight, saying that it was sung at their family Seders in their youth.  I looked it up, learned the words and we have since included it in our family Haggadah, hoping it will become part of our collective tradition.

At a later date, I heard a lovely tale from the brother-in-law of Ralph Amado (z”l) as to Ralph’s “introduction” of “Mos Abastava” at their family Seder.

Bits and pieces of our tradition….sometime hidden for a awhile, only to be uncovered, recalled, reclaimed and shared again.

Here are the words of “Mos Abastava”, from the Passover Agada; according to the Seattle Sephardic Tradition, 1995:

Ladino Version

Kuantos grados buenos a el Kriador sovre nos:

Si mos kitava de Ayifto, i non aziya en eyos justicias, mos abastava

Si aziya en eyos justicias, i non aziya en sus dioses, mos abastava

Si aziya en sus dioses, i non matava a sus mayores, mos abastava

Si matava a sus mayors, i non dava a nos a sus aciendas, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a sus aciendas, i non rasgava a nos a la mar, mos abastava

Si rasgava a nos a la mar, i non mos aziya pasar entre eya por lo seco, mos abastava

Si mos aziya pasar entre eya por lo seco, i non afinkava muestros angustiadores entre el, mos abastava

Si afinkava muetros angustiadores entre el, i non abastesia maestro menester en el dizierto cuarenta anyos, mos abastava

Si abastecia muestro menester en el dizierto cuarenta anyos, i non mos aziya comer a la magna, mos abastava

Si mos aziya comer a la magna, i non dava a nos a el Shabbath, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a el Shabbath, i non mos ayegava delantre monte de Sinai, mos abastava

Si mos ayegava delantre monte de Sinai, i non dava a nos a la ley, mos abastava

Si dava a nos a la ley, i non mos aziya entrar en tierra de Yisrael, mos abastava

Si mos aziya entrara en tierra de Yisrael, i non fraguava a nos a cas de el Santuvario, mos abastava

***

Sharing traditions…making memories!

Pesah Alegre ~ Moadim L’Simha!!

~Bendichas Manos

 

After a whirlwind trip to New York for a very special wedding, I returned home and got into ‘Pesah Prep’ mode.  When I walked into my mom’s home on Sunday morning, she had already prepared and fried 6 dozen Keftes de Prassa!! She knows they are a favorite for so many in our family and she wanted to make sure she had them made and ready for the family to enjoy!!

We serve Prassa (leeks) at Pesah as they are a spring vegetable.  We also serve them at Rosh Hashanah as part of the ‘yehi ratzonis’ – the Rosh Hashanah Seder.

In our family, there are vegetarians – (other families make them with ground meat.)
This is my mom’s method for Keftes de Prassa.

Ingredients:

1 large onion – chopped

8 medium stalks of leek

3 eggs

2 tblsp matzah meal

1 C mashed potato or 1 C mashed potato flakes

pepper to taste

*optional pinch of red pepper flakes

*****(One side note – for ease of preparation: Trader Joe’s has packages of pre-cut leek in the freezer section – cuts down on preparation time!  Boil the leek for about 20 − 30 minutes until soft. Rise under cool water. Squeeze water from leek. (then squeeze again – and again. Then, just one more time – it is amazing how match liquid can be removed, and so doing will help ensure the best possible results.  Separately chop and boil the onion in a pot of water. Then continue as below.)

Prepare leeks. Cut 1/4″ from top and bottom. Cut in half vertically. Soak and clean leeks throughly. (leeks, by nature, often have a good amount of fine dirt between leaves. Make sure to clean carefully) Cut into 1/2″ pieces.

IMG_8382

Boil cut leek and chopped onion in a pot of water ( covering mixture), until vegetables are soft and limp.

Drain ( squeeze out) all liquid. Add additional ingredients. Blend into an even leek-onion mixture. Shape into patties.

IMG_8404

Fry : 2/3 C oil

Fry on medium heat until both sides are slightly browned.

IMG_8403

Drain on a paper towel. Divine freshly made…..can be frozen, sealed tight.

IMG_8404

Defrost and place on a cookie sheet and warm in the oven at 300 degrees for about 10 minutes, or until warmed throughly.

Enjoy!!!!!!

~ Bendichas Manos