Over 200 people gathered in the Gold Room of the Congressional Rayburn House Office Building with Sephardic Heritage International DC (SHIN DC) to remember the too often forgotten Sephardic & Romaniote communities devastated by the Holocaust. In the shadow of the US Capitol, we heard testimonies from Sephardic & Romaniote survivors. We remember that the Holocaust affected Jews all over the world, and may we always remember to tell their stories. Thanks to our Congressional Sponsor Rep. Jamie Raskin, the Embassy of Israel, Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue & Museum, and The Sephardic Jewish Brotherhood of America for their partnership. Also, thanks to all of our speakers, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, volunteers and contributors for sharing this unforgettable historic commemoration with us. Thank you Embassy of Azerbaijan and Embassy of Cyprus for honoring us with your presence.
Click here for video of the program.
We are very appreciative to Syria Fest for the opportunity to share Syrian Jewish culture again this year in the Syrian Cultural Tent. The festival program also included a talk by SHIN's director Franz Afraim Katzir 'Journeys of Syrian Jews: From Antiquity to Assad' covering substantial migrations and displacements from the period of Egyptian rule (1831-1940) until 1994 when the vast majority of Syria's remaining Jewish community left, ending its 3000 year history in Syria. Thank you Syria Fest for bringing everyone together again for another beautiful celebration of Syrian culture -- engaging the diversity of Syrians and of the District. Thanks to Noah, Aysha and other volunteers. We also thank Shalom Kosher for the Syrian snacks that we shared with participants.
Mimouna is about being good neighbors to each other in a diverse world. This post-Passover festival is a time to renew our hope regarding friendship, goodwill, and the neighborhood. Thank you Rabbi Albert Gabbai (Congregation Mikveh Israel - Synagogue of the American Revolution), Rabbi Mordechai Lebhar (author of Darke Abotenou, the Laws and Customs of Moroccan Jews), and Reverend Thomas Bowen (Director of the DC Mayor's Office of Religious Affairs) for remarks. Thank you Mayor Muriel Bowser for greeting us. Thank you Amina and Aicha. Thanks, DJKimo & Nabil Azekri for the live Andalousi music. Thank you SHIN board, members and volunteers. Thanks to co-sponsors with Sephardic Heritage International (SHIN) DC and the Embassy of Morocco in Washington, DC: the National Museum of American Jewish Military History; Morocco Premier Events; Michael Medina Cuisine/The Kosher Kitchen Catering Co; AJC - Global Jewish Advocacy; and Association Mimouna. Trbakhu u'tsaadu - we wish you prosperity and success for a new season!
SHIN DC & the Embassy of Greece in DC presented a special lecture by Professor Devin E. Naar, on Thessaloniki / Salonica, Greek Jews and the Holocaust, co-sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Kehila Kedosha Janina Synagogue & Museum, and the Association of Friends of Greek Jewry. Dr. Naar is author of "Jewish Salonica: Between the Ottoman Empire and Modern Greece". A full-house audience, including members of Janina enjoyed the presentation. We also received a special message from the Mayor of Thessaloniki Mr. Yiannis Boutaris. Rep. Gus Bilirakis co-chairman of CHIA honored the event by his presence, as well as Mr. Paul Gardner on behalf of Congressman Danny K. Davis of CHIA and the Congressional Black Caucus.
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Orient News Coverage of SHIN DC's Extra Flame Program to Raise Awareness of the Syrian and Other Refugee Crises:
Translation from Arabic to English (bracketed text provided for clarification):
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Sephardic Heritage International DC (SHIN DC), sponsors and partners came together for a rare evening of Syrian Jewish music and Hanukkah treats, as we raised awareness of the Syrian and other refugee crises, and lit the extra Hanukkah flame. SHIN's annual Hanukkah program is inspired by a Syrian Jewish narrative that Sephardic refugees began lighting an extra flame each night of Hanukkah to commemorate the security and tolerance they found in Aleppo, following expulsion from Spain in 1492.
Asher helped us to build bridges by masterfully performing the Aramaic, Hebrew, and Judeo-Arabic repertoire of his Halabi (Aleppian) Jewish community, a little-known facet of Syria's musical tradition that is built around classical Arabic maqam with influences from Andalusian traditions and Levantine folk music.
