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 F. Afraim Katzir 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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SHIN-DC founding director F. Afraim Katzir talks about his Syrian family’s Hanukkah traditions/cuisine in this fascinating piece highlighing non-Ashkenazi ideas for branching out on Hanukkah. Hear, hear to preserving and sharing the beauty and deliciousness of our various Sephardic Hanukkah traditions.
Hanukkah's not complete until you’ve also had an ejjeh/ataiyef, so join SHin-DC for Syrian Hanukkah treats at Hanukkah's Extra Flame with Concert Feat. Syria's First Internationally Recognized Opera Singer, a refugee, Lubana Al Quntar: www.shindc.org/reg/refugeeshanukkah2016
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 SHINDC for Mimouna 2017!
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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