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Itshak Levi

Name, surname : Itshak Levi

Date and place of birth: May 15 1919, Manisa, Turkey

Date of death : July 21 1977, Jerusalem, Israel

Date of Aliya : 1922

Education: Graduated from Eretz-Israel Conservatory, studied music and drama in Jerusalem.

Profession: Composer, ethnologist and singer (Baritone)


After completing his education in music, he composed music for poems from the Tanah and from Sephardic Jewish poets from the Golden Age in Spain, such as Yehuda Halevi, Shlomo Ibn Gabirol and Ibn Ezra. In addition, he composed albums for children called "The Country of the Dwarves" and "Ruti's Birthday".

He knew Ladino-speaking political figures such as Itshak Navon and Yaakov Nitsani personally. With the support of these personages and the "Sephardic Institution in Jerusalem", he started Ladino broadcasts on the radio "Kol Israel" in 1954. Itshak Levi worked as the director of the daily Ladino broadcasts of Kol Israel radio from 1955 until 1963.

Thanks to the financial resources he obtained from the radio, he began to record songs sung by the elderly, songs from the time of the Spanish exile, and thus he started ethnographic studies.

Itshak Levi got together with numerous elderly people and recorded both the compositions and the lyrics of the old Ladino songs. He created a large archive of 700 compositions that were about to disappear and he brought them back to public access. As part of his duties in Kol Israel, he had some of the archived compositions recorded by well-known singers and he had the songs broadcast on the radio.

One of the most famous of those singers is Yehoram Gaon, who was well known at the time and was encouraged to sing in Ladino by Itshak Levi. Itshak Levi's archive provided a resource for many singers in the diaspora as well as Itshak Navon's famous musical "Bostan Sefaradi". One of these diaspora performers is "Los Paşaros Sefaradis" in Turkey. Shlomo Artsi's album "Romansa and Piut" (1977) contains the compositions of Itshak Levi. The singer Lulik arranged his album "Romansos Sefaradiot" in memory of Itshak Levi in 1980.

Itshak Levi's archive is preserved at the National Library (Sifria HaLeumi).

A few months after his death in 1977, Itshak Levi was awarded the "Pras Yerushalayim – The Jerusalem Award". Moshe Shaul who had worked with him, became head of the Kol Israel Ladino department after his death and continued his work. Yasmin Levi followed in her father's footsteps and gained an international reputation as a Ladino singer.

Publications: "Chant Judeo-Espanols" (This work is also known as the Romansas of Itshak Levi), "The Ethnography of Sephardic Cantors". This last work contains religious synagogue songs in different styles from different Sephardic communities such as Amsterdam, Izmir and Tunisia.

Outstanding and Permanent contribution /reasons for nomination:

He was deemed worthy of selection for his work in the preservation of the Ladino language, culture, traditions and heritage, resulting in his contributions to Israeli culture.


Bizi Takip Edin
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