Jacobo Sefamí: Searching for Jewish Roots in Syria
ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question: About how many Jews were there in Syria in 2009?
Jacobo Sefamí is the grandson of Sephardic Jews who emigrated from Turkey and Syria to Mexico at the beginning of the 20th century. He graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, and received his PhD from the University of Texas in Austin. He currently teaches at the University of California at Irvine, and is the Director of the Spanish Summer School at Middlebury College. He has written or edited several books of poetry, and with Myriam Moscona co-edited the book Por mi boka, a collection of texts of the Sefardic diaspora in Ladino. His novels Los Dolientes, The Suffering, about mourning rituals in the Syrian Jewish community in Mexico, and Mourning for Papá: A Story of a Syrian-Jewish Family in Mexico both received wide critical acclaim.
Dr. Sefamí was at the Centro Sefarad-Israel in Madrid recently to present his latest book, Memorias hechas pedazos: una Siria judía, (which can be translated as “Broken Memoirs: a Jewish Syria”) in which he relates his 2009 journey to Damascus in search of his family’s roots.
We spoke with Dr. Sefamí about the Syrian Jewish community in Mexico, and what he discovered on his memorable trip to Syria.