The Festival of Books and Culture, a two-week frenzy of exciting programs, starts its second week with “A Night at the Jewish Casbah: Celebrating the Jews of Morocco,” a cultural celebration featuring live music, a feast, a film and a talk. Sunday (11/8) evening, the journey begins with the film, “Return to Oulad Moumen” at 5:00 pm, with a Talkback by Carlos Zarur. This will be followed by a Jewish Moroccan dinner at 6:30 pm and a concert by Rachid Halihal at 7:00 pm, and then a talk by Samuel Avital at 8:00 pm.
Jews have been living in Morocco since antiquity, pre-dating the Arab population. Before the founding of Israel, there were about 250,000, but today this ancient community numbers no more than 7,000. Moroccan Jews have held leading positions in the business community, government, arts and sciences, and Moroccan Jewish culture is rich in literature, philosophy, poetry, music and handicrafts. Highlights of the program:
Return to Oulad Moumen
From the National Center for Jewish Film:
In south Marrakesh amidst the olive groves lies the village of Oulad Moumen where Habiba and Yossef Edery began their family in the 1920s. Director Genini, the youngest of the nine Edery children, organized a family reunion in 1992 to bring her family (now dispersed geographically and culturally) together in the place where is all began. 50 members of the family, came from Morocco, France, America, Canada, Mexico, Italy, and Israel to Oulad Moumen to learn of the dynasty’s origins. Genini melds the family reunion with archival photos, giving both a personal view of a Sephardic family and a historical picture of Jewish-Arabic-Berber coexistence in Oulad Moumen. (French with English subtitles)
As a world-class musician, Rachid Halihal brings to the community the true character and spirit of musics from the classical Egyptian repertoire which is much loved throughout the Middle East; from the Fertile Crescent; from diverse regions of Morocco and North Africa; and also the mezmerizing music of the Arabian Gulf. As a child, growing up in Fez, Morocco, Rachid played the nei and sang, imitating the famous singers of the time. At age fourteen he entered “Dar Aadyil” the Conservatory of Music in Fez. At first he studied Western classical and Andalus music on piano and violin. He soon expanded to include a variety of other instruments in order to better express his native music. In addition to his voice, which is best featured in the Andalus style, his strongest instruments are the oud (similar to a lute without frets) and the violin, which he plays in both the classical manner and upright resting on the knee for Moroccan folkloric music.
Samuel Avital: Memories of Morocco
Avital was born in Sefrou near the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. In 1958 he moved to Paris to study with the masters of mime. In 1971 he founded Le Centre du Silence Mime School in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder’s own Kathryn Bernheimer wrote a fascinating interview with Samuel Avital in 2000 for the Intermountain Jewish News.
Avital says that the values he learned growing up in a close-knit Sephardic community guided him to his art. Among those values was great tolerance. . . “I grew up in a religious family, not fanatic, but religious in the best sense,” the Boulder mime explains. “We practiced Kabbalah. I learned French and Hebrew. It was a tolerant religious community that had the true value of community with everyone helping each other.” Read more.
Sunday’s A Night at The Jewish Casbah costs $25 in advance, $30 at the door. Contact Kathryn Bernheimer, email@example.com (303-998-1021) to RSVP.
Book Fair hours on Sunday are 9 am to 2 pm, and 4 pm to 10 pm. The Festival of Books and Culture is sponsored by Menorah, BoulderJCC Library, BoulderJCC Shalom Family, Shalom Baby, MoVeRs, Jewish Book Council, 18 Pomegranates, Rose Community Foundation, SCFD, Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado, and ADL.