THE AMERICAN SEPHARDI FEDERATION’s 2019 POMEGRANATE AWARD FOR LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT GOES TO TUNISIAN-BORN AUTHOR ALBERT MEMMI; CEREMONY AT THE 22nd NEW YORK SEPHARDIC JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL’s MOROCCAN OPENING NIGHT, 6 MARCH 2019
The AMERICAN SEPHARDI FEDERATION will award its Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement to the writer and sociologist ALBERT MEMMI at this evening’s Moroccan Opening Night of the 22nd NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival.
Born in Tunisia into a poor Jewish family, the 98-year-old Memmi is a giant of Sephardi literature of French expression. His works include The Pillar of Salt, The Scorpion, Portrait of the Colonized, and numerous seminal sociological works. Previous recipients of the ASF Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement include André Azoulay, Senior Counselor to Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, in recognition of his remarkable life’s work bridging religious divides through artistic and cultural endeavors, such as the founding Essaouira’s Festival des Andalousies Atlantiques; Enrico Macias, the Algerian-born French international recording superstar, and Erez Bitton, the award-winning Moroccan-born Israeli poet. The ASF Pomegranate Award is sculpted with love by the renowned Baghdad-born artist Oded Halahmy of the Pomegranate Gallery in Old Jaffa and Soho. Memmi situated his work early on at the crossroads of Jewish, Arab, and French cultures. Seen as a “Prophet of Decolonization,” he strove toward a recognition of multiple identities, the fight against all forms of racism, and wrote about the difficulty of finding a balance between East and West. Recognized by peers, including Albert Camus, Aragon, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Léopold Sedar Senghor, his work is often read in conjunction with those of Frantz Fanon and Aimé Césaire.
“When Sephardim were decolonized and dispossessed from Arab-majority lands that were their homelands for thousands of years, and now despairing about their peripheral existence in Ashkenazi-dominated Israel, they found a champion in the brilliant intellectual and moral voice of Albert Memmi,” says David E.R. Dangoor, President of the American Sephardi Federation. “Memmi’s writing did not only speak to the Sephardic Jews in the Promised Land facing discrimination, but, as a Jew, Albert Memmi’s writings remain one of the most important voices for all peoples that are put in a position of perceived inferiority,” Dangoor continued. He added: “In an ever-imperfect world Albert Memmi’s writing will remain an important key to a better world for all. The American Sephardi Federation is proud to honor this literary giant with the Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement and draw attention to his profound writings, which are of great importance to understanding the truths behind the Jewish experience in what was to become Arab (or Muslim) lands.” Dr. Judith Roumani, Editor of Sephardic Horizons and a translator of Memmi’s works, says “Albert Memmi’s writing as a philosopher, sociologist, novelist and poet has been revolutionary in many senses: he diagnosed the predicament of colonized peoples and in particular of the educated individual, and the predicament of Jews in Middle East countries, sharing both in the life of indigenous Muslims and in that of the colonizers, yet not accepted by either. He has perched precariously across three civilizations, but would not be complete if any one were missing. Inventor of the term ‘Arab Jew’, yet not confined by it. Recipient of many prizes, including the Grand Prix de la Francophonie by the Académie française, and the Prix de Carthage, awarded personally by President Bourguiba of Tunisia. A subtle and complicated writer in many genres, exemplifying Sephardi creativity.” Due to Memmi’s advanced age, an award ceremony was organized at his home in Paris with authors Colette Fellous and Guy Dugas, coordinator of the upcoming Memmi Centennial in France and Tunisia. “As preparations are made for the Memmi Centennial, it is imperative to consider Albert Memmi’s principled and prophetic teachings. Memmi’s call for coexistence between decolonized Jews and Arabs based on shared culture, language, and history devoid of myth remains a moral challenge to the hateful ideologies of despair, resentment, denial, and defeat that still seek to divide humanity and destroy the possibility of civilizational progress or peace,” said Jason Guberman, Executive Director of the American Sephardi Federation. “Memmi, already recognized by the New York Times in 1975 as a singular, scholarly voice for marginalized Sephardim, is more relevant now than ever. The American Sephardi Federation means for this Pomegranate Award to be the beginning of a renewed reflection on and realization of his vision.”
Upon hearing the news of Memmi receiving the ASF Pomegranate Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Ambassador of Tunisia at Paris, Mr. Abdelazziz Rassâa, paid a visit to Memmi to recognize the bestowing of this honor to a fellow Tunisian. The exclusive video of these events, RUE ALBERT MEMMI, will be screened during the Moroccan Opening Night of the New York Sephardic Jewish Film Festival.
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About The 22nd NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival The American Sephardi Federation’s NY Sephardic Jewish Film Festival showcases contemporary voices steeped in the history, traditions, and rich mosaic culture of Greater Sephardic communities through NY première film screenings, intriguing stories, evocative documentaries, Q&As with filmmakers, the Pomegranate Awards (sculpted by Baghdad-born artist, Oded Halahmy) Ceremony, and special guests. This year’s eleven-day NYSJFF has film entries focused on Egyptian, French, Israeli, Moroccan, Spanish, Syrian, Tunisian, and Yemenite communities. Each night of the Festival features a themed program honoring the rich and diverse communities the ASF represents.
About The American Sephardi Federation
The American Sephardi Federation, a Partner of the landmark Center for Jewish History, proudly preserves and promotes the history, traditions, and rich mosaic culture of Greater Sephardic communities as an integral part of the Jewish experience. ASF hosts high-profile events and exhibitions, produces widely-read online (Sephardi World Weekly and Sephardi Ideas Monthly) and print (The Sephardi Report) publications, supports research, scholarship (see: ASF’s 2018 Broome & Allen Fellowship and Scholarship Recipients), the Institute of Jewish Experience, and the National Sephardic Library & Archives, and represents the Sephardi voice in diplomatic and Jewish communal affairs as a member of the World Jewish Congress and Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
About The ASF Pomegranate Awards
The ASF Pomegranate Awards celebrate Sephardi excellence in the arts and are designed by renowned Baghdad-born artist and ASF Board member Oded Halahmy, proprietor of the Pomegranate Gallery in Soho, NY and Jaffa, Israel. For a full list of past honorees, please see: www.nysephardifilmfestival.org/awards
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