The Virginia Foundation for the Humanities has established the Flory Jagoda Sephardic Music Fund, named in honor of Flory Jagoda, a courageous woman and talented musician who has made it her life’s work to preserve the songs and stories of the Sephardic culture of her childhood.
Established with a generous initial gift from Susan Gaeta, Flory’s apprentice in the 2002-2003 Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, the Fund will provide operating income and special assistance for projects related to Sephardic music, including the sponsorship of apprentice musicians, the gathering and recording of pertinent stories and music, transcription of music, and the creation of documentary materials about Sephardic music and the life and work of Flory Jagoda.
Sephardic ballad singer and composer Flory Jagoda is known as the “keeper of the flame” of Sephardic music in the United States. Flory was born in Sarajevo, Bosnia, a member of the well-known Altarac singing family of the Sephardic Jewish community. From her nona (grandmother), Flory learned songs that had been passed down in her family over the generations since the Jewish exile from Spain and Portugal in the late 15th century.
Unlike most of her family, Flory and her parents escaped the destruction of Sarajevo’s Jewish community during World War II. Flory eventually settled in Northern Virginia, where she has continued to pass along the musical, linguistic, and cultural traditions of the Sephardim to her children and to students young and old.
Flory is a gifted composer of new songs firmly rooted in the Sephardic tradition, and she continues to teach, record, and perform across the U.S. and internationally. In 2002, Flory Jagoda received a National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor granted to a traditional artist in the United States.
Listen to Flory sing in Ladino and talk about her nona’s songs at the Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Showcase.