A Sephardic Passover Meat Pie

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We are Sephardic Jews.  Originally from Spain, most of our families fled in 1492, expelled by the Monarchy to avoid a forced conversion to Catholicism under threat of death. Many of our families were welcomed into the lands of the Sultan, under Ottoman rule.  There our families stayed for near 500 years.

Posted on April 11, 2016

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The Global History of Ma Nishtana


Each year, Jewish children around the world learn the Four Questions. After all the image of the small child chanting their way through the Four Questions is one of the most endearing images of the Passover seder. The image is so strong that for many it automatically conjures music and words. This simple piece of the Haggadah liturgy is one the first Jews learn but few of us know about the history of this text and the music that has now become the classic tradition!

Posted on March 30, 2016

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Sephardic Songs Add Merriment to Purim

University of Washington Jewish Studies Program, 40th Anniversery Gala at the Harley and Lela Franco Maritime Center in West Seattle.

And what is a drinking party without drinking songs? As in other Jewish communities, drinking alcohol was part of the celebration of Purim, and an extensive corpus of rhymed, Ladino poems known as koplas (or komplas) developed by Sephardic Jews in the Ottoman Empire. Arranged in stanzas, often with refrains, sometimes as acrostics, and intended to be memorized and sung in groups during moments of recreation and celebration, mourning and lamentation, koplas dealt with myriad Jewish themes, including holidays, faith, history, morality, life cycle events, religious practices, folkways, hopes and fears, and politics and satire. Initially composed by rabbis, who sought to make traditional Jewish knowledge more accessible to the Jewish masses in their spoken language, and later by popular authors, koplas served as a foundation of Sephardic Jewish culture for generations.

Posted on March 21, 2016

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A Recipe for Glamorous Global Purim Cocktails


Want the secret recipe to the perfect global Jewish cocktails? Read on. After all, the story of Purim is, in part, a story about “passing” — hiding your identity because it is disadvantageous or even deadly to be who you really are. Esther’s dilemma has always struck me on a very personal level; growing up in an upwardly-mobile black family in the American South, my grandmother used to hear stories about cousins, uncles, or aunts who just vanished one day. It was understood that, because of their light skin, they’d simply chosen to “pass” as white for the rest of their lives, assuming a different racial identity because their own felt like a dead end or even a death sentence. Yet they always lived in fear, because they could be suddenly recognized at any time, and the consequences of being found out were catastrophic.   

Posted on March 16, 2016

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Recipe: Sephardic Cookies for Purim


Purim is right around the corner!  Among the traditions of the holiday is the exchanging of gifts of food with one another. Many communities exchange mishloach manot (Hebrew: sending of portions). In our Ladino community, I’ve always heard it referred to as Platikos di Purim (Purim plates).  As part of the Platikos, my mother usually makes biscochos, boulicunio and baklava.

Posted on March 14, 2016

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