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Music Fest

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Congregation Sherith Israel

San Francisco, CA

Enjoy a day full of Sephardic cultural workshops, cuisine and performances with The Qadim Ensemble and Zirzuví with Dror Sinai. 


It's a unique opportunity for Sephardic people to come together and for others to connect with Sephardic culture, strengthening common cultural bonds. Sephardic Jews have been dispersed all around the world, and it's possible that some of them are/were your neighbors. 

Sephardic Jews have a long history interacting and blending with the cultures of the cities and countries where they lived, resulting in a rich tapestry of cultural fusion. For example, in Ottoman Turkey, Sephardic Jews integrated into the broader community, adopting Turkish customs and language while still maintaining their unique religious practices and traditions. In Morocco, Sephardic Jews interacted with the local Berber and Arab cultures, developing a distinct style of Jewish music that incorporates elements of both. Despite adapting to new cultural contexts, Sephardic Jews have always maintained a strong sense of identity and belonging.


The festival showcases the diversity of people and cultures that emerged from the Sephardic diaspora after the expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula. There is something for everyone, from music and food to reconnecting with the sounds from many regions around the world, including perhaps one of yours? The event features performances by The Qadim Ensemble and Zirzuví, showcasing traditional Sephardic, Middle Eastern, and Balkan music, bridging traditions and creating new relationships to Jewish culture. Participants can even take part in a music workshop to learn the basics of Sephardic music and perform and sing alongside the musicians during their concert. Amateurs and pros alike are welcome to jam with us! 


2.30 pm    - Check-in 

3 to 5 pm   Sephardic Music Workshop 

5 to 7 pm   - Reception: Sephardic Snacks, Refreshments, Presentations 

7 to 10 pm - Sephardic Music Performance 



Congregation Sherith Israel

2266 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115

In person event. Livestream tickets available for concert only.


The Qadim Ensemble

Their performances feature kantikas - Ladino songs from the oral tradition of Sephardic women.  These songs often depict moments from the daily experience of a Sephardic woman of the 18th-20th centuries; from longing for a lover, a community wedding or ritual bath song, a mother’s warning to a daughter not to fall in love, cooking songs, dirges and of course lullabies.


Watch Video - Visit Website


Rachel Valfer - oud and voice

Eliyahu Sills - ney

Dan Cantrell - accordion

Sean Tergis - percussion

Faisal Zedan - percussion

Guest performers:

Duygu Gun - voice

Liz Strong - dance

Workshop Instructor

Rachel Valfer started singing Ladino tunes in highschool, and went on to study maqam (Arabic music theory) and dastgah (Persian musical systems) at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. In Jersualem she also continued singing Sephardic songs and piyutim with teachers and friends from Turkey and North Africa. Rachel continues to share her love of these cultures and music in workshops and performances with the ensemble Qadim.


Zirzuví with Dror Sinai 

Based in Santa Cruz, CA, Zirzuví plays traditional Sephardic, Middle Eastern, and Balkan music. Their music is meant to bridge traditions, heal, and invent new relationships to Jewish culture while bringing people together to have fun. Zirzuví in Ladino means "an indescribable color" - all colors and no color all at once. We think playing zirzuví music is a path to collective moments of joy and unity. 

Visit Facebook Page - Watch Video

Jamie Barsimantov - oud, clarinet, voice

Dror Sinai - percussion and voice

Mathew Harmon - bouzouki and voice
Anne Cleveland - flute, tambura and voice
Shireen Nabatian - violin and voice
Peter Bonos - trumpet
Megan Clemens - voice and percussion

Oriah Barsimantov - keyboard, flute

Workshop Instructor

Jamie Barsimantov has been playing and singing Sephardic music for over a decade on oud and clarinet. His parents emigrated from Turkey in the 60s, at around the same time that his grandfather became the hazan at a Turkish synagogue in Israel. For Jamie, Sephardic music has been both an anchor to his family’s origins and an inspiration to play and perform.

Sephardic MUSIC workshop

Collaborative Music Workshop: Learn and Perform with Qadim Ensemble and Zirzuví

Overview: This workshop is designed to provide an immersive musical experience for participants who are interested in learning and performing with professional musicians. Led by teaching artists Jamie Barsimantov and Rachel Valfer, the workshop will focus on learning 2-3 tunes that will be performed with the Qadim Ensemble and Zirzuví with Dror Snai at the Performance.

If you consider yourself an amateur, you are still encouraged to participate in this workshop. The goal of this workshop is not only to inspire and elevate you to another level, but also to immerse you in the Sephardic vibe and community through learning and performing traditional Sephardic tunes with professional musicians. You will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of this music.

