Keeper of the Flame

Flory, born in Sarajevo, had come to the US in 1945 by way of Italy as a war bride to her beloved Harry. By the 1970s, her children launched, Flory began acting on her feelings of responsibility for keeping her Sephardic heritage alive at a time when Sephardic life was mostly limited to families and communities. She taught her young adult children the songs and through that, Ladino. They formed a group, Flory Jagoda and Family, with their first concert in 1982 and many more into the 1990s. She started other ensembles and continued to perform into her 90’s. 

In 2001, she founded the Vijitas Del Alhad, monthly gatherings of mostly Ladino-speaking Sephardim in people’s homes, including hers. We vijitadores sang with Flory. We celebrated  Sephardic culture and Ladino through conversation, stories and, of course, food, some of which Flory love making—borekas, boyos, yaprakas, frittatas, kuajados, keftes, boiscochos…a hit parade of Sephardic favorites (and mine!) too little known in our Ashkenazic-centric Jewish world. Bringing people together was a way to re-create the large family and community who, nearly all outside her immediate family and grandparents, remained in Europe and were killed in the Holocaust.

Flory believed women especially have always been the keepers and transmitters of heritage. Without women, Sephardic culture and Ladino wouldn’t survive. So, she made special efforts to teach other women. The NEA fellowship enabled her to bring on a student, Susan Gaeta, who performed countless times with Flory and now seems to channel her teacher.