Reviving Traditional Sephardi Music in Turkey

Riding a wave of local interest in the music of Turkish minority groups, the Istanbul-based band Sefarad began performing updated versions of Ladino folk songs—some in the original language and some translated into Turkish—achieving no small degree of commercial success. But the moment did not last, and in 2007 Sefarad broke up, only four years after it released its first album. Ezgi Üstündağ provides some historical context:

[Following its esablishment in 1924, the Republic of Turkey] set out to build a national culture, to which music was critical. The state banned Ottoman and religious music, while, [in the words of one historian], limiting conservatories to teaching government-controlled “Westernized” and “Turkified” folk music. Radio stations exclusively played Western and government-approved folk music in these early decades. . . .

Sephardi Jews . . . were still made to feel like guests rather than natural-born citizens in the early years of the republic; often, when a Jew appealed the denial of his request to serve in the military or bureaucracy, the authorities would remind him that his kin “owed a debt” to the Turkish people. . . .

Language became another serious point of contention. While the constitution allowed Jews to educate their children in Hebrew and Ladino, Hebrew [continued to be used for ritual and scholarly purposes] and Ladino was rarely encountered outside the home. . . . . [In practice], Jewish community leaders [began] to educate their children in Turkish for the first time in nearly 500 years. . . . By the 1960s, Turkish had become the mother tongue of most of the nation’s Jews.

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Read more at Reorient

More about: Arts & Culture, Jewish music, Ladino, Sephardim, Turkish Jewry

As Vladimir Putin Sidles Up to the Mullahs, the Threat to the U.S. and Israel Grows

On Tuesday, Russia launched an Iranian surveillance satellite into space, which the Islamic Republic will undoubtedly use to increase the precision of its military operations against its enemies. The launch is one of many indications that the longstanding alliance between Moscow and Tehran has been growing stronger and deeper since the Kremlin’s escalation in Ukraine in February. Nicholas Carl, Kitaneh Fitzpatrick, and Katherine Lawlor write:

Presidents Vladimir Putin and Ebrahim Raisi have spoken at least four times since the invasion began—more than either individual has engaged most other world leaders. Putin visited Tehran in July 2022, marking his first foreign travel outside the territory of the former Soviet Union since the war began. These interactions reflect a deepening and potentially more balanced relationship wherein Russia is no longer the dominant party. This partnership will likely challenge U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe.

Tehran has traditionally sought to purchase military technologies from Moscow rather than the inverse. The Kremlin fielding Iranian drones in Ukraine will showcase these platforms to other potential international buyers, further benefitting Iran. Furthermore, Russia has previously tried to limit Iranian influence in Syria but is now enabling its expansion.

Deepening Russo-Iranian ties will almost certainly threaten U.S. and allied interests in Europe, the Middle East, and around the globe. Iranian material support to Russia may help the Kremlin achieve some of its military objectives in Ukraine and eastern Europe. Russian support of Iran’s nascent military space program and air force could improve Iranian targeting and increase the threat it poses to the U.S. and its partners in the Middle East. Growing Iranian control and influence in Syria will enable the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [to use its forces in that country] to threaten U.S. military bases in the Middle East and our regional partners, such as Israel and Turkey, more effectively. Finally, Moscow and Tehran will likely leverage their deepening economic ties to mitigate U.S. sanctions.

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Read more at Critical Threats

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, U.S. Security, Vladimir Putin