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The history and culture of Sephardic Jewry can be found in the rich repertoire of Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) folksongs. These folksongs reflect on Jewish traditions and stories as well as universal human themes such as love, death, and despair. In the 20th and 21st century Western classical composers such as Alberto Hemsi, Yehezkel Braun, Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Joaquin Rodrigo, Wolf Simoni (Louis Saguer), Lazare Saminsky, Paul Ben-Haim, and others used these melodies to create a repertoire of Ladino Art Songs.

These Art songs provided the composers a way to preserve the folksongs and, in many cases, an avenue through which they could reflect on their own heritage. The musical styles of these songs draw on diverse traditions ranging from Spanish, Greek, Balkan, and Turkish/Ottoman folk and classical traditions as well as Western classical music more broadly.

YIVO presents a lecture recital about this fascinating and little known repertoire led by mezzo-soprano and music scholar Lori Şen. Şen will discuss the history, language, and culture of the Sephardim, with a special focus on the elements and stylistic features of Sephardic music. The lecture will be followed by a recital of Sephardic songs for voice, piano, and guitar for which Şen will be joined by guitarist Jeremy Lyons and pianist Alexei Ulitin.

The Sidney Krum Young Artists Concert Series is made possible by a generous gift from the Estate of Sidney Krum. Sephardic Art Song: A Musical Legacy of the Sephardic Diaspora by mezzo-soprano and music scholar Lori Şen on Tuesday, 23 June at 3:00 PM EDT - Lecture (Zoom) Complimentary RSVP; Registration required Sign-up Now! 4:00PM EDT - Concert – Facebook and Youtube Live


Eighty years ago, a middle-aged, mid-ranking diplomat sank into deep depression and watched his hair turn grey in days, as he saw the streets of Bordeaux filling with Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis.

As Portugal's consul in Bordeaux, Aristides de Sousa Mendes faced a moral dilemma. Should he obey government orders or listen to his own conscience and supply Jews with the visas that would allow them to escape from advancing German forces?

Sousa Mendes' remarkable response means he is remembered as a hero by survivors and descendants of the thousands he helped to flee.

But his initiative also spelt the end of a diplomatic career under Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, and the rest of his life was spent in penury.

Portugal finally granted official recognition to its disobedient diplomat on 9 June, and parliament decided a monument in the National Pantheon should bear his name.

Why Bordeaux?

It was mid-June 1940 and Hitler's forces were days from completing victory over France. Paris fell on 14 June and an armistice was signed just over a week later.

Portugal's diplomatic corps was under strict instruction from the right-wing Salazar dictatorship that visas should be issued to refugee Jews and stateless people only with express permission from Lisbon.

For those thronging Bordeaux's streets hoping to cross into Spain and escape Nazi persecution there was no time to wait.

"We heard the French had surrendered and the Germans were on the move," says Henri Dyner. He was three, but retains vivid memories of his Jewish family's flight from their home in Antwerp, as Nazi Germany attacked Belgium and invaded France and the Netherlands.

"What I remember is the sound of the bombing, which must have woken me, and my mother telling me it was thunder.

"My parents turned on the radio and heard King Leopold telling Belgians we had been betrayed and attacked by the Germans. My father had been suspecting there could be a war since 1938. He had a plan, and a car," Mr Dyner, now a retired engineer living in New York, told the BBC.

Eliezar Dyner, his wife Sprince and five other relatives, including a seven-month-old baby, drove away from the bombing and into France.

"My father avoided big roads, gave Paris a wide berth and stuck to the coast. He wanted to be only 10 miles ahead of the front all the time, because he thought it could be a quick war and why go too far when you might have to go back?"

After seeing German warplanes strafing French trenches and hearing the news of successive German victories, Henri's father realized by the time they reached Bordeaux there would be no return to Antwerp any time soon.

Moral crisis and nervous breakdown

In Bordeaux, the consul had struck up a friendship with a rabbi. Chaim Kruger had also fled the Nazi advance from his home in Belgium.

