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Sephardim

Rita Arditti

As a Sephardic Jew from Argentina, Rita Arditti’s experience as “a minority within a minority” drove her to document another invisible group: the grandmothers of the disappeared children.

Missode Israel Piha

Born in Tishmay near the Isle of Rhodes, Greece where she was raised, Missode Piha spent her childhood in a tight-knit Sephardic family of which her father was Hazzan [cantor]. In 1928, she met and married her husband, Sam, an American visiting his family in Rhodes, and leaving her family behind, moved to the United States with him. First settling in Atlanta, Georgia, they moved to Seattle in 1932 where they raised four children and Missode became a beloved volunteer and member of Seattle’s Sephardic community and Congregation Ezra Bessaroth. Missode Piha died on October 17, 2003.

Dorothy Franco Muscatel

A vibrant social organizer, Dorothy Franco Muscatel was born in Seattle in 1917 to parents who, in 1910, were among the first Sephardic Jews to immigrate to Seattle from Rhodes, Greece. Her parents and grandmother were instrumental in creating important Seattle Jewish institutions, including the Sephardic cemetery. Dorothy learned from their example. Her achievements include helping form Seattle chapters for The City of Hope and Guide Dogs for the Blind; and service as president of the Seattle Sephardic Sisterhood and Sephardic Bikur Holim Ladies' Auxiliary. Married to Jack Muscatel and mother of three, Dorothy continued to shine the light of her family and herself on Seattle’s Jewish and secular communities until her death on December 26, 2003.

Leni LaMarche

A gifted student, teacher, and comedienne, Leni LaMarche has shared her love of Sephardic culture with Seattle’s Sephardic community for over sixty years. Born in Seattle to immigrants from the island of Rhodes, Greece, Leni has lived most of her life in Seattle. She has one daughter from a first marriage, and after several challenging years as a single mother during the early 1940s, Leni remarried and had three sons. While raising her family, Leni engaged in a variety of paid and volunteer work. Leni also writes a column entitled Bavajadas de Benadam [people’s foolish little words] for her synagogue’s newsletter. Leni is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to Sephardic history, language, and customs, and laces her wisdom and stories with delightful humor.

Ventura Franco Israel

A native of Seattle, Ventura Israel was
born in 1915, two years after her parents immigrated from Turkey. Forged as a strong woman by the deaths of men in her family-her father’s in 1928, her first husband’s in 1970, and her second husband’s in 1989-she helped support her family during the Depression, and as a twenty-five year employee of Union Federal Savings and Loan. Both her first husband, Maurice Franco, and her second husband, Morris Israel, were born in Rhodes, Greece, and Ventura spent her religious life in Seattle’s Sephardic community. The mother of two, and a vibrant community member, Ventura currently volunteers at the Caroline Kline Galland home and at her synagogue, Congregation Ezra Bessaroth.

Tillie Israel De Leon

An independent, intelligent, and industrious woman, Tillie De Leon is the matriarch of the original Peha family in Seattle, Sephardic immigrants from the Greek Island of Rhodes. One of the first Sephardic children born in Seattle, Tillie’s ground-breaking life continued when she left her close-knit community and moved to Los Angeles to take an accounting job. Married and widowed in Los Angeles, Tillie married Albert De Leon and returned with him to Seattle. Ever hardworking and optimistic, Tillie continued her paid work until age 80, and remains active in volunteer activities.

Eating Jewish: Quajado for Passover

Passover cooking is certainly defined by the dietary restriction of abstaining from chametz, or leavened grain.

"Sipping from the Nile": A memoir of the Exodus of Cairo's Jewish daughters

I was raised in a beautiful mansion on the banks of the Nile, in a multi-cultural multi-lingual Sephardic Italian Jewish family in Egypt: a Middle Eastern family, where men rose to prominence by their acts in a larger world, while women ran households, managed a large staff, volunteered their services to Jewish charities, and gained their reputations from their family backgrounds, skills at needlework and music, as cooks, and hostesses, and their elegance at all times.

Judith Wachs, 1938 - 2008

Judith Wachs was the founder and Artistic Director of Voice of the Turtle, one of the premier Sephardic music groups in the U.S. Founded in 1978, Voice of the Turtle, consisted of the same four members who, for three decades, made recordings and performed throughout the US, Europe, and Israel. Judith Wachs was the visionary-researcher-linguist-historian-musical anthropologist and fellow performer who lit their musical spark.

Henrietta Yurchenco, 1916 - 2007

Cold but sunny New York mornings, in a high-ceilinged Chelsea apartment filled with books, instruments, and folk art. Coffee and freshly-baked muffins. And Henrietta Yurchenco, diminutive and volatile, white-haired, dressed in deep purples or blues, with Mexican jewellery – now presiding over the breakfast table, now at the piano, now pulling out a rare book from her collection, now at the computer … always talking about new projects, ideas, politics, music …

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sephardim." (Viewed on December 18, 2014) <http://jwa.org/tags/sephardim>.

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