The Music of Jewish Spain

The words song, Jewish, and Spain all have special significance to me; therefore, when a poster advertising the event Sephardic music: Songs of Devotion and Desire: The Musical Heritage of Jewish Spain caught my eye, I was immediately enthralled. I love listening to live musicians, have a deep personal connection to Judaism, and adore Spanish language and culture. Although I had a crazy Monday due to cancelled flights back to campus and was extremely tired by evening, this was an event I knew I could not miss. Entering Pitman Recital Hall, I was extremely curious as to what exactly I was about to experience; it seemed like such a perfect collision of my interests.
The event began with a short lecture about the history of Jews living in Spain and in Sephardic communities outside of Spain (these emerged after Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492). Although people most commonly associate religion in Spain with Catholicism, a rich Jewish history existed there for many years prior to the domination of the Catholic Church. Important figures emerged from Spain during this time, including the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides and several significant Jewish poets.
After the professor concluded his talk, the musical portion of the night began. Janice Meyerson, the singer, floated onto the stage in a long black gown, followed by her accompanist. As his fingers danced along the piano keys, her operatic voice filled the hall with the sounds of a spectacular cultural heritage. While I recognized signature elements of the Jewish musical style, it was a new experience to hear them played with ladino words. (Ladino is the Sephardic Jewish dialect of Spanish). Some of the lyrics were a blend of Hebrew and Spanish, and this unique intersection of language was absolutely amazing to discover, as I never knew such a thing existed. The songs Ms. Meyerson sang revolved around love and desire, and I couldn’t help but fall in love with the magic of the music of Jewish Spain.


The Holocaust was an extremely horrific event in history; millions of innocent people were murdered due to prejudice, antisemitism, and hatred, and it is a hard thing for many people to talk about. However, for professor Deborah Lipstadt, talking about the Holocaust turned into a fight to prove its authenticity. The movie Denial is based on the true story of how she was challenged in court by famous Holocaust denier David Irving. After discrediting him in her book Denying the Holocaust , he takes her to court for allegedly slandering his name. In the subsequent court proceedings, Deborah’s dedicated legal team endeavors to prove that Irving intentionally twisted the meaning of historical documents to suit his personal view that the Holocaust was invented by the Jews and never really happened. It is a battle to prove that the Holocaust happened, to have this tragedy legally recognized as a part of history. It tells the incredible story of a woman who dedicates herself to fighting for the truth.
The Schusterman Center for Judaic Studies and OU Hillel co-sponsored a showing of the movie Denial several weeks ago, and since then I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about its significance and relevance in a world that is once again becoming increasingly antisemitic. We cannot allow the Holocaust to slip from our memory, as bomb threats are regularly being called into Jewish Community Centers around the nation and antisemitic messages are being spread. Allowing ourselves to forget about the Holocaust is just as dangerous as denying it ever happened – acknowledging and learning from the horrors of the past is the only way we will ever be able to move forward toward a brighter future.