In addition to the music, remarks were made by SHIN board members, including Leila Levy, Shlomo Bolts, Violet Battat and Afraim Katzir, originally brought together by this program, under the leadership of Mr. Katzir. Remarks were also made by Sarah Beller of HIAS and refugee narratives shared by Remi Hassoun, whom we befriended at the inaugural Syria Cultural Fest, as well as Loor Khaled whose mother Aliaa we met at a HIAS event we attended earlier this year. We aim to spread the hope of security and tolerance that the extra flame represents, worldwide.
A special thank you to SHIN's coordinator Valeriya Nakshun whom we appreciate from the bottom of our hearts. Also, thank you to food writer and chef Susan Barocas for the Syrian and other Hanukkah treats, such as Ejjeh, that we enjoyed. We also take a moment to congratulate Hala who spoke at the inaugural Extra Flame gathering at Shalom House the day before a final exam in 2015, having been in the U.S. only three months. On the evening of Extra Flame 2017, she graduated with a degree in engineering. Mebrouk & Mazal Tov, Hala!
Thank you to SHIN's wonderful co-sponsors: HIAS; Multifaith Alliance for Syrian Refugees; Syrian American Council; Temple Rodef Shalom; Adas Israel Congregation; Temple Micah; The Simnegar Foundation; In Loving Memory of Roger Breeze (Yosef ben Avraham), A"H.
Sephardic Heritage International DC (SHIN DC) coordinators and members, including Valeriya Nakshun and Violet Battat, introduce Sephardic dishes and provide cooking tutorials/demos for the DC community. Hosted by Moishe House Columbia Heights. Co-Sponsored by SHIN DC.
What a month September has been - raising awareness of Sephardic heritage at both the Turkish Festival & the inaugural Syria Fest. We've had an amazing time building bridges with the diverse DC community. Sephardic Heritage INternational DC thanks the American Turkish Association of DC (ATA-DC) for this wonderful opportunity, including the wonderful experience SHIN-DC's founding director F. Afraim Katzir has had serving on the Festival Committee. Thanks also to each of our SHIN-DC volunteers who enriched our presentation.
The presentation of Sephardic heritage included a Turkish Ladino concert featuring Dr. Judith Cohen & Greek master oudist Spyros Pilios Koliavasilis. There was also a talk by Susan Barocas, food writer & chef, 'From Spain to the Ottoman Empire - Two Great Cuisines Brought Together by Turkey's Jews'. We are also proud of our Community Outreach Fellow, Valeria Nakshun who performed traditional dances with the Silk Road Dance Company - mashala!
We also thank Stella Hanan Cohen for providing autographed copies of her book Stella's Sephardic Table - 10% of each sale goes to Turkish Educational Foundation, which educates children in need. Follow Stella on Instagram @sephardiccuisinebystella. We also thank Beyhan Cagri Trock for allowing us to display her book The Ottoman Turk and the Pretty Jewish Girl.
We appreciate each of you who joined SHIN for this exciting program and visited our interactive Sephardic cultural tent where we presented Ladino culture & language games and the history of Turkey's Jews. We also enjoyed konushear (shmoozing) with you over backgammon (Tavla & Avla).
Thank you Ayşe Rüya Cohen, Caren Pauley, Valeriya Nakshun, Lyuda Nakshun, Alana Hayes, Victoria Garcia, Mihal Gross, Judith Cohen, Spyros, Susan Barocas, Vijitas de Alhad folks, Devin Naar, Demet Cabbar, Hande Ayan, Patsy Jones, Kenneth Joholske, other Turkish Festival Committee members, Turkish Festival (connecting cultures for 15 years), ATA-DC and others who helped make this all possible. Thank you Jeffry Urban for providing some of the best of our photos.
