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Sephardi Piyyutim, Spirituality, and Movement

January 17, 2017
Piyyutim are liturgical poems recited in Jewish prayer services and life cycle celebrations. For centuries piyyutim have been composed across the Jewish diaspora. In the Middle Ages Sephardic poets such as Judah Ha-Levi, Shlomo Ibn Gabirol and Avrahm ibn Ezra composed piyyutim that found their ways into prayer books and services. Later, Ashkenazim poets composed piyyutim that have also found a place in prayer books. Today piyyutim continue to be composed and find their ways into prayer services and the liturgy. They fill the gaps between prayers of praise and supplication, and are sung to any number of melodies.

This class will examine the general structure of piyyutim, concentrating on two or three classic Sephardic piyyutim and melodies. We will explore the meaning and central themes of the texts. Then we will learn to sing them together. Finally, we will combine melody and movement for a total immersion in the piyyutim that unites melody, voice, breath and body. This combination of breath, voice and movement generate holistic spiritual experience and enriches our prayer 's experience and our connection to the divine.

Please dress in comfortable clothing and bring a yoga mat if you have one.


# Sessions 1
Date & time: Tuesday, January 17, 7:00 - 9:00 pm
Location: JCC East Bay
Tuition: $30 for the public, $20 for members


Rivka Amado

Rivka AmadoRivka Amado was born in Holon, Israel, and grew up in a Ladino speaking home, where she learned traditional melodies from her grandmother. She earned her PhD from the University of Toronto in 1990, held post-doctoral fellowships in medical ethics at the Hastings Center and Hebrew University, and has published widely in medical ethics and related fields. She taught at Bar Ilan University for ten years, and also taught at Tel Aviv Medical School, Stanford, Berkeley, and Princeton, and has received several awards for her scholarship and teaching. Since coming to the Bay Area in 2004, Rivka has merged her scholarly and musical work both in the United States and Israel.

Her program "A Journey Back to Spain" recounts how the Jews of Spain have been able to maintain their identity for five hundred years, long after their expulsion, first from Spain and then from the entire Iberian Peninsula. In this program she mixes historical narrative accounts of Sephardic culture, and popular Ladino songs. This program unites Rivka's two halves; her musical half and her scholarly half. Since developing this and other programs, Rivka has performed in Sephardic venues around the Bay Area, the New York Sephardic Festival, and in New Jersey, Florida, Israel, and Adelaide and Melbourne, Australia.

In March 2009 she released Hija Mia, an album of traditional Ladino songs, accompanied by an ensemble of talented musicians. She is planning a second album which will contain more traditional Ladino songs, as well as original compositions of her own in Ladino, Hebrew, and English. In 2014, Rivka launched a new project, "Sephardic Flamenco Fusion," which combines Ladino songs with Flamenco rhythms and music. The new group of collaborators includes a flamenco guitarist, a dancer, and a percussionist, all of whom have lived in both Israel and Spain, and blended their interests into a true synthesis of Flamenco and Ladino music.