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Using Sephardic Music to Study Early American Jewry

December 31, 2012

Historians continue to review the importance of Sephardi Jewry as it has evolved throughout American Jewish history. The study of the Sephardi community within the American Jewish experience offers fresh insights into the present American Jewish community.   Sephardi Jews were the first Jewish immigrants in the New World. They traveled to South America to flee the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions.  When the Inquisition reached the shores of the new colonies many of these Jewish refugees left their homes to travel northward. The earliest of these Jewish settlers reached South Carolina and then continued northward to Virginia, Rhode Island and New York before spreading out to other colonies and, eventually, westward.   The history of these Sephardi settlers is now being researched by the Lowell Milken Archives. The Archives use the chants, prayers, liturgy and music of each successive generation of American Jews to chart the course of Jewish history in America. Researchers at the Archives have collected a wide range of material that allows students of the American Jewish experience to track the Sephardic Jewish community as it matured from a small group of refugees to its present situation as a multi-ethnic society with a rich variation of customs, traditions and styles of worship.   The Milken Archives presents its research in several collections of recordings including Jewish Voices in the New World: The Song of Prayer in Colonial and 19th-Century America.The volume reviews some of the best-known Sephardic prayers along with their original compositions and melodies, many of which are still sung and chanted in American Sephardic congregations that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Other works presented at the Archives include Ladino — the vernacular of Mediterranean and Iberian Sephardic Jews — songs and compositions such as traditional Ladino folk songs which can be heard on the Ladino Songs of Love and Suffering album.   The Archives, started by Jewish businessman Lowell Milken also features historical memorabilia, videos, photographs and oral histories which lend depth and content to the material which is contained in the alb

Historians continue to review the importance of Sephardi Jewry as it has evolved throughout American Jewish history. The study of the Sephardi community within the American Jewish experience offers fresh insights into the present American Jewish community.

 

Sephardi Jews were the first Jewish immigrants in the New World. They traveled to South America to flee the Spanish and Portuguese Inquisitions.  When the Inquisition reached the shores of the new colonies many of these Jewish refugees left their homes to travel northward. The earliest of these Jewish settlers reached South Carolina and then continued northward to Virginia, Rhode Island and New York before spreading out to other colonies and, eventually, westward.

 

The history of these Sephardi settlers is now being researched by the Lowell Milken Archives. The Archives use the chants, prayers, liturgy and music of each successive generation of American Jews to chart the course of Jewish history in America. Researchers at the Archives have collected a wide range of material that allows students of the American Jewish experience to track the Sephardic Jewish community as it matured from a small group of refugees to its present situation as a multi-ethnic society with a rich variation of customs, traditions and styles of worship.

 

The Milken Archives presents its research in several collections of recordings including Jewish Voices in the New World: The Song of Prayer in Colonial and 19th-Century America.The volume reviews some of the best-known Sephardic prayers along with their original compositions and melodies, many of which are still sung and chanted in American Sephardic congregations that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Other works presented at the Archives include Ladino — the vernacular of Mediterranean and Iberian Sephardic Jews — songs and compositions such as traditional Ladino folk songs which can be heard on the Ladino Songs of Love and Suffering album.

 

The Archives, started by Jewish businessman Lowell Milken also features historical memorabilia, videosphotographs and oral histories which lend depth and content to the material which is contained in the albums.

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