The inaugural Syria Fest was a great success! Mabrouk (congratulations) to organizers Syrian Cultural House & Syria Fest. We thank the festival for giving SHIN-DC the opportunity to share Syrian Jewish heritage at our Syrian Sephardic booth in the Cultural Tent. We also thank Poopa Dweck (author of Aromas of Aleppo: the Legendary Cuisine of Syrian Jews) and the Sephardic Heritage Museum for their help with our presentation. Thanks to each of you who volunteered at our booth or visited. Also, much appreciation to those who purchased Poopa's cookbook (10% of each sale goes to Syria Relief & Development to help Syrians in need).
We also thank Syria Fest for a spectacular program. It included a talk by SHIN-DC's founding director about the culture and history of Syrian Jews, including the factors leading to the communities' displacement from Damascus and Aleppo beginning in 1947 and the actions carried out under Hafez al-Assad's regime until the Syrian government finally lifted restrictions on the community in 1992, including a ban that prevented them from leaving. At that time, the vast majority of the remaining community left, ending its almost 3000-year history in Syria, with many joining the over 100-year-old Syrian community in the US. As our friend Mostafa said, now the Syrian community of Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others in America have been able to come together at Syria Fest to show the free world the true story of love and freedom we hope to achieve together.
Article ''Triple threat-ain't talkin' bout no one Yemen road' is comprised of SHIN-DC's interview of A-WA when they had Shabbat dinner with us the day Habib Galbi (Dear of My Heart) was released in summer 2016. That interview was conducted by F. Afraim Katzir & Jewish-Iranian hip-hop artist Mana Eini. Further, the article includes an updated interview conducted on 6/16/17 by Katzir & Valeriya Nakshun (pictured above with A-WA), the day after the sisters' hafla (party) in DC. Mabrouk (congratulations) to Josh N.-the winner of our A-WA tickets giveaway. Reorient celebrates contemporary Middle Eastern arts and culture. Click on photo to read SHIN-DC's interviews.
SHIN-DC thanks the Embassy of Azerbaijan for a gracious invitation to their Republic Day celebration. We were welcomed with Jewish music and SHIN-DC's Community Outreach Fellow Valeriya Nakshun (dance photo - left) performed with the Silk Road Dance Company to give us a riveting presentation of the traditional Jewish dance "Astarho" (Stars) about love & longing. Such a beautiful, rare display of our Mountain Jewish heritage! Earlier in May, we also had the honor to join Ambassador Elin Suleymanov (Azerbaijan) and Ambassador David Bakradze (Georgia) for a private screening of bridge-building film Ali and Nino.
Mimouna-Different neighbors celebrating together: Jews, Muslims and others wishing each other a prosperous and successful year. A special guest from the Embassy of Morocco spoke; A special Moroccan guest rabbi spoke; Jewish and Muslim communities were represented; We enjoyed live Gnawa music (Jouwala Collective), delicious brunch (including Mouflettas, Couscous with Caramelized Onions and Almonds Confit, and more); Bottomless Mimosas (alc/non-alc). So wonderful to come together and share this Moroccan tradition again this year! Tirbeh! Prosper and see you for our next "Mimouna Heritage" program- celebrating coexistence and human brotherhood. This Moroccan phenomenon is not just our past but our future. It's not just for Morocco but the entire world.
Thanks to those who co-sponsored with SHIN-DC and Embassy of Morocco, Washington, DC: Edlavitch DCJCC; جمعية ميمونة Association Mimouna; AJC - Global Jewish Advocacy; -دراسة الأديان عبر الحضارات The Study of Religions Across Civilizations; Soussi Restaurant; Bruce & Randy Ross and Bruce L. Ross & Company--A Boutique Forensic Accounting Practice (www.blross.com); Amina and Aicha; In memory of Gladys bat Adi, A"H; In memory of Roger Breeze (Yosef ben Avraham), A"H.
Party 'til you can't tell the difference between Nowruz (Persian New Year) & Purim! Feat. DJ Fes. A program to celebrate Persian holidays & benefit HIAS. One of 14 global offices, HIAS in Vienna has assisted more than 25,000 Iranian religious minorities who fled persecution. Thanks to everyone who helped and celebrated with us!
