Archive for the 'Center for Jewish History' Category

14
Mar
12

The Knighting of a Rabbi


This past Sunday, March 11th, a most extraordinary singular ceremony was held at the auditorium of the Center for Jewish History, in Manhattan, to a standing room only crowd. Rabbi Raphael Benchimol, chief rabbi of Manhattan Sephardic Congregation became a Knight of the Order of the Throne by order of His Majesty the King, Mohammed VI (Ṣāḥib al-Jalālah al-Malik Muḥammad al-Sādis) of Morocco.

The evening opened with Mistress of Ceremonies, Founder and Honorary President of the American Sephardic Federation, Liliane Shalom introducing the event, and dignitaries present (members of the diplomatic corps, activists and more).

Liliane Shalom, Founder and former President of the American Sephardic Federation, was the evening’s emcee. She was knighted in 1987 by His Majesty the King Mohammed VI’s father, King Hassan II, in 1987.

Marc Hazan, Cantor at Manhattan Sephardic Congregation sang beautiful renditions of the American and Moroccan national anthems.

Marc Hazan, singing with feeling!

Mr. David Dangoor, President of the American Sephardi Federation, followed with the opening remarks. Rabbi Marc SchneierPresident of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and Rabbi of the star-studded Hampton Synagogue, spoke next. He opened his speech with an amusing and well known anecdote concerning Pablo Picasso.

An art dealer once came to Pablo Picasso with a painting, purportedly signed by the artist, to have its authenticity verified. Picasso quickly looked at it and pronounced it a fake. Three years later, the same dealer came back with another painting and an impoverished artist in tow, and once again Picasso pronounced it a fake.

Enraged, the impecunious painter cried out: “But Pablo, I saw you paint it and you yourself gave it to me!” to which Picasso responded, “Pablo Picasso also paints fake Picassos sometimes.”

The point of the anecdote was that we all “paint fakes,” all except the evening’s honoree,whose indefatigable work on behalf of his people radiates his true luminosity constituting Rabbi Raphael Benchimol’s  core badge of honor… Rabbi Raphael Benchimol, whose genuineness, has repeatedly shown he does not “paint fakes;” his work as a rabbi, his travails on behalf of his congregation, his espousal of causes that benefit Moroccan Jewry, his heartfelt speeches and deep wonderful insights on Torah prove he only is capable of “painting” what’s truly real…

Royal Ambassador Serge Berdugo – who flew in from Morocco followed. He spoke of the Moroccan Jewish Community then and now, the love of His Majesty for the tradition and rich history of Jews in in the kingdom and the peaceful coexistence between the kingdom’s various faiths.

Royal Ambassador and President of the Jewish community of Casablanca, Serge Berdugo.

He mentioned the Preamble of the New Constitution adopted by Referendum on the 1st of July 2011, establishing that the National Unity, forged by the convergence of its Arab-Islamist, Berber [amazighe] and Saharan-Hassanic, [saharo-hassanie] components, is nourished and enriched by its African, Andalusian, Hebraic and Mediterranean influences [affluents]“.

Ambassador Berdugo presented Rabbi Benchimol, a medal bestowed on him by King Mohammed VI and a proclamation naming him a Knight of the Order of the Throne.

Wearing the medal making him a Knight of the Order of the Throne, Rabbi Raphael Benchimol accepts the honor, humbly but eloquently.

Rabbi Benchimol concluded his remarks with a blessing in Hebrew for the King of Morocco and the Royal Household in and then translated it to English for the enthralled attendees. He then unveiled a gift to His Majesty, a magnificent silver crown encased in a glass case and wood case.

Rabbi Benchimol, Ambassador Rachad Bouhlal (Morrocco’s Ambassador to the US), Royal Ambassador Serge Berdugo Kink Mohammed VI’s representative to this event), Consul General of Morocco, Mohamed Karmoune standing beside the silver crown given to His Majesty the King Mohammed VI.

