A Patchwork of Cultures: Exploring the Sephardic-Latino Connection
The LAJS Education Outreach Program, “A Patchwork of Cultures: Exploring the Sephardic-Latino Connection,” annually serves approximately 1,000 students, grades 4 and 5, in Los Angeles public schools in low-income areas (over 90% are eligible for the free lunch program) with a significant Latino population severely under-served in arts programming; parochial schools, whose students have little or no knowledge of Jewish heritage or traditions; and Jewish day schools.
The project serves as a cultural bridge for these children, whose communities share a common musical and cultural heritage from Spain, and promotes understanding and respect for diversity. Participating teachers have called it “the Ladino-Latino connection.”
Due to the ongoing pandemic and LAUSD restrictions on in-school learning, we are adapting our education program into a virtual series that can be administered by classroom teachers during the spring semester.
We remain dedicated to providing school-age children with affordable access to culture and music, at a time when these programs are being systematically removed from public school curriculum. Through this digital program, we look forward to engaging students with the arts, and continuing to promote tolerance among the multitude of cultures that comprise our community.
In 2018 we began a successful collaboration with Fuente Latina, a nonprofit whose mission is promoting positive media coverage of Jewish events and organizations to Latino news outlets. Our partnership has enabled us to spread the word about our education program and engage with more members of the Spanish-speaking community.
Media coverage from Fuente Latina, Univision, LAThisWeek and Jewish Life Television:
What the teachers say about A Patchwork of Cultures:
For our students, music truly brings all cultures together – they LOVED the experience!
---Lenore Rukasin, LAJS Board Member, and Intervention Teacher at Cohasset Elementary School
The students learn how to dance, to play instruments and to live together with people that are different from them. They are exposed to people with different cultures and people that have different traditions, but they all have music in common.
--Bernie Contreras, Teacher at Vaughn Next Century Learning Center
The students had a wonderful experience! They came back talking about music and how exciting it was to play instruments in the petting zoo.
--Mrs. Aguilar, Teacher at Columbus Avenue Elementary
My school was so appreciative and the kids really had their eyes opened to a whole new world of music. It means so much to me because it’s something I didn't get as a child. This is good work that LAJS is doing and I am so proud to be part of it.
---Axel Oliva, “After School” Arts Program Leader at St. Agnes Parish School
What the musicians say:
We draw and move to the music and each child creates an art project reflecting the journey. The program awakens and relates the senses, and inspires artistic and cultural spirit. The children experience the creative process and celebrate life’s ups and downs in their compositions. They find strength and poetry in their lives. Education doesn’t get any better than this!
---Leslie Lashinsky, LAJS Teaching Artist
Being a Teaching Artist for the Symphony is one of the most special things I've done with my life. The children are so receptive to everything!
---Beth Dror, LAJS Teaching Artist
It is not just a concert for the kids, it is an experience for them, and they’re able to share it with other kids that don’t speak the same language and that come from another culture. Through music they find a connection. We are not building walls but creating connections, communication.
--Cantor Marcelo Gindlin
What the volunteers say:
Some of us have been volunteering from the very first year and what keeps us coming back is the excitement and sparkle we see not only in the children as they participate in all parts of the experience, but also the appreciation from their teachers and the enjoyment of the seniors who also attend. The LAJS has come up with not only a great intercultural program, but one that spans and benefits the generations!
---Helen Madrid-Worthen, President, Hispanic Jewish Women’s Alliance
The LA Jewish Symphony program is so awe-inspiring. It’s such an incredible pleasure to see the joy in the children’s faces while they are trying the instruments and when they see their own handiwork on the walls. To see (and not hear a peep) when the orchestra is playing and when the conductor talks about the music and the instruments is so beautiful to behold. And who can help laughing deep from our souls when the kids get up to dance to the Mexican Hat Dance? Working with the kids and other volunteers fills me with such elation – which tends to stay with me for days!
---Evelyn Perl, Volunteer
What the students say:
We are deeply grateful to these generous sponsors of A Patchwork of Cultures: Exploring the Sephardic-Latino Connection:
Baxter-Northup Music Co., City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Gelson's, Hennings-Fischer Foundation, Hillside Memorial Park and Mortuary, Jewish Music Commission of LA, Kashper Family Foundation, Langer Juice Company, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Los Angeles Philanthropic Committee for the Arts, Maurice Amado Foundation, Max Factor Family Foundation, Michael and Lori Milken Family Foundation, Milken Family Foundation, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation, Trader Joes, US Bancorp and Western Bagel.
Transportation assistance generously provided by Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and City Council members Mitchell Englander, Paul Koretz, Paul Krekorian, Nury Martinez and Monica Rodriguez.