Sephardic Jews (Sephardic meaning the Spanish in Hebrew) are the decedents of those Jews that were exiled from Spain in 1492 during the Spanish inquisition. The Sephardic Spreads along many countries.

Some settled in the south of France, in the cities of Bayonne and San Juan de Luz. Others went to Portugal, where they would also be exiled, then going to countries like Holland and cities in the north of Germany like Bremen and Hamburg.

Some others went to the Moorish kingdoms of Morocco and even Syria, while a small fraction of them established themselves in countries like Denmark, Switzerland, and Italy.

Many Sephardic stayed in Spain under Christian disguises (marranos) and later went to the islands of the Caribbean, like Jamaica, or even to Brazil, Peru, and Mexico, where many of them participated in the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of the area..

However, the great majority of the Sephardics went to the Ottoman Empire where they established four great communities, greater than any is Spain: Salonika (Greece), Istanbul and Smyrna in Turkey, and Safed in Palestine. Still, the Sephardic settled in almost every important city of the Empire. They founded communities in Sarajevo (Bosnia), Belgrade (Serbia), Monastir (Macedonia), Sofia and Russe (Bulgaria), Bucharest (Romania), Alexandria (Egypt) and Edirne, Canakkale, Tekirdag, and Bursa in modern day Turkey.

The community of Salonika, one of the most numerous in the World has very few members left today, mainly due to the fact that 80% of its inhabitants were victims of the Holocaust, without counting the uncountable number of them that migrated, mainly to the United States and France, before World War Two, or to Israel afterwards.

Hence, it is inevitable to remember the numerous episodes linked to the long and tragic history of persecution and crimes against followers of the jewish faith. In the case of the Spanish inquisition, the numbers range from 165,000 to 400,000 people that were exiled (see 1). Lets remember that Turing these unfortunate times, Christopher Columbus' trip was planned and organized.

The circumstances under which the Jews were exiled of the Iberic peninsula allowed them to take with them the popular heritage that by nature the followers of the Jewish religion conserved. In the countries where they settled they kept cultivating their mixed musical folklore (Spanish and Jewish) or pure musical folklore (Spanish or Jewish) and they added it to their new environment.

This is why the Iberian romances and poems appear with absolute accuracy in detached countries such as Morocco, Algiers, Tunisia, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, etc. Amen to the land of Israel, place of origin of the Jews.

Sephardics in Venezuela.

Esther and Alberto Roffe immigrated to Venezuela from Morocco in 1955. From that moment on, Venezuela became their homeland. They started a family filled with Jewish traditions, lots of music, and a great love for their country, Venezuela.

During World War II and in times prior as well, the world was witness to the horrific persecution of Jews in Europe. Venezuela received all foreigners with open arms, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Jewish presence in Venezuela most probably began in the mid-16th century when groups of "judeoconversos" (Jews who were forced to convert to other religions during the mentioned period in Spain) arrived with the expedition of Pedro Malaver de Slilva. There is evidence of organized communities in Tucacas starting in the 17th century, as well asconvert Jewish families in Maracaibo and Caracas during that same period. The geographic proximity of Venezuela to countries that had organized Jewish communities, such as Curacao, facilitated business and personal relationships amongst them.

After the fall of the first republic in 1812, Simon Bolivar finds asylum in Curacao. It was at the home of Jewish resident Mordejai Ricardo where Bolivar wrote the "Manifesto de Cartagena". The Sephardic Jews of the Caribbean supported the "patriotic cause" of Venezuela with weapons, equipment, and provisions. Many Jews served in the patriotic armies and were openly supportive of the cause (taken from "Diccionario de la CulturaJudiaen Venezuela", by Abraham Levy and Jacqueline Goldberg, 2014, edited by the center of Sephardic studies in Caracas)

After the decree of 1819, Jews were allowed to settle in Venezuela and freely practice their religion. With the abolishment of the Tribunal of the Inquisition in 1821, many Sephardic Jews; primarily from Curacao, began to arrive in Puerto Cabello, Barcelona, and in large numbers to Coro in the State of Falcon. In Coro they formed a well-organized community that flourished in culture and business. In the mid-19th century Spanish-speaking Jews from the coastal cities of Morocco began to arrive, and after 1870 there were already well established Moroccan Jews in Venezuela, their arrival being more noticeable at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century.

Starting in the 1920s Jews from Greece, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Turkey, Persia, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Poland began to arrive. Venezuela also received many holocaust survivors from the Nazi's barbarisms.

Even in present day, prominent professionals of many areas have enriched and shared both their Venezuelan and Jewish cultures. We hope that future generations enjoy learning about their roots and origins,their cultural freedom, and a country of progress and liberty for all those who live in it.


After his arrival in Venezuela (1955) from Morocco, Alberto wishes to formally compile all of the songs that his wife, Esther Benchimol de Roffe sung, and that they both knew from their childhood. Romantic songs, prayers, and Holiday poems that are part of the history of the Jews that were exiled from Spain in 1492.

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Important People

The production of the Recuerdos Sefaraditas albums are credited to Alberto Roffe Bentolila "ZL" Part of his legacy is the result of the work on Sephardic culture that he was able to accomplish in Venezuelan soil, where he was welcomed with affection and respect.

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El Centro de Estudios Sefardíes de Caracas (CESC) es una institución cultural adscrita a la Asociación Israelita de Venezuela (AIV)

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