The faces and voices of Sephardic music in Seattle

The faces and voices of Sephardic music in Seattle

By Ty Alhadeff, Stroum Center for Jewish Studies

It has been 40 years since Dr. Rina Benmayor visited Seattle to record romansas (ballads) among local residents of the Sephardic community. Dr. Benmayor followed in the footsteps of her mentors to capture the musical traditions that the Jews of Spain and Portugal carried throughout the Ottoman Empire, and that their ancestors continued in Seattle 500 years later.

Now a decorated scholar of oral history, literature, and Latino/a Studies at California State University-Monterey Bay, Benmayor will return to Seattle on April 24 for her lecture, “Cántame una romansa: Memory, Family History, and Sephardic Ballads in Seattle.” Benmayor reminisced recently about her visits with native Ladino speakers in Seward Park. She described how she was offered borekas, boikos, and bizkochikos two or three times a day in warm and inviting home atmospheres. Rabbi Emeritus Solomon Maimon of Sephardic Bikur Holim and David Romey, professor of Spanish Language and Literature at Portland State University, eagerly introduced the young Ph.D. student to the local talent.

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