SYRIA. Aleppo governorate. Aleppo. March 9, 2017. Mohammed Mohiedin Anis, or Abu Omar, 70, smokes his pipe as he sits in his destroyed bedroom, listening to music on his hand-cranked gramophone in the city’s formerly rebel-held al-Shaar neighbourhood. Anis had recently returned to Aleppo, with plans to rebuild not only his home, but his large collection of vintage American cars, despite everything being reduced to wreckage and rubble. When reporters asked him about the gramophone, he responded “I will play it for you, but first, I have to light my pipe. Because I never listen to music without it.”
What was the relationship between Sephardim and Ashkenazim on the West Coast?
By Leora Singer, Former Research Intern
This is my second blog
post in a series of three posts in which I discuss the theme of Sephardim in
the West Coast in the 19th-20th century. You can see my first post here. In this post, I compare and contrast
the relationship between Ashkenazim and Sephardim in Seattle and San Francisco.
When Calvo and Policar
(the first two Sephardim in Seattle) first encountered the Orthodox Ashkenazi
Jews living in the city, they weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms. These
observant Jews didn’t believe that Policar and Calvo were “real Jews” because
they spoke Greek instead of Yiddish (Adatto, 56), and their names didn’t “sound
Jewish” (Angel, 553). Because they felt ostracized by the Jewish community,
Calvo and Policar spent a lot of time with Greek non-Jews living in Seattle
(Adatto, 58). Fortunately, the rabbi of Bikur Holim, an Orthodox synagogue,
convinced the Orthodox Ashkenazim that the Sephardim were just as observant as
they were. The Ashkenazim accepted Calvo and Policar as members of the Jewish
The Seattle Sephardic
community kept growing as Calvo and Policar brought family members over, and
these family members spread the word about the opportunities available in
Seattle (Adatto, 60). In 1904, the first Rhodesli Sephardic immigrant came to
Seattle (FitzMorris, 29). As the number of Sephardim in Seattle grew, their
ties to the overall Jewish community of Seattle grew. Many Sephardim prayed at
Bikur Holim. They felt somewhat connected to the Orthodox Ashkenazim because
they, like the Sephardim, upheld high religious standards (Adatto, 116).
However, the perception was that their cultures were just too different to mix
together, so the Sephardim and Orthodox Ashkenazim remained fairly separate.
For example, intermarriage between the two groups was highly rare (Adatto,
Despite its rocky
nature, the beginning of the relationship between Orthodox Sephardim and
Orthodox Ashkenazim was still stronger than the beginning of the relationship
between Sephardim and Reform Ashkenazim. The Sephardim distrusted the Reform
Ashkenazim because they believed that the Reform Ashkenazim were not following
enough of the Jewish traditions. Fortunately, Aubrey Levy from the Reform
Temple de Hirsch helped to change this negative view of Reform Judaism by
forming a friendship with the Sephardic Jews. As a lawyer, he helped Sephardim
with legal work, free of charge. For example, in 1914, he assisted them with
the legal logistics in the purchase of the (previously Ashkenazi-owned) Bikur
Holim synagogue (Adatto, 118-119). Levy was highly regarded by the Sephardim.
By association, his synagogue became highly regarded as well. In fact, many
Sephardic children got their Jewish education at the Hebrew School of Temple de
Hirsch. However, even after many years, there was still very little
intermarriage. The Sephardim still did not feel like a part of Ashkenazi
There was a temporary
Sephardic congregation in the early 1850s (Zerin, 30). The congregation was
called Shaar Hashamayim. It was so temporary that it never even had a building
because the congregation stopped meeting only a few months after its creation
(Zerin, 47). This is likely because the construction of new buildings for two
Ashkenazi-run synagogues, Temple Emanu-El and Temple Sherith- Israel, was
underway. Since the Sephardim and Ashkenazim in San Francisco were united,
(especially in comparison to these sects in other West Coast cities) the
Sephardim didn’t want to divide it by having their own synagogue. Also, some
members of the Sephardic congregation had been leaders in the other synagogues,
because they were so prominent and respected by the Ashkenazim (Stern and
Sephardim from San
Francisco are sometimes difficult to identify because intermarriage with
Ashkenazim and even non-Jews was common (Stern and Kramer, 45). This practice
showed a stark difference between the Jews of San Francisco and in other West
Coast cities. In the other cities, intermarriage between pretty much anyone
that was not a Jew from your home country was frowned upon.
Adatto, Albert. Sephardim
and the Seattle Sephardic Community. Seattle: U of Washington, 1939. Print.
Angel, Marc D., Hasson,
Aron, Kramer, William M., Maimon, Isaac, Samuels, Beth, Sidell, Loraine, Stern,
Norton B. Sephardic Jews in the West Coast States : An Anthology. 1st
ed. Los Angeles: Published for the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles by the
Western States Jewish History Association, 1996. Print. Western States Jewish
History ; v. 28, No. 1-3.
Stern, Stephen. The
Sephardic Jewish Community of Los Angeles. New York: Arno, 1980. Print.
Folklore of the World (New York).
Edward. Jewish San Francisco. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2006. Print.
