KUWAITI SINGER EMA SHAH to be HONORED and to PERFORM
at the 19th NY SEPHARDIC JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL on MARCH 10, 2016
CENTER FOR JEWISH HISTORY (15 WEST 16th STREET, New York, NY, 10011)
The 2016 Pomegranate Award Honors Ema Shah, the Kuwaiti Star who took a Courageous Stand for Co-Existence by Performing
in Hebrew in the Arabian Gulf
(NEW YORK, NY) 8 March 2016 – The American Sephardi Federation announced today that Kuwaiti star Ema Shah will be given this year’s Pomegranate Award, making her the first Arab woman recipient of the annual honor. She is to receive the Pomegranate and perform at the 19th NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival’s (NYSJFF) Opening Night on Thursday, March 10 at The Center for Jewish History.
“Traditionally given to a Sephardi writer, director, actor, or musician who has demonstrated excellence in the arts, Ema’s artistic commitment to co-existence expands the reach and richness of the Pomegranate Award’s meaning,” says Jason Guberman, Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation. Prior recipients include Enrico Macias, the Algerian-born international recording superstar, Erez Bitton, the award-winning Moroccan-born Israeli poet, and the Moroccan filmmaker Kamal Hachkar. “Ema Shah is a multi-talented Kuwaiti performer whose interfaith approach to music and civil society activism has made her one of the Arab world’s most courageous celebrities advancing Jewish-Arab relations,” added Guberman.
In 2010, as part of an effort to bridge cultural divides in her homeland, Ema performed Dalida’s French and Hebrew rendition of Hava Nagila and songs by Enrico Macias at a two-day Kuwait University Alumni Club folk music concert. Rejecting demands that she censors the program and charges that performing in Hebrew is offensive and tantamount to treason, Ema, a member of The Kuwaiti Society for Human Rights, asserted her right to freedom of expression and defended the power of music to “connect people around the world and remove barriers created by extremists who oppose freedom, liberalism, and democracy.”
Appearing regularly on al-Arabiya and MTV Middle East, Ema sings, composes, plays piano and guitar, acts, writes, dances, and directs. Her short films have been honored at festivals around the world, and she started as the lead in Saudi Director Mohammed al-Saber’s Who Killed Sarah, which premiered at the 2015 Dubai International Film Festival. Her song “Aleqini” earned the Bronze Medal at the 2015 Global Music Awards and she has performed for Kuwait’s Prince Nasser Mohammad al-Ahmed al-Sabah.
“At a time when the Middle East is ravaged by fanaticism, the American Sephardi Federation is proud to be the first Jewish organization to thank Ema for her friendship. By recognizing Ema, the ASF is continuing the tradition of tolerance exemplified by Sephardi pioneers of trade, diplomacy, and scholarship throughout the ages. We are also grateful for her help with our time-sensitive Diarna research mission to preserve endangered Jewish historical sites across North Africa and the Middle East,” continued Mr. Guberman.
In addition to a live performance by Ema, the evening will feature the US première of the French film Ensemble, which is inspired by the Holocaust-era heroism of Si Kaddour Benghabrit, the founder and rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, who sheltered North African Jews from the Nazis. Ensemble’s director, Mohamed Fekrane, will be in attendance for Q&As. Opening Night is being presented in conjunction with the American Islamic Congress.