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Dancing in the Shadows
by Marvin M. Cohen


Overview -

The Sephardics are the "lost Jews of America"--the dark-skinned descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, who found new homes in the Balkans, the Mideast and North Africa.

Dancing in the Shadows is their fascinating story, told through one unforgettable family.  Read more...


 
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More About Dancing in the Shadows by Marvin M. Cohen
 
 
 
Overview

The Sephardics are the "lost Jews of America"--the dark-skinned descendants of the Jews expelled from Spain in 1492, who found new homes in the Balkans, the Mideast and North Africa.

Dancing in the Shadows is their fascinating story, told through one unforgettable family.

Dancing in the Shadows is Cohen's novelized treatment of the stories he heard repeatedly from his grandparents, parents, uncles and aunts about the multitude of generations that made up his unique family. Through his retelling, Cohen describes his family's struggles to balance tradition against assimilation. He tells their dramatic story of love, loss, and strength in a work that makes the vibrant Sephardic culture come alive once again.

Relying heavily on his maternal grandmother's lore, Cohen recreates the lost world of his Sephardic ancestors. From the Ottoman Empire to Jerusalem to their eventual assimilation in America's melting pot, his family moved across continents in search of home and safety. Follow his proud family's heritage back to third-century Himyarite Yemen when that land was ruled by three Jewish kings. For nearly a thousand years, his Sephardic family was entrusted with protecting an ancient scroll of the biblical Book of Esther, saved from the ruins of the Temple of Solomon, and which contains powerful secrets for Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Growing up in a Sephardic home, Marvin Cohen knew his family was very different from the more numerous Ashkenazi Jews in Brooklyn and Manhattan's lower East Side. His family had very dark skin; they ate different foods and practiced different religious rituals. They didn't speak or understand Yiddish, but rather, spoke Ladino, an almost extinct Judeo-Spanish tongue descended from fifteenth century Spain.

This poignant memoir follows the life of Cohen's grandmother, his nonna, from her childhood in the Ottoman Empire to her death in America, as her family lives through World Wars I and II, the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and the Korean War. Living with Nonna, he becomes part of the Sephardic world's pre-modern values, which include Sephardic healing rituals performed by women (that might have served as the basis for Freudian psychology), the tradition of oral, rather than written history, and a strong belief in mean and jealous spirits (sheddim). Nonna's children and grandchildren grew up believing they had to thread their lives between these spirits, appeasing them by not showing excessive happiness and avoiding offense at all costs.

Dancing in the Shadows is a welcome correction to the American myth of a Eurocentric Jewish identity. It illustrates Judaism not merely as a monochromatic entity, split only along the traditional boundaries of orthodox, conservative and reformed religious beliefs, but as a colorful palette of different customs and heritages.

Although the first thirty years of the twentieth century saw the largest influx of Jews into America, only about thirty thousand dark-skinned Sephardics arrived alongside some two million light-skinned European Jewish (Ashkenazi) immigrants. The American Ashkenazi community could not accept that dark-skinned Sephardics, with their strange customs and language, were even Jews: How can you be so dark, and still be a Jew? How can you be a Jew and not understand or speak Yiddish? Why do you pronounce Hebrew words differently from us?

In the United States, Sephardic Jews make up only four percent of the American Jewish population. Though little-known outside of Jewish circles, the minority Sephardim have often faced discrimination from lighter-skinned Jews from Western Europe. As a result, the distinct customs, cuisine, dances, music and language of the Sephardim remain little known and, through assimilation, are fast becoming extinct. Cohen's memoir celebrates this vibrant, but disappearing culture.



This item is Non-Returnable.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9781461044475
  • ISBN-10: 1461044472
  • Publisher: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Publish Date: January 2013
  • Page Count: 362
  • Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.75 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.07 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Cultural, Ethnic & Regional - General

 
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