My dad's side of the family is comprised of, what I lovingly call, crazy Cubans. Last semester in "What Makes it Jewish?" we learned about crypto-Jews, and I felt an odd connection an familiarity with some of the stories of these people lighting candles on Friday nights and having tops that resemble dreidles. A few years back, I remember an interesting discovery that I made with my dad. We were sitting around in my house, and for one reason or another, got on the topic of Jewish songs. The tune to "Heiveinu Shalom Alecheim" always reminded my dad of a song his family used to sing in Cuba called "Las Pazas De Con Nosotros"-- both songs have the same meaning. At first I thought he was kidding, trying to play a joke on me or something. However, I was surprised at our next big family get-together, when my Grandmother, Grandfather, and Aunt all broke out into the Spanish version of this hebrew song that I had been singing my entire life! It turns out that the woman I am named after, Amely David (My great-grandmother) was born in Jerusalem to a Syrian woman named Nagib Alit. I have to do more research about their backgrounds and how they ended up in what was then Palestine, and Cuba... but I think I may be on to something.
This little story of mine definitely seems to relate to what we talked about today. It is possible that this hebrew song of my childhood is also sung in spanish by people in the Sephardic tradition. Overall, Sephardic Jewry is hard to define. I was unsatisfied with the "official definition" of who is Sephardi that was given in the FAQs of The American Sephardi Federation. The information does not help me determine whether or not my family is Sephardic. My immediate family is affiliated with the Reform movement, and carries all of the typical Ashkenazi traditions that are found in North American Jewish life. I am curious, however, to explore the traditions and culture of Sephardic Jewry and see what else my crazy family has in common with them.