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Sephardi Mizrahi Studies Caucus Discussion List – May 10, 2009

Association for Jewish Studies Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies Caucus Discussion List

Editor/Moderator: Aviva Ben-Ur <aben-ur(at)judnea(dot)umass(dot)edu>

Week of Sunday, May 10, 2009 (16 Iyar 5769)


For archived issues please visit:


1. Passing of Prof. Yehuda Ratzhabi (Sarna)

2. "We are Israelites, they are Jews" (Corre)

3. New Publication: Languages and Literatures of Sephardic and Oriental Jews (Bunis)

4. Book Review: _Tales from the Sephardic Dispersion_ (Goldberg)

5. Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Early Modern Jewish History, Brown University (Jacobson)

6. Call for Papers: Jewish Travel and Exploration in the Medieval Period, International Medieval Congress, Leeds 2010 (Frojmovic)

7. Heritage Update from Barcelona (Urbancultours)

8. Music video filmed in Jewish Museum of Casablanca (Paloma)

9. Jews of Iraq Program at Shearith Israel (American Sephardi Federation)

10. Query: Seeking Contact Information for Maria Jose Ferro Tavares (Neulander)


1. Passing of Prof. Yehuda Ratzhabi (Sarna)

From: "Jonathan D. Sarna" <sarna(at)brandeis(dot)edu>

via: Adam Mendelsohn <mendelsohna(at)COFC(dot)EDU>

Date: Tue, 3 Mar 2009 11:15:36 -0500

We are saddened to learn of the passing of Prof. Yehuda Ratzhabi on February 24th. He was 92 years old.   Prof. Ratzhabi, who taught for almost 40 years at Bar Ilan University, was a leading expert on the culture of the  Jews of Yemen and on Medieval Jewish and Arabic poetry; he also published work on Sa'adiah Gaon.  A full obituary, in Hebrew, may be found on the Bar Ilan website:

May Prof. Ratzhabi's memory be for a blessing.

Jonathan D. Sarna

Chair, H- Judaic


2. "We are Israelites, they are Jews" (Corre)

From: "Alan Corre" <corre(at)uwm(dot)edu>

via: Adam Mendelsohn <mendelsohna(at)COFC(dot)EDU>

Sent: Tuesday, March 03, 2009 12:47 PM

In response to Eric Silverman's query: "We are Israelites, they are Jews" I can offer some linguistic insight into the triplet Israelite/Jew/Hebrew, which applies also in many other languages.

I refer first to the following web page:

where some detail is given on the pejorative use of the word Jew. As a result the word "Jew" was avoided in polite discourse, and substituted by the word "Hebrew" or "Israelite." It may be noted that the adjective "Jewish" was more acceptable, hence from the nineteenth century we indeed have the Jewish Publication Society, but the older Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society and Hebrew Sunday School Society avoided the term. In England "Jew" was often replaced by "Jewish gentleman" or Jewish "lady" to avoid offense. And in 1813 Isaac Nathan in England decided to publish "Hebrew Melodies" in which even the renowned poet Lord Byron participated.

"Israelite" was also used as a euphemistic substitute for Jew. When in 1877 Joseph Seligman requested a room at the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga, he was politely refused: "Mr. Seligman, I am required to inform you that Mr. Hilton has given instructions that no Israelites shall be permitted to stop at this hotel." And when it was reported many decades earlier that strange lights were seen at the Jews' cemetery on

Spruce Street, Philadelphia, a wag commented that they must have been "Israe-lights."

It is therefore no surprise that the uptown rabbi would refer to himself and his congregation as Israelites, reserving the pejorative term "Jew" for the unwashed upstarts of the Lower East Side.

Alan D. Corre


3. Now In Print: Languages and Literatures of Sephardic and Oriental Jews (Bunis)

From: David Bunis

via: "STEVEN B. BOWMAN" <bowmans(at)uc(dot)edu>

Date: Sun, 8 Mar 2009 19:36:39 -0400 (EDT)

Dear Colleague,

I am pleased to inform you that the Misgav Yerushalayim & Mossad Bialik publication, _Languages and Literatures of Sephardic and Oriental Jews,_ has just appeared. You will be sent a copy by mail. (If you have changed your mailing address since we were last in touch, or wish your copy to be sent to a different mailing address, please let me know.) In the meantime, I am attaching a copy of your contribution in pdf format. Please encourage your library and colleagues to order a copy of the book.

David Bunis


4. Book Review: _Tales from the Sephardic Dispersion_ (Goldberg)

From: jfrr(at)indiana(dot)edu

via: rar(at)slavic(dot)umass(dot)edu

Date: Mon, 30 Mar 2009 17:44:33 -0400

Folktales of the Jews, Volume 1: Tales from the Sephardic Dispersion.

Edited by Dan Ben-Amos and Consulting Editor Dov Noy. 2006. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society. 600 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8276-0829-0 (hard cover).

Folktales of the Jews, Volume 2: Tales from Eastern Europe. Edited by

Dan Ben-Amos and Consulting Editor Dov Noy. 2007. Philadelphia, PA:

The Jewish Publication Society. 550 pages. ISBN: 978-0-8276-0830-6

(hard cover).