Consul Sousa Mendes offered the rabbi and his immediate family safe passage across the Spanish border, but then suffered a "moral crisis", according to historian Mordecai Paldiel.

Kruger refused the offer, as he could not abandon the thousands of other Jewish refugees in Bordeaux.

In a letter dated 13 June 1940 Sousa Mendes wrote: "Here the situation is horrible, and I am in bed because of a strong nervous breakdown."

"No-one really knows what went through his mind in those two or three days," says Dr Paldiel, who ran the Righteous Among the Nations department at Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre for 25 years.

"Some say the duty of a diplomat is to obey orders from above, even if those instructions are not moral.

"Later on, in Lisbon, Sousa Mendes told a rabbi this: 'If so many Jews can suffer because of one Catholic, it's all right for one Catholic to suffer for many Jews.' He was talking about Hitler, of course."

'No more nationalities'

Whatever did go through the diplomat's mind, Sousa Mendes emerged on Monday 17 June with a new determination.

According to his son, Pedro Nuno de Sousa Mendes, "he strode out of his bedroom, flung open the door to the chancellery, and announced in a loud voice: 'From now on I'm giving everyone visas. There will be no more nationalities, races or religions'."

By chance Henri's mother knew the consul from his time in Antwerp, where she was a secretary at the British consulate.

The Dyner family had already tried and failed to obtain visas from US, British and Canadian authorities to leave France. Before his breakdown, Sousa Mendes had put them on a list in a request sent to the Salazar government.

"My mother recalls that he disappeared for a couple of days, and when he came out, his hair had gone grey," says Henri Dyner, who remembers queues of refugees outside the consulate in Bordeaux and camping in squares.

"My mother actually began to work for Sousa Mendes those days, helping with this kind of production line of visas all down a long table. Sousa Mendes saved our lives."

Corridor to Spain

No-one knows for sure how many transit visas were issued, allowing refugees to pass from France into Spain and travel onward to Portugal. But estimates range between 10,000 and 30,000, and most sought to cross the Atlantic to a variety of American destinations.

The US-based Sousa Mendes Foundation has identified some 3,800 recipients of these visas.

As if possessed with a sense of mission, the consul even signed visas on the road as crowds in Bordeaux began to form a human column southward towards the border town of Hendaye. He stopped at the consulate in Bayonne to issue more papers.

The foreign ministry in Lisbon began sending cablegrams to Bordeaux, ordering him to desist, amid reports from colleagues that he had "lost his senses".

Spanish authorities declared his visas invalid, but thousands had already made it across the Bidasoa river into Spain's Basque region.
Eventually, Sousa Mendes reported to his bosses in Lisbon on 8 July.

Among those who escaped occupied France thanks to his visas were surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, filmmaker King Vidor, members of the Rothschild banking family and the majority of Belgium's future government-in-exile.

Cont'd at Column 2


The Jewish Observer,

Los Angeles

30 Sivan-6 Tammuz, 5780                                     June 22-28, 2020 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES--637th Web Ed.



More than 600 rabbis, cantors and seminary students from across the country, including Partners for Progressive Israel’s Board Member, Rabbi Andrea London, have signed on to a public letter warning that the Israeli government’s threatened unilateral annexation in the West Bank “would be a catastrophic mistake…violate human rights, weaken democracy, and make Israelis and Palestinians less secure.”

The letter, signed by clergy representing the entire range of the Jewish community, including the Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and Renewal movements, is just the latest demonstration of the American Jewish community’s overwhelming opposition to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plan, which could move forward as early as July 1. It was organized by the Progressive Israel Network, a coalition of ten progressive pro-Israel groups.

“[Annexation] gambles with long-established peace agreements in exchange for enacting a messianist and ultra-nationalist fantasy that violates Jewish values of dignity for every human being, legal equality for all people, and the commitment to pursuing peace,” the clergy members write. “Such a move will also drive more and more young people in Jewish communities away from Israel, as the most visible expressions of Zionism become ever more divorced from the principles of democracy and neighborliness expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.”

The letter builds on the nearly across-the-board public opposition to annexation from Partners for Progressive Israel as well as major Jewish organizations including the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of Jewish Women, Reconstructing Judaism, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and many others.


