Songs of Our People, Songs of Our Neighbors: Sarah Aroeste Album Release

Wednesday, Jul 7, 2021

To support events like this in the future, please consider making a donation.

Wednesday, July 7 at 8 pm ET
Free with suggested $10 donation
See “Ways to Watch” below

“I had to use music, my best form of expression, to do my part in helping to preserve this important slice of history that is at the root of so much of my Sephardic identity.”
Sarah Aroeste on creating Monastir

Join us for the album release event for Sarah Aroeste’s brand-new album Monastir during the sixth episode of our livestream music and conversation series, Songs of Our People, Songs of Our Neighbors. Aroeste, an international Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) singer/songwriter, author, and activist will perform live from the piano in her home studio as well as share the world premiere of the official music video for Espinelo.

Dedicated to studying, preserving, and evolving Ladino culture, Aroeste will offer insights into the research, family history, and international collaborations that made this just-released album possible. Jewish life in Monastir–known today as Bitola in North Macedonia–was wiped out during WWII. From kantikas (folk songs) to romances (narrative ballads often inspired by epic Medieval tales), and from centuries-old melodies to originals, each song in this album has a story that brings the rich history of Jewish Monastir back to life.

About the Album “Monastir”

When Sarah Aroeste’s ancestors were kicked out of Spain following the Alhambra Decree in 1492, they, like many other Spanish Jewish families (known as Sephardim), migrated east and  settled in Monastir, a Balkan city at the commercial crossroads between Turkey and Western Europe, in what is now North Macedonia. For centuries, the Jewish community of Monastir flourished alongside its neighbors and enjoyed a unique history, with its own customs, religious observances, linguistic patterns and more.

But nothing could prevent WWII and the Nazi invasion from decimating Monastir and her neighboring Jewish communities. On March 11, 1943, 3,276 of Monastir’s Jewish men, women, and children were rounded up and transported to their deaths at Treblinka concentration camp. Monastir lost 98% of its Jewish population, and with that, an entire culture. Altogether, 7,215 Macedonian Jews perished. Today, there are approximately 200 people who make up a Jewish community in the capital of Skopje, and not a single Jew left in Monastir, since renamed as Bitola.

But the legacy of Jewish Monastir lives on.

“This project is the culmination of years of research and collaboration with participants across the globe,” says Aroeste. “After performing in Monastir for the first time in 2017, I was astounded by the reception I received from citizens who were so eager to engage with me and my family history. I was touched beyond measure, especially since no Jews have lived in Monastir since WWII. I knew then that I had to use music, my best form of expression, to do my part in helping to preserve this important slice of history that is at the root of so much of my Sephardic identity.”

And so, The Monastir Project was born.

About the Songs of Our People Songs of Our Neighbors series:

Launched online in June 2020, this series explores music from varied Jewish traditions and diverse cultures, from the historic and traditional, to the contemporary and reimagined. Through conversations, live and prerecorded performances, and audience Q&A, this series uses music to better understand the complex, culturally diverse communities which make up the Jewish People, and our nation.

Ways to Watch

Facebook: Look for the LIVE post on the Museum’s Facebook page at 8pm ET. You do not need a Facebook account to view the program.

NMAJH website: A little before the program start time, the livestream will also be available at the top of this page. You will be prompted to enter your email address. Please note that you may need to refresh your screen and press “play” on the video—the static image will be replaced with the live feed before the program starts.

Zoom: Registration is required to receive the link–click here. The Museum’s Zoom can accommodate 500 guests. Should we reach that number, please use one of the other methods listed above—they are all free and have unlimited capacity.

This program is being presented by the National Museum of American Jewish History in partnership with UCLA’s Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience


You may also be interested in…

Songs of Our People, Songs of Our Neighbors: Susan Gaeta

Songs of Our People, Songs of Our Neighbors: Susana Behar

Songs of Our People, Songs of Our Neighbors: Pedrito Martinez