Reviewed by Christine Goldberg, University of California, Los Angeles


[Word count: 767 words]

These are the first volumes of a planned multi-volume set of folktales from the Israel Folklore Archives (IFA), founded by Dov Noy in 1955, which now contains more than 23,000 tales collected in Israel from over thirty cultural groups. This huge amount of archive material means that the tales chosen for publication can all be interesting and pleasant to read. It also means that each text can be discussed in relation to similar archived tales in addition to published analogs.

Following a foreword for the whole series, an introduction in each volume covers the history of that cultural group and its folklore as represented in manuscript and printed sources. In the texts, footnotes explain foreign words, literary references, and customs.

There is a general subject index at the back, plus tale type and motif indexes. Each volume contains seventy-one tales. The Sephardic tales are grouped into Legends (often a miracle concerning a particular rabbi), Moral Tales, Folktales, and Humorous Tales. The Eastern European divisions are Tales of the Supernatural, Hasidic Tales, Holocaust Tales, Historical Tales, Tales between Jews and Non-Jews, and again, Moral Tales, Folktales, and Humorous Tales.

The commentaries are generous, sometimes even longer than their respective tales. The collector, the informant, and the place of collection are noted; further information about the first two is given in biographies at the end of the volume. Then comes a section on the cultural, historical, and literary background of the text. Analogous tales in the IFA are listed, as are international tale type and motif numbers. For many of the tales, the section on the cultural, historical, and literary background constitutes a compact study, with emphasis of course on Jewish variants, of the tale type, folktale cycle, or theme under consideration. Different aspects of the tale, such as important motifs or structural elements, are selected for special attention. These outstanding notes demonstrate how the folklorists' concepts of motif and type are not only useful for sorting and indexing, but they also enable the analyst to identify the tale's components and show how its parts fit together into an artistic construction.

Compared to the tales in most folktale anthologies, Jewish tales seem more explicitly didactic. They often demonstrate good and bad behavior, illustrate a proverb or other maxim, or explain why some aspect of the world is the way it is. These lessons of course are inconsistent: for example, many misogynistic tales co-exist with a few feminist ones, and non-Jews are sometimes esteemed and sometimes reviled.

Jewish culture values the study of religious texts and commentaries. This attitude seems to have been carried over into the study of secular and international literature as well, and Noy deserves credit for securing a place for folklore in this company. The Jewish

Publication Society obviously expects that readers of this series will be interested not just in the folktales but also in the scholarly notes. In contrast, for example, the series format for the headnotes in Noy's _Folktales of Israel_ (University of Chicago Press, 1963) consisted of the name of the narrator and the archive number of the tale, its type or motif number, and published analogs. This establishes the tales' authenticity and traditionality, but it falls far short of the notes in the present series, which refer to the extensive literary tradition of rabbinical writings and other historical sources that provide ancient, medieval, early modern, and recent examples of many of these traditional tales, whether they be Jewish only or shared with other religious groups. With so many historical examples, the interdependence of oral and written (or published) versions often becomes apparent. The ancestors of Jews now living in Israel lived in many parts of the world and adopted traditional tales from many different regional cultures. "Jewish folklore" has decided to embrace this diversity, and is also eager to expand its interest to non-Jewish analogs where applicable.

One of the many accomplishments of Noy's career has been his ability to situate folklore texts in their international, multi-cultural context and, almost simultaneously, to interpret them as oikotypes (expressions of unique local folk beliefs). This dual approach is often found in Jewish folklore scholarship, and Ben-Amos utilizes it here most effectively. He draws on scholarship from many fields including folklore, ethnology, and Jewish religious and secular history and literature. This technique is informative for all readers and explains especially to outsiders why or how the tale is important to its narrator and community. We can expect that when the rest of the series becomes available, it will illustrate the recurrence of various themes and motifs among the different Jewish ethnic groups in Israel.

Read this review on-line at:

(All JFR Reviews are permanently stored on-line at


5. Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Early Modern Jewish History, Brown University (Jacobson)

From: "Jacobson, David" <David_Jacobson(at)brown(dot)edu>

via: Adam Mendelsohn <mendelsohna(at)COFC(dot)EDU>

Date: Fri, 27 Mar 2009 10:28:47 -0400

Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Early Modern Jewish History, 2009-10

The Program in Judaic Studies at Brown University invites applications for a non-renewable post-doctoral fellowship in the area of early modern Jewish history for the academic year 2009-10. We welcome applications from scholars specializing in any area of early modern Jewish history, including the early modern history of Eastern European  Jewry or that of Sephardic communities in Europe and elsewhere. Teaching load: 1 course first semester; two courses second semester. Candidates who have successfully defended their dissertations by time of application are welcome to apply, as are those who received the Ph.D. degree after 2005. Candidates should send a covering letter, cv, statement of research plans for the year, and potential syllabi to Chair, Search Committee, Post-Doctoral fellowship, Program in Judaic Studies, Brown University, Bx. 1826, Providence, RI 02912. They should arrange to have three confidential letters of reference sent directly to the above address. Salary: $40,000 plus additional taxable salary supplement to allow for single person health and dental coverage through university providers. For full consideration, application materials should arrive by April 23, 2009. Dates of appointment: Sept. 1, 2009-May 31, 2009. Brown University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