SHIN-DC had the honor & pleasure of spending time with Hakham Hamra. We thank all of you who joined us at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for program Saving a Syrian Synagogue -- a Muslim-led interfaith initiaive. As the violence in Syria intensified, residents of Jobar banded together to save its historic synagogue, led by Aahed Sulayman who reached across religions and nations for support, including to Hakham Hamra. It was great hearing Hakham Hamra, Aahed Sulayman, and Adam Entous who first shared this inspiring story in the Wall Street Journal in 2014.
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In SHIN-DC's annual program, Lubana Al Quntar sang for Syria & all those suffering in today's world, as seen in this coverage by Radio Sawa راديو سوا. Al Quntar was accompanied by Chakib Hilaly (oud), Kylie Hilaly (qanun) and Mohcine Saqi (daff).
Those in the Aleppian Jewish community who originated in Spain have an especially unique Hanukkah custom to kindle an extra flame each night of the holiday. This originates from the time following Spain's 1492 Edict of Expulsion. Sephardic Jews at that time faced religious persecution, an experience that recalls Hanukkah's narrative of oppression under the Syrian Greeks (AKA Seleucids) about 1,577 years prior. Almost overnight, over 800,000 Sephardic Iberian refugees sought refuge the world over. One fateful Hanukkah, having endured a storm at sea, some of them arrived in Aleppo, which became a city of refuge to them. Today, Aleppo is safe for no one and the carnage there is only the latest tragedy in a war that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and has created millions of refugees and internally displaced Syrians.
By the 1990's, most of the remaining Jewish communities in Syria had left, having endured attacks, boycotts and oppression. However, we do not forget the long history of Jewish-Syrian comity. Should the status quo of the past several decades erase millenia of positive Jewish-Syrian ties, as Syrians now look to the future? We continue to light Hanukkah's extra flame as a memorial for us to always strive together for what it represents: security, tolerance and brotherhood.
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SHINDC kicked off #VeteransDay2016 at the National Museum of American Jewish Military History (NMAJMH) with inspiring music, delicious Sephardic cuisine, wine & good deeds. This fabulous evening featured Dr. Judith Cohen. Special guests included Joana Mayer and Mariana Faísica from the Embassy of Portugal, as well as Flory Jagoda (godmother of Ladino music) who ended up in Italy because of the Holocaust and met American soldier Harry Jagoda whom she married. Sephardic/Portuguese Jews such as Uriah Levy have served this country, from primordial New Amsterdam to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and more. Levy not only served in the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812 and rose to the rank of commodore despite facing anti-Semitism over a 40-year career—he also purchased and began the restoration of historical landmark Monticello in the 1830s. Thanks to co-sponsors: NMAJMH and World Music & Dance Institute. Also thank you Michele, Shlomo, Violet and Lev.
Dubbed the "Jerry Seinfeld of France"–look out America–this legend lives in New York now: He is Moroccan, Sephardic and most importantly VERY FUNNY! His all-English stand up show–Oh My Gad–continues to bring different people together. We hope he will come back to DC to visit the Embassy of Morocco, Washington, D.C., per their invitation, as well as join SHIN DC for Mimouna!
SHINDC (Sephardic Heritage IN DC) with Embassy of Morocco, Washington, D.C., The Study of Religions Across Civilizations-دراسة الأديان عبر الحضارات and SORAC Scholars from different cities across Morocco- No matter our religion or where we live, we are proud of the Moroccan heritage we share and appreciative of our special friendship and comity. It was a pleasure to follow up on the lovely lunch and conversations we shared on Sunday at JewishROC. What a blessing - الحمد لله نحن محظوظون.
SHINDC, The Study of Religions Across Civilizations دراسة الأديان عبر الحضارات and JewishROC enjoyed a fabulous luncheon with high school educators of Islamic Studies from Morocco. We thank the Moroccan Embassy for being part of this beautiful exchange with the SORAC scholars. Rabbi Benamou spoke about his Moroccan cultural, historical and religious heritage, the shared roots of the Abrahamic religions, Abraham's kindness and the sanctity of peace. We also enjoyed a tour of JROC's library, which included a crash course in Jewish literature. This "Mimouna Heritage" program was truly a celebration of coexistence and human brotherhood. We are thankful for all of the new friends we have made and for the old friends who continue to endeavor with us to come together in the neighborly spirit of the Mimouna holiday.
