2 December 2003

ISFSP Mourns the Loss of Hazzan Samuel Benaroya z"l


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The 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 z”l 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.

In 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.

At 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.

In 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 Benaroya’s fellow Ottoman Jewish musicians, most of whom remained unrecorded.

Benaroya 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.


The 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 and present.

The ISFSP is a a non-profit organization.


Sephardic Bikur Holim

Ezra Bessaroth

Music of Samuel Benaroya

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