Objectives: By the end of the workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Sing along or play 2-3 tunes on their instruments with confidence and accuracy

  • Collaborate effectively with other musicians in an ensemble setting

  • Understand the cultural and historical context of the Sephardic Music they are learning

  • Apply musical techniques and concepts to enhance their performance

Structure: The workshop will be divided into three main sections, each led by the teaching artists:

Introduction and Warm-up (20 minutes):

  • Welcome and introductions

  • Brief overview of the tunes to be learned

  • Group warm-up exercises to prepare for playing and singing

Learning and Rehearsing (60 minutes):

  • Breakout sessions led by each teaching artist to focus on individual parts and techniques

  • Group rehearsals to practice playing together as an ensemble

  • Feedback and coaching from the teaching artists to improve performance

Performance Preparation (30 minutes):

  • Final run-through of the tunes to be performed

  • Tips and strategies for performing in front of an audience

  • Q&A with the teaching artists

Materials Required:

  • Musicians other than singers bring their own instruments  

  • Audio and video recording equipment (optional)

A word from our Sephardic Food Curator

Hi there, I'm Ester Jerez Alkanli. I come from a family that has a history dating back to the 15th century when my ancestors migrated from Jerez De La Frontera in Spain to the Ottoman Empire. Our surname Jerez comes from this place, and is a testament to our ancestry. Although centuries have passed, we have always held onto our traditions and culture. At home, we spoke Ladino and cooked Sephardic meals, which have been passed down from generation to generation. I have been living in California for 33 years now, I am still committed to sharing Sephardic heritage and cuisine with my family and grandchildren.

Our identities are rooted in the Ottoman territories during which our ancestors fought to preserve their land, even in times of war where many lost their lives. My great-grandfather was one of them who fought in the Balkan War, leaving behind four children and a widow, including my grandmother. But despite the hardship, we have managed to keep our family stories, music, and cuisine alive, including the keys to our homes in Spain.

Now, let's talk about food!


Eggplants are one of my favorite ingredients in Sephardic cuisine, and there are so many different dishes you can make with them. Boyos, Borekas, Guevos Haminados, Biskochos, Tapada, Kaskarikas, and Almendrada de Marzipan are just a few classic Sephardic dishes, especially those made with eggplant. Kaskarikas even has a song dedicated to it and is a classic Ladino dish. If you ever find yourself in the old Jewish neighborhoods of Istanbul or Izmir, be sure to try out some of these dishes, especially Boyos.

I am delighted to announce that I will be teaming up with some amazing volunteers to prepare some of these dishes for the SF Sephardic Music Fest. This culinary journey through flavors will take you on a trip back in time, spanning continents and cultures.


So, get ready to savor the rich flavors, and experience the cultural heritage of Sephardic cuisine! And as we come together to share this culinary journey, I want to share with you the special blessing that my family recites before every meal:


This beautiful phrase means that we wish for our food to always bring abundance and never come from a place of debt. It's a reminder to be grateful for the bounty that we have and to approach each meal with a spirit of abundance and positivity.


Let's come together and enjoy the flavors and stories that make up our shared heritage.

See you soon!

Producing Organizations

Our Sephardic Family is a Facebook group created in 2011 by Mark Angel. It has grown to 6000+ members on 6 continents. This group is comprised mainly of Sephardic members, but others have joined because of their interest Sephardim are descendants of Jews fled from the Iberian Peninsula (what is now Spain and Portugal).

The vision of this group is to share our heritage and to better understand our mutual Sephardic history. Our goal is to connect Sephardics, and strengthen the concept of family and common cultural bonds. We hope to share knowledge of our precious customs, foods, dress, language and rituals so we leave empowered and inspired through our culture. This will contribute toward our future legacy and help preserve precious Sephardic heritage.

Visit Facebook Group

Anatolian Arts Institute promotes understanding and appreciation of diverse Anatolian cultures, in the US and the global arena.

Our mission is to sponsor, encourage and celebrate Anatolian Arts and Culture through events, research and educational activities for local and global audiences. We aim to provide an open space where ideas are exchanged, participation and collaborations of diverse communities are encouraged, imagination and new possibilities are ignited.

Visit Website

Congregation Sherith Israelis rooted in tradition, on the leading edge of American Judaism. San Francisco has always been the place where new happened.

Sherith Israel was founded in the California Gold Rush and has been part of San Francisco every step of the way, marrying the newest innovations to thousands of years of Jewish history. The leaders and staff are constantly working to create a relevant community for meaningful Jewish exploration.

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Street parking is available in the neighborhood.

Here are the other options:

California/Steiner Lot, 2450 California St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (free on Sundays)

Medical Center Parking Garage, 2401 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94115 (paid)

SFMTA - Japan Center Garage Corporation Main Garage, 1610 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94115 (paid)

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