Food, music, prayer and discussion will provide an engaging glimpse of an ancient culture and the people who still connect with it, as part of “Sephardic Weekend.”
Hosted by Congregation Bet Haverim’s Adult Education Committee, it will run Friday through Sunday, Nov. 17-19, at 1715 Anderson Road in Davis.
Sephardic Jews ethnically descend from the Iberian Peninsula of the late 15th century, prior to the Spanish inquisition. Now spread throughout the world, a distinct way of life emerged and continues among Jews who trace their heritage back to Spain, Portugal, Morocco and other adjacent lands.
The celebration of the Sephardim at Bet Haverim will begin at 8 p.m. Friday with Shabbat (Sabbath) services in the sanctuary, highlighted by Sephardic-themed liturgical music. Vocals will be led by Davis-based Student Cantor Shayndel Adler-Eldridge and Cantor Ben Rosner, who serves the Mosaic Law Congregation in Sacramento.
Traditional Sephardic pastries and cookies will add to the festive mood following the service.
Saturday morning Shabbat (Sabbath) services will feature the chanting of the haftorah, a sacred text, in a distinctive Sephardic trope. A lunch event, “Abrahamic Co-Living in Morocco,” will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Social Hall, bringing together David Amar, a Moroccan Jew and Bet Haverim member, and Kamal Lenseffer, a Moroccan Muslim and Davis resident, to share their common experiences of growing up in 1960s Morocco and later doing business in the country as young adults.
“When I met David last summer on a visit to the synagogue, it was like I’d known him for years,” Lenseffer recalled. “We had an instant connection through our shared Moroccan roots, languages and the history of Muslims and Jews living together there peacefully for many centuries.
“It will be our pleasure to share this at the lunch, and to show the hospitality of Morocco through the traditions of our foods, clothing and music as well,” he added.
Attendees will be treated to Moroccan Jewish/Arab fusion cuisine. RSVPs and voluntary donations may be made at https://www.bethaverim.org/education/adult-education/sephardicweekend.
Later on Saturday, Student Cantor Adler-Eldridge and Cantor Rosner will return to present “A Journey Through Sephardic Music,” a concert featuring the secular and devotional music of the Jews of Spain and Portugal. The performances will take place in the sanctuary starting at 7 p.m.
Advance tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children under age 13, and are available at https://www.bethaverim.org/education/adult-education/sephardicweekend. Admission at the door will be $13 for adults and $8 for children. A reception will follow.
“Our pieces are reflective of the darkness and light of Jewish life in old Spain, and subsequent exile in the Ottoman Empire and Arab lands,” Rosner said. “From light-hearted folk tunes to haunting melodies, this music is a gateway to the understanding of an ancient culture and its people.”
Concluding the weekend of activities on Sunday afternoon will be “A Sefer Torah’s Journey From Morocco,” presented by Deanna Pool, a Moroccan native now living in Kansas City, known for her Sephardic spiritual and cultural expertise. She was featured in the book, “The Jews in America,” as well as in a one-hour Steven Spielberg documentary, “Archive on Morocco,” and is a Missouri regional representative of the American Sephardi Federation.
Pool’s talk will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. in the Social Hall and requires no RSVP; voluntary donations are welcome.
“The Sefer Torah journey is the story of the faith and courage of a Jewish man and woman who risked loss of honor and freedom to keep a promise,” Pool explained. “The uninterrupted presence and history of Jews in Morocco spans 20 to 25 centuries, and is the largest community of Jews in the Arab world.
“Understanding the Moroccan Jewish experience and their relationship with their Muslim brethren sheds light on the roots and complexities of current conflicts in Israel, and ways to work toward resolution and eventual peace,” she added.
To learn more about “Sephardic Weekend” plans at Bet Haverim, visit www.bethaverim.org/education/adult-education/sephardicweekend, or contact the synagogue office at [email protected] or 530-758-0842.