Organisations & Initiatives About Sephardi Jews

Sephardi Voices, an oral history project that collects testimonies from Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews who fled to the UK from North Africa, the Middle East and Iran essentially during the second half of the 20th century. The website includes information about the approximately 80 individuals who were interviewed, but the recordings themselves are held in the British Library’s sound archives.

Jewish Museum exhibition on ‘Sephardi Voices (2017), accompanying the above project. 

Routes of Sepharad, English-language version of Spanish multimedia resource (‘Caminos de Sefarad’) that charts the Sephardi presence in Spain through interactive maps, images and chronologies; an initiative of the Red de Juderías de España.

Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain, a membership organisation whose aims include the encouragement of genealogical research and the promotion/preservation of Jewish Genealogical records. It runs a Dutch and Sephardi special interest group which organises occasional meetings (although its pages on the JGSGB website appear to be reserved for members).

General Anglo-Sephardi History

The Jewish community of London, a summarised history, including a short account of the resettlement of Jews in the 1650s, on the website of the Museum of the Jewish People, in Israel.

‘Tracing the first Jews of Britain’, a piece on the BBC website (2006), with information about selected families.

‘A short history of Anglo-Jewry: the Jews of Britain, 1656-2006’, by Paul Vallely; an article published in 2006 in The Independent, covering both Sephardi and Ashkenazi history.

‘The Jews of Bristol’, by Alex Schlesinger. A history of the Jewish community in Bristol, although not specifically focused on Sephardis.   

‘Bath’, by Marcus Roberts. A history of the Sephardic Jews in Bath, from the website of the National Anglo-Jewish Heritage Trail.

Sephardi Jews – History In The Caribbean

‘The Jews of Jamaica’, by Yvette Alt Miller (2016), a piece on the Aish website, covering both history and culture.

‘Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean’, by Gil Stern Zohar, a 2016 article in The Jerusalem Post. This covers the general history of Jewish settlement and economic activity in the Caribbean, as well as a more specific details on Jewish pirates and buccaneers.

‘The forgotten Jewish Pirates of Jamaica’, by Ross Kenneth Urken, writing a travel piece in the Smithsonian website in 2016. More broadly than just recalling piracy, this piece describes the documentation of Jewish history in Jamaica since the 17th century, with some reference to the relationship between Judaism and Rastafarianism.

‘Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean?’, by Andrée Aelion Brooks, in Hadassah Magazine (2008); this article examines the reality and myths surrounding supposed Jewish piracy in the Caribbean, and casts some doubt about the extent to which Jews were involved in piracy.

The Mile End Cemeteries

‘The Novo Cemetery’, an authoritative history and description of the Novo Cemetery, compiled by Historic England. The Cemetery has been inscribed on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens because of its special historic interest, hence its cataloguing by Historic England. The web page also includes a list of useful references.

‘At The Velho & Alderney Rd Cemeteries’, a description of the Velho Cemetery with over 30 photos of graves and other cemetery features, from the Spitalfields Life blog (2014).

‘Novo Beth Chaim: an old Jewish cemetery marooned on a university campus’, a description of the Novo Cemetery with 16 photos and a short reference list, from the Flickering Lamps blog (2015).

Sephardi / Ladino Music

Sephardic music – a century of recordings, a comprehensive website compiled by Joel Bresler that showcases over 100 years of recorded Sephardic music. Contains much information about the history of Sephardi music and musical styles, as well as extracts from selected recordings across the years and an index of musicians.

Folk literature of the Sephardic Jews, an extensive multimedia archive of ballads and other oral literature in Ladino, collected between 1957 and 1993 and currently hosted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. All the recorded tapes and transcripts are freely available on the site.

‘Sepharad, music of Sephardic Jews’, a half hour film (1991), outlining the Sephardi musical tradition. The film is an independent production, reproduced on the site of the Jewish Music Research Centre at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The quality of the sound of the recording is good, but the visual elements are unfortunately of poor definition.

Selected musicians / musical ensembles specialising in Sephardi / Ladino music:
  • La Roza Enflorese – A Belgian group which has been interpreting the Sephardic monodic repertoire since 2000. Originating in an oral tradition, these songs are open to a wide range of interpretative possibilities. Made up of five musicians with a variety of backgrounds, the ensemble presents these songs as an encounter between early, traditional and modern music, drawing both on instrumental techniques inspired by popular music and on improvisation.
  • Los Desterrados – a north London ensemble bringing new life to the ancient music of the Sephardic Jews. Fusing Spanish Flamenco and the fiery Gypsy melodies of the Balkans and Greece with the rhythms of North Africa and Turkey, Los Desterrados have created a Mediterranean sound that is wholly their own. Their repertoire is sung mainly in Ladino.
  • Yair Dalal – Israeli composer, violinist, oud player and singer of Iraki origin. A prolific ethnic musician, plays an important role in shaping the global world music scene. Over the last decade he has put 12 albums, covering wide and varied cultural territory, and authentically representing Israeli, Jewish and Middle Eastern cultures and fusing them through music as whole.
  • Yamma Ensemble – a leading Israeli world music ensemble which presents original contemporary Hebrew music, but whose repertoire includes the traditional music and material of the various Jewish diasporas. Songs of the Jewish communities from Yemen, Babylon, and Sepharad, as well as Hasidic music, with the forms and rhythms that have been preserved by generations of Jewish traditions.
Examples of Sephardi / Ladino song recordings:

Cordoba International Festival of Sephardi Music, a one-hour film from the 16th edition of the Festival, in 2017.

Liturgical music of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews of London, an extensive archive of recordings (including a CD of celebratory chants, with choir) from the S&P Sephardi Community.

Sephardi Food

Portuguese-Jewish exiles turned chips with fish into our national dish’, by Samuel Muston. An article in The Independent (2015) that explores the possible Sephardi origins of fish & chips.

‘As British as fish and chips’, a piece on the website of the National Federation of Fish Friers, with a section on the Sephardi origins of fried fish.