Soon after she assumed the stage during a recent performance in Washington, Flory Jagoda, 90, lit a candle. ‘Sephardic women always believed in light, in a candle,’ she told the audience.
Ladino, the language of the Judeo-Spanish Diaspora, has unfairly languished behind Yiddish in the Jewish language popularity sweepstakes. With the release of her 2009 U.K. album “Sentir” in the United States and an accompanying tour, including upcoming shows in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, Israeli singer Yasmin Levy joins a bevy of artists trying to change that. Alongside artists like Sarah Aroeste, Judith Cohen and Flory Jagoda, Levy tries to channel a rich, transnational, historical genre for modern audiences. Like those artists, she has succeeded in evoking something distant and foreign. She has failed in similar ways too, producing another Ladino project trapped as a token of the past without bringing anything exciting and new to the table.
In her light, lilting accent, Flory Jagoda is happy to tell the story of her life, with one caveat: although she did live through it, hers is not a tale of the Holocaust. “This one is an accordion story,” she laughed. “We have so many Holocaust stories.”