The author and illustrator was best known for The Tiger Who Came to Tea book and the Mog series.

Judith was born in 1923 in Germany. Her family was Jewish and her father was very critical of Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party.

Because of this it became unsafe for the family to stay in Germany so they fled the country to London - Judith was 13 at the time.

Judith wrote about being a refugee in some of her books, including When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.


A special meeting of the Board of the IRWF took place on June 17th, 2020, coinciding with the Day of Conscience.

It is believed that on June 17th, 1940, Aristides de Sousa Mendes, decided to ignore the directives of the Portuguese government, outlined in the infamous Circular 40, and following his own humanitarian conscience he made-up his mind to offer life-saving transit visas to thousands of Jews who were facing the cruelest of destinies in the hands of the Nazis. That is how Sousa Mendes saved the lives of some 10,000 souls.

The Day of Conscience was born out of the mind of our dear friend and member of our Foundation, Mr. Joao Cristosomo, who worked nights and days to make this dream come true, calling upon churches, synagogues and mosques to remember this day.

In a general audience held on last June 17th by Pope Francis, himself a honorary member of the IRWF, the Pontiff praised Aristides de Sousa Mendes, saying that "Today is the 'Day of Conscience', inspired by the witness of the Portuguese diplomat Aristides de Sousa Mendes, who around 80 years ago declared to follow the voice of his conscience and saved the lives of thousands of Jews and other persecuted people". The Pope went on and added: "May freedom of conscience be respected always and everywhere, and may every Christian give the example of the consistency of an upright conscience enlightened by the Word of G-d".

In a joint statement made by Mr. Eduardo Eurnekian and Mr. Baruch Tenembaum, Chairman and Founder of the IRWF respectively, they called upon all the religious communities around the world to pray for the memory of this great Portuguese hero who acted according to his moral principles, regardless of the hefty price he had to pay.

The IRWF has paid tribute to Sousa Mendes on various occasions, including the commission of a commemorative stamp bearing his semblance, which was issued by the Israeli Postal Authority.



At this time during a normal year, 5,000 friends and family of Yeshiva University would be filling the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City for the 89th Annual Commencement Exercises celebrating the Class of 2020.

However, 2020 has been anything but a normal year for universities and their graduating classes.

Undaunted by the COVID-19 restrictions against large gatherings, the Yeshiva University Committee on Ceremonial Occasions soldiered on to create a virtual graduation ceremony that invited thousands of people from around the world to share in celebrating the trials and triumphs of the Class of 2020. The Committee managed to curate a literal avalanche of materials submitted by hundreds of people (including video, photos, texts and links) into a trim hour of remembrance, commemoration and cheerfulness.

“It was a true partnership,” said Aliza Berenholz Peled, Senior Director of Events, “of the events team along with Matthew Schwartz, Director of Marketing, and his photo and video team and countless others across the network to make this all come to life.”

The new format gave the eight undergraduate valedictorians a greater voice in articulating the hopes, dreams and trepidations of the 1,700 students receiving diplomas as they emceed sections of the event. Each of the undergraduate and graduate deans had a moment in the spotlight as they announced their graduating classes, and while the students didn’t have the chance to cross an actual stage applauded by everyone in the house, participants did get to see them scroll by in cap and gown, thanks to a colossal effort by the Committee to mail the gowns and mortarboards to every graduate, no matter where he or she lived in the world. One unique interactive feature gave
people the ability to send in emoji reactions and text messages in real time, which, while no real substitute for actual applause and cheering, still had a dynamic quality to is as the feed scrolled by displaying dozens and dozens and dozens of submissions.

