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Anthony Krikler - Un Cavritico (Chad Gadya in Ladino)

Lecha Dodi
Un Cavritico (Chad Gadya in Ladino)

“I was born in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia now Harare, Zimbabwe in 1954 and came to the UK in 1979.

My father was born in 1921 in Dubrovna, Russia. Dubrovna is a small town just south of Smolensk. His parents left Russia for Cape Town in about 1924 when he was a little boy. The family subsequently moved to Southern Rhodesia to a small mining town called Shabani in about 1926.

My mother was born in Southern Rhodesia in 1926, not long after the British South Africa Company occupied the country in about 1890. Rhodesia was given self-governing rights in 1923.

The old synagogue in Rhodes. Photo from Aron Hasson

My mother came from a Sephardi Family. Her mother was born in Bodrum in Turkey and her father in Rhodes. My maternal grandfather came to Rhodesia in about 1910. Like most of the Sephardim he had a little shop selling basic necessities. He slept on the shop counter at night and sold his goods during the day. Both my maternal grandparents spoke Greek, Turkish, Ladino and some French. My mother’s father died in 1936 when she was just 9 years old. At the time that my maternal grandparents came to Rhodesia there was no particular reason to leave Turkey/Greece although, later during the occupation of Rhodes by the Italians during the Second World War, many Jews were sent to Auschwitz.

At its height, there were about 7,000 Jews in Zimbabwe, mostly in the two big cities of Salisbury and Bulawayo. Salisbury always had slightly more Jews than Bulawayo.

In Salisbury where I grew up there were three communities at one time, Ashkenazi, Sephardi and a small reform community. The Ashkenazi community was always slightly bigger than the Sephardi community. Both communities had beautiful synagogues and indeed even today with fewer than a hundred Jews in Harare there are still two synagogues. The communities find it difficult to get a minyan and accordingly they have combined services, one week in the Sephardi and one week in the Ashkenazi synagogue.

The communities were very separate and had little to do with each other. Indeed, when my father, an Ashkenazi, married my mother a Sephardi, some members of my father’s family refused to attend the wedding. So my background is a mixture of both Sephardim and Ashkenazim. My parents are now well into their eighties and live in Harare amongst the dwindling community. The Zimbabwean Sephardi community is aligned to the Sephardi community in England through the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish Community. When I first came to London in 1979 I visited Bevis Marks synagogue for Yom Kippur. I was surprised that, except for the leyning, the tunes were different. I suspect this is because of the influence of the Jews of Rhodes on the tunes that I know. My brother who belongs to a Conservative synagogue in Vancouver has introduced our tunes to them and although they are an Ashkenazi community they like the tunes! It’s interesting how people move on and take their tunes with them.

The Sephardi synagogue in Harare

All the songs we sung in Rhodesia were Sephardi tunes and this Chad Gadya is in Ladino. All the songs here have been handed down from my mother’s father, mostly from Rhodes.”

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