Skip to content


07Jun1:30 pm2:30 pmSTELLA LEVI AND THE SONGS OF HER LIFE1:30 pm - 2:30 pm(GMT-04:00) Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16 Street, New York, NY 10011

Event Details

Presented by the American Sephardi Federation. Admission:

We studied the Greeks and my sister read Pindar’s poem to me … … with lyre and flute and flowing song, I land upon this bright and glorious island Child of the sea-born Aphrodite, wave-washed Rhodes, Bride of the sun … Pesach. All daughters and maids painted the walls white. We began at dawn. When finished, we all ate together in the street.The Italians came to the Jewish quarter in the evening. They liked listening to the Haggadah always sung in Hebrew and Ladino. In turn they brought Nabucco, Chopin, and Baciami Bambina …

Stella Levi was born in the island of Rhodes, a crossroad of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures. Starting in the late 19th century, the Jewish population was exposed to French culture and to the nationalization of Turkey.

Italy conquered the island in 1912. Embraced by familial love, Stella absorbed the culture of her parents and grandparents and the hopes, fears, and complexities brought about by colonialism and modernization. Besides her native Judeo-Español, she spoke French, Italian, Turkish and Greek. Encouraged by her mother and older sisters, enjoyed philosophy, history, poetry, psychoanalysis and art.

Music and poetry were an essential element of daily life, sometimes through the radio or the Puccini Theater but more often as part of ancient traditions: her father, Yehudah Levi was known for his enchanting cantillation and the women around her sang Ladino love songs. After enduring the hardship of the war and the racial laws, on July 1944 the entire Jewish Community of Rhodes was deported to Auschwitz. Stella and her sister René survived.

They went to Italy and then to the United States. While struggling to establish life in a new country, Stella continued to nurture her passions. With modesty and grace, she became an inspiration and a source of knowledge for many endeavors: the Jewish Museums of Rhodes and Athens, the Sephardic House, the American Sephardi Federation and Centro Primo Levi. She has been featured in three films: The Island of Roses by Rebecca Samonà, The Longest Journey by Ruggero Gabbai and Redemption Blues by Peter Statsny. Her life has also been celebrated in Michael Frank’s book One Hundred Saturdays, recounting their conversations over many years.

Get Directions

Back To Top