When the joint Catholic monarchs of Spain, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, ordered the expulsion of Jews from Spain on March 31, 1492, they probably wouldn’t have cared to know that they were helping to create one of the most remarkable musical traditions the world has ever known. Of course, the Jews being forced from their homes after centuries of peaceful coexistence and artistic collaboration with the Muslims of Spain wouldn’t have found much comfort in this development, either. But more than 500 years later, we can celebrate the incredible cultural diversity and influence that has become a vital attribute of a continually persecuted wandering people.
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For New York moviegoers shrinking at the prospect of Tom Cruise goose-stepping through a Nazi-era spy thriller, the 18th annual New York Jewish Film Festival arrives this month with an eclectic roster of Jewish-oriented films. This year’s edition includes 32 features and shorts — 28 of which are making their world, American or New York premieres — hailing from 17 different countries.
A Hanukkah concert — part of New York’s Sephardic Music Festival — offered a tuneful lesson in the long and varied tradition of the music that originated on the Iberian Peninsula and traveled across the globe with Spanish Jews as they fled the Inquisition in 1492.