Music of the Spanish Jews

From 1978-1980, Robin Greenstein was chosen to receive a federal CETA grant to do music research for the American Jewish Congress in Jewish folk music. It was the first time in decades that the federal government tried giving grants to artists to work at creative jobs 9-5. Thus was born the Ladino Music Project.

As a CETA artist, Robin collected on tape, over a 20-month period, traditional Ladino folksongs still sung by the older members of the Sephardic community in New York City. In addition to learning these songs and presenting them before the public, Robin created a Ladino music collection at the American Jewish Congress. Ladino is in danger of extinction and these performances are among the last recordings of Sephardic immigrants to NYC who still spoke and sang in this language.

Ladino is the 400-year old language of those Sephardic Jews who were exiled from Spain in the expulsion of 1492. Ladino is a mixture of old Spanish and Hebrew, with other Aramaic elements and Turkish, Greek and French. Ladino folksong contains the passion of Spanish poetry and the ballad form of the romanca, yet is distinctly Jewish in its musical flavor and moral messages. Many songs date back to pre-expulsion Spain.

Robin fused the elements of her research into a most entertaining and educational program. She has sung at public schools, colleges, associated Y's, senior centers, health related facilities, nursing homes and synagogues throughout New York City, and as far away as Oshkosh, Wisconsin. She was featured at the Jewish Arts Festivals held at Stony Brook and Queens College and appeared at the Jewish Ethnic Music Festival sponsored by the National Foundation of Jewish Culture.

Some of the many institutions where Robin has brought her Ladino Music Project:

  Jewish Ethnic Music Festival, NYC Federation of Jewish Womens' Org.
  Scarsdale YM-WHA, Scarsdale, NY Queens College, NYC
  SUNY Stony Brook LI P.S. 14, Corona, NY
  Mark Twain H.S., Brooklyn Jewish Assoc. of College Youth, NY
  Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, NYC Sephardic Home for the Aged, Brooklyn
  Bezalel HRC, Far Rockaway The Temple, Atlanta, GA
  Rutgers University, NJ Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue, NYC
  Hartman YM-YWWHA, Far Rockaway Green Park HRF, Brooklyn
  Bronx Community College, NYC Ripon College, Ripon, WI
  Junior H.S. 54, NYC Bronx Older Adult Luncheon Club, NYC
  Temple Bnai Zion, Oshkosh, WI  


P.S. 20, Manhattan - 4 weeks
Bronx Older Adult Luncheon Club - 8 weeks
Sephardic Home For The Aged - 18 months

Hear a sample of a Ladino song sung by Robin:
El Rey Que Muncho Madruga