Flory Jagoda, a.k.a. the Flame of Sephardic Music, is such a sweetheart. Catch her off-guard with a quick phone call out of the blue and she’ll laugh and joke like you grew up together, cousins maybe. The next day it’s Jagoda calling you saying, “Listen, was I too flippant? This is serious business.”
And of course it is, the promotion and preservation of a language and culture that the Holocaust decimated. But what a pleasure to assure you that Jagoda and her grown children represent all the best of family: jokes, gentle teasing and reminiscing. The reminiscing is significant. Jagoda is part of a musical family, mother and seven children, once well known in Bosnia for their interpretation of Ladino songs. Ladino is basically 15th-century Castilian Spanish, which the Jews took with them when they were put out of Spain during Isabella’s rule. Jagoda is a talented guitarist as well as a singer, and the echoes of Spain are strong in her playing as well. Her songbook includes many traditional songs centuries old, as well as new ones she wrote about family after revisiting her former home in Bosnia and all the destruction there. During World War II Jagoda was interned on the island of Korchula, two hours from Split on the Dalmatian coast. The family escaped and made it to Italy, where she met “the most handsome master sergeant,” whom she married in 1945. Since 1947 she has been purely Yankee, raising her kids to be 100% American, but to never forget where they came from and what is now lost.
Flory Jagoda and Family, Sun., April 2, 3 p.m., National Museum of American Jewish History, 55 N. Fifth St., 215-923-3811, www.nmajh.org.