David Jacobson


6. Call for Papers: Jewish Travel and Exploration in the Medieval Period, International Medieval Congress, Leeds 2010 (Frojmovic)

From: "Eva Frojmovic" <E(dot)Frojmovic(at)leeds(dot)ac(dot)uk>

via: Adam Mendelsohn <mendelsohna(at)COFC(dot)EDU>

Date: Fri, 3 Apr 2009 10:22:04 -0400

'Travel and Exploration': Call for Papers/Sessions - International Medieval

Congress 2010 (Leeds (UK), from 12-15 July 2010)

From the time Abraham left the city of Ur, the Israelites and later the Jews

have been a people on the move. Whether one thinks of the legal aspects of

travelling; or of famous travellers such as Benjamin of Tudela and Petachia

of Regensburg; whether one thinks of the astronomers and mapmakers such as

Abraham Zacuto or the cartographers of Palma de Mallorca; whether one thinks

or the travellers’ tales deposited in the Genizah, or of the forced displacement particular to our difficult history, the subject of travel and exploration is a perfect opportunity for Jewish studies scholars and students of Jewish Christian and Jewish Muslim relations to engage in scholarly dialogue and debate.

I am now seeking proposals for sessions (3 papers or multiples of 3) or individual papers relating to Jewish travel and exploration in the Medieval period. The IMC’s own CFP is available on

Deadlines: 31 Aug 09 for papers, 31 Sep 09 for sessions.

Enquiries about the Jewish Studies strand should be emailed in the first instance to Dr Eva Frojmovic, Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Leeds, e(dot)frojmovic(at)leeds(dot)ac(dot)uk


7. Heritage update from Barcelona (Urbancultours)

Date: Sun, 5 Apr 2009 21:01:28 +0200

From: Urbancultours <urbancultours(at)urbancultours(dot)com>

Please see the websites below for articles relevant to Barcelona’s Jewish heritage. Dominique Tomasov Blinder

click here for update on Barcelona Jewish cemetery

click here for the Zakhor Institute February 2009 mission statement/newsletter

[ed: edit]


8. Music video filmed in Jewish Museum of Casablanca (Paloma)

From: Vanessa Paloma <cantos(at)vanessapaloma(dot)com>

Date: Fri, 8 May 2009 17:53:16 GMT

   Enjoy a music video in Haquetia (Moroccan Judeo-Spanish). I believe this may very well be the first music video (not a video of a live performance) in this whole genre! We filmed it at the beginning of summer 2008 in the Jewish Museum of Casablanca. You can see different sections of the exhibits and indoor and outdoor spaces of the Museum. Now you must come to Morocco to see it for yourself!

Gozen este videoen Jaquetia. Creo que es el primero en su genero que no fue filmado en un concierto en vivo! Lo filmamos al comienzo del verano pasado (08) en el Museo Judio de Casablanca. Pueden ver parte de las exhibiciones y los espacios interiores y exteriores... para ver el resto del museo tienen que venir a Marruecos mismo!

Hadassah Brandeis Institute Research Associate

Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University

Senior Fulbright Research Scholar and Artist to Morocco 2007-2008


Vanessa Paloma


9. Jews of Iraq Program at Shearith Israel (American Sephardi Federation)

[Note from Editor/Moderator Aviva Ben-Ur: Though the first event has passed, the book may be of interest to readers.]

From: American Sephardi Federation / Sephardic House <info(at)americansephardifederation(dot)org>

Date: Tue, 12 May 2009 13:28:25 -0400 (EDT)

ASF/SH is proud to inform you of these upcoming events at Congregation Shearith


Book Talk

_Iraq's Last Jews: Stories of Daily Life, Upheaval, and Escape from Modern Babylon_

Tonight, May 12, 7:30pm

Authors Tamar Morad, Dennis Shasha and Robert Shasha will discuss their book. Iraqi

delicacies will be served, and the book will be available for purchase.

This event is free and open to all.

Sponsors for this program are greatly appreciated.

Iraqi Cooking Class

Thursday, May 21, 7:30pm

Iraqi Cooking Demonstration with chef and cookbook author Jennifer Abadi (Fistful

of Lentils). Invite your friends!

$10. RSVP necessary. Contact Alana at

alana(dot)shultz(at)shearithisrael(dot)org,  212-873-0300


Congregation Shearith Israel

2 West 70th street

NY, NY 10023 []


10. Query: Seeking Contact Information for Maria Jose Ferro Tavares (Neulander)

From:             Judith Neulander <judith(dot)neulander(at)case(dot)edu>

Date:             Mon, 20 Apr 2009 16:08:59 -0400

I am seeking contact information for Maria Jose Ferro Tavares.  I am told she is a scholar with a specialty in Portuguese Jewry who is located in Covilha, Portugal. I've been unable to find her online. Please respond to me directly.

Many Thanks,

Judith Neulander

[ed: slight edit]

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