Mourns the Loss of Hazzan Samuel Benaroya z"l
International Society for Sephardic Progress (ISFSP) is
mourning the loss of one of the last of the "old world"
elders of the United States Sephardic community. Samuel Benaroya
zl who passed away at 95 years old was a descendant of one
of the most renowned families of musicians from Adrianople, Turkey,
where he was born in 1908, the youngest of five brothers and two
sisters. He began his career as a singer at the age of six in
the choir of the Kahal Grande synagogue. At the age
of 17 he already conducted this choir and at the age of 20 he
joined the Maftirim. The historic Adrianople Maftirim choir was
originally founded in the 17th century by the famous Rabbi Israel
Najara who organized a group of composers, religious poets, and
singers, who would gather every Shabbat morning to chant Hebrew
sacred poems set to Ottoman classic music.
1934, Benaroya moved to Geneva, Switzerland where he served as
hazzan of the local Sephardi community of Turkish Jews. In 1939
he went back to Adrianople (now called Edirne) to marry Lisa (nee
Benozillo z"l) and returned to Geneva where they lived and
raised one daughter, Judith (Amiel). During WWII, Rev. Benaroya
played a major role in bringing refugees to safety into Geneva
from bordering France, often risking his personal safety.
the request of the Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation of Seattle,
Benaroya and his family immigrated to Seattle in 1952. It was
in Seattle that he was able to pursue his life-long goal of preserving
Turkish-style Sephardic liturgical melodies and traditions through
education. Through the years, he has taught generations of young
men enabling them to lead Shabbat and holiday services, read Torah,
blow Shofar, and chant liturgical poetry in Hebrew and Ladino
(Judeo-Spanish). Because of his efforts those who became his students
were able to apply their knowledge into the communities where
they now reside.
1998, Professor Edwin Seroussi, of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
and The Jewish Music Research Center, released a CD entitled Ottoman
Hebrew Sacred Songs - Performed by Samuel Benaroya, representing
a part of a comprehensive research project on Ottoman Hebrew sacred
poetry and music. The recording became a last minute effort to
save the vanished lore of Hazzan Benaroyas fellow Ottoman
Jewish musicians, most of whom remained unrecorded.
was a beloved father, grandfather, great-grandfather and world-renowned
hazzan of the Sephardic Bikur Holim Congregation in Seattle for
the last 30 years. He came from the Sephardic "old world"
and was blessed to live a long and ripe life which allowed him
to pass along his vocal tradition to three more generations. His
beloved wife of 53 years, Lisa Benaroya, passed away in 1994.
The Ezrat Nashim (ladies section) of the Sephardic Bikur Holim
synagogue is named in their honor. May the Almighty comfort his
community and family among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.
International Society for Sephardic Progress (ISFSP) is a Jewish
agency developed to serve the Sephardic community--the descendants
of the Jews of historic Spain, Portugal, North Africa and the
Levant who share both common religious and cultural bonds. Although
based in the United States, the ISFSP is an advocacy organization
representing Sephardim internationally. The ISFSP also functions
to produce high quality Jewish educational projects which will
educate the public on the rich Sephardic Jewish communities, past
ISFSP is a
a non-profit organization.
of Samuel Benaroya