Images of America
Mohammed Mohiedin Anis, or Abu Omar, 70, smokes his pipe as he sits in his destroyed bedroom listening to music on his gramophone in Aleppo’s formerly rebel-held al-Shaar neighborhood on March 9. Photo by Joseph Eid/AFP/Getty Images
Shaar HaShamaim Synagogue in Belem, Brazil, 1984. Photo by Abraham Amzalak.
“Shaar Hashamaim” in Hebrew, “Porta do Ceu” in Portuguese, or “Gate of Heaven” in English, is the name of the first synagogue established by the Sephardi Jews who immigrated from Morocco to Brazil in the 19th century. The blue and white two storied structure was built in Colonial style in 1824 by Judah Eliezer Levy.
Some of you may know how a comment by George inspired the writing of “The Rain Song”:
“George [Harrison] was talking to Bonzo one evening and said, and ‘The problem with you guys is that you never do ballads.’ I said, "I’ll give him a ballad,” and I wrote 'Rain Song,’ which appears on Houses of the Holy. In fact, you’ll notice I even quote 'Something’ in the song’s first two chords.“ - Jimmy Page, Light and Shade: Conversations with Jimmy Page [x]
The song was also on George’s jukebox at Friar Park. And then there is of course this story that took place at John Bonham’s birthday party in 1973…
”[V]irtually everyone present ended up in the pool after George Harrison clobbered Bonzo with his own birthday cake.“ - Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 16 June 1973
"George Harrison crowned Bonham with his own birthday cake. Bonzo chased the former Beatle and threw him and his wife [Pattie] into the pool fully clothed, followed by anybody he could lay his hands on. Jimmy, meekly complaining he couldn’t swim, was allowed to walk into the pool in his new white suit with the 'ZoSo’ symbol on the back. Harrison later claimed it was the most fun he’d had since the Beatles.” - When Giants Walked The Earth: A Biography of Led Zepplin
“Bonzo wanted me to take a picture of him and George and Patti [sic] with my little camera. I’m looking at the camera, trying to take the picture, but it was jammed, and Bonzo got all mad and threw me, Patti [sic] and George in the pool.” - Rodney Bingenheimer, Led Zepplin: The Oral History of the World’s Greatest Rock Band
“Harrison felt there was something special about Led Zepplin. So when Bonham wanted his picture taken with George, the former Beatle was flattered - but he was also a little hesitant. After all, he knew about Zeppelin’s reputation for practical jokes and was wary that Bonham might have something else planned besides a photograph. So George decided to strike the first blow. He walked over to the birthday cake, picked up its top tier, raised it over Bonzo’s head, and dumped it on the drummer.
There were gasps from the party-goers. And then laughter. John chased after George, caught him within a few steps, and then lifted Harrison up and tossed him into the pool.
Almost instantly, full-fledged pandemonium broke out. Bonzo was pushed into the water, and most of the other party guests followed close behind.
Jimmy, meanwhile, rather than risk being pushed into the pool, gracefully walked down the steps into the water, wearing an elegant white suite. 'Hell, I don’t know how to swim,’ he said. 'I’m going to stake out a place in the shallow water before someone pushes me in the deep end.’” - Stairway To Heaven: Led Zepplin Uncensored
Claudia Lennear is an American soul singer. She has worked with many acts including Ike and Tina Turner, Humble Pie, Joe Cocker, and Stephen Stills. Lennear’s meetings with Mick Jagger and David Bowie are often cited as inspiration for The Rolling Stones’ ’Brown Sugar’ and Bowie’s ’Lady Grinning Soul’. NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray noted in 1981 that she was “yet to reply in song to either Mick or David”. However, in a 1973 article in Rolling Stone, she was quoted as saying that she wrote the song ’Not At All‘ "to inform Mick Jagger of his dispensability". Claudia sang back-up vocals on Joe Cocker’s 1970 Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour and live album, on Leon Russell and the Shelter People, and on George Harrison’s The Concert for Bangladesh. She appeared in the August 1974 issue of Playboy magazine in a pictorial entitled 'Brown Sugar’.
“I was 17, maybe 18, and I thought we were just going out to the disco in LA. Then we arrived at the airport and I was immediately suspicious when I got to the plane and there were no other passengers apart from Mick, Keith Richards and the record producer Glyn Johns. But I wasn’t nervous. The Stones had a bad-boy image but they were perfect gentlemen.”
“Around the time Brown Sugar became a hit for The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger and I were always seen together in restaurants and nightclubs in Los Angeles. That’s why people thought the song was about me, and Mick later confirmed that it was.”
“It was an on-off thing because of our different schedules, but we would talk all the time on the phone. He was a lot of fun to be with, although his public persona is quite different to the way he is in private. I found him a quiet guy who was very British, with good manners, so I was always smitten by his behaviour.” -about her relationship with Mick Jagger
“I was also the muse for David Bowie’s song Lady Grinning Soul. I’d seen David’s show in Detroit, he asked me for some input and we struck up a friendship after that. I had to pinch myself a few times. This was the top one per cent of rock'n'roll that I just happened to make friends with. I was on quite a roll, wasn’t I?”