Rabbi Benchimol explained that the silver crown is traditionally used to adorn the holy Torah scroll.  He elaborated that this gift was specifically chosen in gratitude to His Majesty and to his predecessors, who as Commanders of the Faithful have for generations protected and preserved Judaism in Morocco.

The inscription on the display case reads:

To His Majesty, Mohammed VI King of Morocco
With our Deepest Gratitude
Manhattan Sephardic Congregation
“May G-d Always watch over you and protect you”

A partial view of the crowded auditorium.

Ambassador Serge Berdugo gave a video presentation on the extensive and elaborate Jewish cemetery project under way in Morocco.

The ceremony ended with the Moroccan Ambassador to the US, His Excellency Rachad Bouhlal reminiscences of his childhood and the respect Moroccan children were taught to have for their elders regardless of religious creed.

The evening ended with light dips, salads, cakes and a superb Moroccan coffee in a room transformed to look like a Moroccan lounge. A truly memorable evening for a most exceptional man. May his many merits, both hidden and known, inspire us all to meritorious action on behalf of our people and fellow citizens of the world.

CS

05
Oct
11

Yeshiva University Museum – Part 1


Yesterday I visited the Yeshiva University Museum and was given a tour of the current exhibits by Assistant Curator Zachary Paul Levine. The Museum is housed at the Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011).

Center for Jewish History Photo from Citysearch.com

CJH (an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution) is home to five institutions: American Jewish History Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, Yeshiva University Museum and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, all five present interesting exhibits and programs of interest to every Jew, all five boast impressive collections of historical, artistic and cultural items.

Three exhibits are, at present, running concurrently at the Yeshiva University Museum; these are: Jews on Vinyl (July 24, 2011 – January 8, 2012), Prophecy of Place: Quintan Ana Wikswo (August 14, 2011 – January 22, 2012) and Graphic Details: Confessional Comics by Jewish Women (September 25, 2011 – April 15, 2012).

Jews on Vinyl brought back many memories and some nice surprises as I listened to some of my long forgotten favorites of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s and was pleasantly surprised and touched by some non Jews singing Kol Nidre, Eli Eli or Mein Yiddische Mamme. Yes, folks, you can listen to some highlights of the LP collection, they will delight you, they will surprise you, they will touch you and even make you want to dance!

Powerful, haunting, dream like...

I was touched by this very different photo exhibit. As the press release says:

Wikswo uses damaged and salvaged antique military cameras and battlefield typewriters to explore the startling ecological beauty that obscures “traumatized” sites of crimes against humanity, and to uncover the intergenerational legacies surrounding them. These fiercely mysterious images and starkly graceful prose poems create a powerful encounter with violence and beauty revealed through a fractured, unsettling lens.

Created between 2008-2011 in Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Finland and Russia, Prophecy of Place presents kaleidoscopic portraits of the astonishing and often invisible histories hidden at the heart of communities where Jews encountered exile, shelter and trauma.

Traversing 10 centuries, eight countries and five languages, the exhibition is a deeply immersive engagement with the legacy of Jewish survival and the struggle with other cultures through luminous, prismatic, multi-part contemporary photographs of villages, cities, shtetls and camps – sites where Jews have faced devastating attacks or attempts at cultural annihilation.

Some images make it hard to imagine the horrors Jews in these places once experienced, yet the poetry, subtly, makes it clear. Without minimizing the evil, Quintan Ana Wikswo‘s words give hope while making us aware of the terror.  She gives a voice to all the nameless Jews tortured and murdered, whose cries can never be heard, whose names have long been forgotten. As I looked at these unsettling images, as I read some of her accompanying prose poems, every unheeded cry somehow pierced my heart, every tear seared it. But… you will not see any image depicting the pain, the brutality, the fear, the death…

Well worth a visit, gentle reader!

CS

RELATED POSTS

Yeshiva University Museum – Part 2




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