Thanks to co-sponsor JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa. Many thanks also to RY and others who donated, so that we could continue to provide such meaningful programs and delicious food. We also appreciate all of you who helped us to get all of that delicious food on the table. And thanks to those who have shared photos/videos with us. We will soon make available a video of the event.
SHIN-DC was honored and thrilled to interview A-WA and have Friday night dinner with them. Co-sponsored by Israeli House Washington (הבית הישראלי בוושינגטון). We also danced the night away at A-WA's Release Party 6/25/16 in DC with Balkan Beat Box. A-WA is included among the top 10 artists Rolling Stone says you need to get to know in 2016 and included in NPR Music's Favorite Albums of 2016! Click here to get their newly released album Habib Galbi on iTunes:
The talented, cool, poised, intelligent (the list of praise goes on…) sisters of A-WA are vegetarian. Indeed, like they said in the interview, “We are many things.” For dinner we had: Israeli/Shirazi/Arabi Style Salad w/ Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Mango; Hummus Tehina w/ Pine Nuts; Fried Eggplant w/ Special Tehina Blend & Pistachios; Quinoa, Pea & Mint Tabbouleh Spiced w/ Aleppo Pepper; Mujedra Rice w/ Lentils & Caramelized Onions; Roasted Butternut Squash & Red Onion w/ Tehina; Bizerte-Style Pan-fried Fish w/ Harissa & Rose Petals; Persian Ice Cream w/ Fruit and; Wine/Pomegranate Juice.
In 2015, the UN proclaimed June 1 International Farhud Day. SHIN-DC with Edwin Black & others commemorated the 75th Anniversary of the Farhud at the U.S. House of Representatives & acknowledged Sephardic refugees expelled from Arab countries.
SHIN-DC was honored to light a candle representing 2,700 years of Jewish life wiped out in Iraq. We draw some hope from the acts of those Iraqis who saved Jewish lives during the Farhud--a progrom where over 180 Jews were killed on June 1-2, 1941. As we learned during SHINDC's Mimouna 2016 program, the Farhud is considered part of the legacy of a short-lived Nazi-allied regime in Iraq.
For Hanukkah, we were inspired by a custom of Sephardic/Spanish refugees to Syria ~1492 & lit an extra flame in support of Syrian refugees–hoping for a more secure life for them. As we light to remember the Farhud, we hope for a better world for us all.
SHINDC's Annual Mimouna Brunch 2016 with National Museum of American Jewish Military History attracted about 150 people like last year's event. That 2015 Mimouna, which we kicked off at Shalom House, made history as the very first public Mimouna celebration downtown in the Nation's Capital. In 2016, we renewed our connection with our neighbors according to the spirit of this North African tradition. Mimouna marks a bittersweet end to Passover because it coincides with the week of Holocaust Remembrance, which tragically highlights the consequences of failing to connect in this way. The 2016 Mimouna program recalled the Holocaust and its related experiences for Sephardic Jews in North Africa, Greece, the Balkans and Iraq. Our unique observance in this regard included celebrating the righteous acts of Muslims who exemplified the spirit of Mimouna by saving the lives of their Jewish neighbors.
In addition to enjoying traditional foods and music, we celebrated those righteous acts and the comity that became a hallmark of Mimouna in Morocco—these are values that we hold dear. We also exhibited photos of American Jewish soldiers connecting with the people of North Africa during WWII. The values of freedom that they fought for adds meaning to our celebration. That service also contributed to the ultimate defeat of Nazi Germany’s forces in North Africa, as part of the the overall Allied invasion there, saving North Africa’s Jews from utter annihilation.
Thanks to Amina D and Aicha B--women of valor--for their invaluable contribution, and also to The Kosher Kitchen Catering Co., JewishROC, Shalom House, Manor Photography, SHINDC volunteers, Gnawa healing, Radio Mogador, Morocco on the Move, Embassy Of The Kingdom Of Morocco and all of our friends and family who helped, inspired and celebrated Mimouna with us.
Sephardic Heritage IN The Nation's Capital; Building Bridges
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