January 2008 Archives

The Jerusalem Post issued an article by Schelly Talalay Dardashti today entitled: "Sephardi genealogy comes of age."

I was quoted in this well written article, an article which discusses a topic not often explored, that of Sephardic genealogy:

...When Jews began expressing ancestry interest after the success in the 1970s of Alex Haley's Roots, American Jewish culture was Ashkenazi - Sephardim weren't the Jewish mainstream. Shelomo Alfassa of the International Sephardic Leadership Council says the issue was a numbers game, as the American Sephardi population was exponentially smaller than the Ashkenazi one...

The link to the article is here: LINK

by Shelomo Alfassa

On January 15, 2008, the Jewish people lost a pillar of the Sephardic cultural world, Mr. Hank Halio, a memorist of American Sephardic life, past away at the age of 91. Mr. Halio will always be remembered for his book Ladino Reveries, a lasting volume of remembrance of many of the long lost Sephardic traditions of the Ladino speaking Sephardic Jews of the United States.
        Mr. Halio was born on the Lower East Side of New York City to Sultana (Susie) and Yusef (Joe) Halio, both who were born in Ottoman Turkey. Hank Halio lived most of his early life in New York City, being raised in Harlem and the East Bronx. In 1947, he married Phyllis Torres, daughter of Albert Torres, publisher and editor of the New York City based Ladino newspaper, La Vara, an important paper for Sephardic Jews, which published from 1922-1948.
        In addition to a commitment to the military reserves that began as a private at the advent of World War II, and which culminated in his retirement with the rank of Lt. Colonel, Mr. Halio enjoyed a fruitful career in the printing trade and the garment industry. His business endeavors took him from New York to Japan and other parts of the Far East. Beyond his military, business, and family activities, Mr. Halio found time to give of himself to various fraternal, social and religious organizations. He was a director of the Jewish Community Center of Bensonhurst and was Chancellor Commander of George Gershwin Lodge #649, Knights of Pythias. He was an officer and director of the Sephardic Social Club of Florida and served as editor of its newsletter for several years.
        His column, Ladino Reveries, started running in 1992 in the Sephardic Home News, after being reprinted from earlier writings taken from the newsletter of the Sephardic Social Club of Florida which was founded in 1978. The articles were celebrated and cherished by Jews across America, including in Brooklyn, New York where the Sephardic Home for the Aged had a newsletter readership of near 10,000 across the world. In 1999, his columns were turned into a book, Ladino Reveries: Tales of the Sephardic Experience in America. While a wonderfully rich, funny, and informative book, it did have a serious side. Mr. Halio realized that the Spanish Sephardic culture relocated from Turkey, Greece and the Balkans to America was fading, he comments:

Intermarriages with the Ashkenazim and other ethic groups eroded much of our culture. Yet those who strayed still have a yearning to hear, read and remember their culture that was lost to them, lamenting that their children and grandchildren will have no knowledge of their heritage. Sad to say that the progeny of first-generation Americans will only hear of our wonderful Sephardic family experiences, but never truly appreciate them.
"Hank Halio manages to convey the old stories from Sephardic Turkey and 'dahntown' New York City with a warmth and affection that brings them to life and makes them as entertaining now as they were then," a reviewer recently wrote.
        Hank Halio was one of the older members of the Turkish Jewish community in America. He was a branch from the tree of Sephardic scholars and intellectuals of the 20th century that developed the field of Sephardic Studies and brought it to the universities across America, this included men such as Meir Benardete, Albert Mataraso, David N. Barocas, Louis N. Levy, and Henry Besso. While Mr. Halio's book may not be considered "academic" in a traditional sense, his book does remains as one of the very few superb volumes on real-world Sephardic life--life as it was lived by real everyday people. Mr. Halio's writings are a time capsule, a window into a now vanished history of a people that once possessed a cherished heritage but lost it to assimilation in just 100 years. Mr. Halio's words and memories will forever dwell as a memorial to his family, his people, and the descendants of the Sephardic Jews in America.
        Long a New Yorker, Mr. Halio spent his last years in South Florida. He leaves behind his beloved wife of over 60 years, Phyllis Halio nee Torres, three children and grandchildren.

(Mr. Halio's book was published by the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture.)

In the following paper, we see how in Seattle (long a home for observant Turkish Jews), the haredi "black hat" form of Jewish schooling is challenging the long standing traditional Jewish community. This form of "kollel" education is one that we also have in the Brooklyn, New York Sephardic community, a troublesome one indeed; it is one based on a haredi mentality, one often based on emotion--not intellect--and one that is gaining popularity and strength.

This is an outstanding essay by David J. Balint of The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals:

Excerpt: "...They came to the Kollel desiring to learn more about Torah Judaism and willing to make a commitment to serious observance. However, rather than receiving instruction in a model of Orthodoxy that reflects the diversity of views and includes the views that have traditionally formed the norm in our community, these eager students have been exposed to a limited and rather specific perspective on Orthodox Judaism. This perspective tends to the exclusionary, meaning that they believe and teach that their way of observance is the only way. It looks for authority not within the local rabbinate but rather to haredi authorities outside Seattle who are not themselves familiar with Seattle."

The full essay is here: The Seattle Kollel-Case Study in Unintended Consequences

I felt this important legal paper should be posted again, to bring about the important topic of "copyfraud" which is being conducted by Jewish (and other) archival organizations. The following was written by Mr. Jason Mazzone, Assistant Professor, Brooklyn Law School:

Copyfraud is everywhere. False copyright notices appear on modern reprints of Shakespeare's plays, Beethoven's piano scores, greeting card versions of Monet's Water Lilies, and even the U.S. Constitution. Archives claim blanket copyright in everything in their collections. Vendors of microfilmed versions of historical newspapers assert copyright ownership. These false copyright claims, which are often accompanied by threatened litigation for reproducing a work without the owner's permission, result in users seeking licenses and paying fees to reproduce works that are free for everyone to use.

Copyright law itself creates strong incentives for copyfraud. The Copyright Act provides for no civil penalty for falsely claiming ownership of public domain materials. There is also no remedy under the Act for individuals who wrongly refrain from legal copying or who make payment for permission to copy something they are in fact entitled to use for free. While falsely claiming copyright is technically a criminal offense under the Act, prosecutions are extremely rare. These circumstances have produced fraud on an untold scale, with millions of works in the public domain deemed copyrighted, and countless dollars paid out every year in licensing fees to make copies that could be made for free. Copyfraud stifles valid forms of reproduction and undermines free speech.

Congress should amend the Copyright Act to allow private parties to bring civil causes of action for false copyright claims. Courts should extend the availability of the copyright misuse defense to prevent copyright owners from enforcing an otherwise valid copyright if they have engaged in past copyfraud. In addition, Congress should further protect the public domain by creating a national registry listing public domain works and a symbol to designate those works. Failing a congressional response, there may exist remedies under state law and through the efforts of private parties to achieve these ends.

Brooklyn Law School, Legal Studies Paper No. 40
New York University Law Review, Vol. 81, p. 1026, 2006

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