Another standout in a day of standouts was that this commencement marked the first graduating class of the Makor College Experience, a longstanding collaboration between Yeshiva University and Makor Disability Services that gives young college-aged men with intellectual disability the opportunity to pursue their studies on a college campus.
Because the emphasis, as Peled pointed out, was on applauding “the remarkable achievements of our graduates,” having a keynote speaker was replaced by congratulations and compliments recorded by such notable personalities as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Natan Sharansky (human rights activist), Nancy Spielberg (filmmaker), Eli Beer (founder of United Hatzalah), Judge Ruchie Freier (founder of Ezras Nashim), Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Sivan Rahav-Meir (journalist), Charlie Harary (world-renowned motivational speaker), Isaac Herzog (chair of The Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman), Ambassador Danny Ayalon, Mayim Bialik (actress), Tamir Goodman (former pro basketball player) and Bruce Beck (lead sports anchor, WNBC-TV).

YU faculty members also sent in their recorded best wishes for the success and advancement of the Class of 2020.
The ceremony began with a thoughtful and heartfelt benediction by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. He believed that Yeshiva University graduates were uniquely well-equipped to prevail over the disruptions caused by the pandemic because the values of their education have given them three things: an internal moral compass to give them proper guidance, a foundation of emotional and spiritual strength that allows them to grow stronger under pressure, and the impulse to rebuild a world greatly in need of repair. He ended by encouraging the graduates to go out into the world as “proud ambassadors” of a great institution.
Rabbi Sacks’ stirring call was followed by soulful renditions of the national anthem and Hatikvah by the acapella singing group, the Maccabeats. Moshael Strauss, chairman of the YU Board of Trustees, spoke eloquently about the meaningful impact the graduates will have upon a much-changed world but also noted, in a video tribute to those in the YU community who have passed away, the grief that YU has suffered in losing so many that were so dear to all.
Dr. Ari Berman, President of Yeshiva University, gave an earnest sermon about the difference between what he called consumer values and covenantal values and how that difference should guide the graduates’ lives.
Consumer values are all about how a transaction, based on due diligence, leads to individual benefit: “First you gain the knowledge,” he noted, “then you make the commitment.”
On the other hand, covenantal values emphasize the risk and vulnerability that come from making a commitment without have a starting point of full knowledge, as often happens in deeply committed relationships among people. Those taking a covenantal approach to life, said Dr. Berman, become involved in “the joy of discovery [and] mystery.”

Transaction versus transformation: this is the core difference Dr. Berman drew between the two approaches to life. While the transactional is necessary to success in life, it is never sufficient. Only the transformational can ensure that that success has meaning and purpose through its emphasis on “resilience, empathy, commitment, loyalty, curiosity, discovery.”

He ended by encouraging them keep to the course set by the covenantal values that Yeshiva University has given to them as they “live through a challenging time brimming with opportunities. May you find joy in your life, love in your heart and purpose in all that you do.”

The ceremony ended with an upbeat video montage of the graduates hugging their loved ones, dancing and singing, and tossing their mortarboards high into the air. A recording of the ceremony, along with a photo gallery and a collection of memories, can be found at https://classof2020.yu.edu/graduates.


Cont'd from Column 1

Who got out?

Salazar's Portugal would later be praised for its role in allowing refugees to escape from Nazi occupation and repression, but Sousa Mendes was expelled from the diplomatic corps and left without a pension.

His family home in Cabanas de Viriato fell into ruin, though the exterior has since been restored.

"Sousa Mendes was mistreated by Salazar. He died in misery as a pauper, and his children emigrated to try to find a future somewhere else," says Henri Dyner.

Henri's family ended up in Brazil, before he moved to the US for professional reasons. But he remembers a man who had courage in his convictions.

"The way things are in the world today, we need more people prepared to stand up for what is right and take a stand."

Who was Aristides de Sousa Mendes?

    1885: Born into a well-to-do Portuguese family. He was an "outgoing bon vivant" and had 15 children, says grandson Gerald Mendes
    Salazar's decision to strip him of his job and pension "condemned (him) to live the rest of his life in the most absolute misery", he says
    Sousa Mendes survives thanks to a soup kitchen run by Lisbon's Jewish community
    1954: He dies in obscurity, still disgraced in the eyes of Portugal's government
    1966: Yad Vashem recognises him as Righteous Among Nations
    1988: Portuguese parliament posthumously withdraws disciplinary charges against him.