Loading Events

Event presented by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas

Elizabeth Graver: Kan­ti­ka

When: November 29th
Location: Zoom
Price: Free to attend 

Moderated by: Rachel Amado Bortnick

A kaleidoscopic portrait of one family’s displacement across four countries, Kantika―“song” in Ladino―follows the joys and losses of Rebecca Cohen, feisty daughter of the Sephardic elite of early 20th-century Istanbul. When the Cohens lose their wealth and are forced to move to Barcelona and start anew, Rebecca fashions a life and self from what comes her way―a failed marriage, the need to earn a living, but also passion, pleasure and motherhood. Moving from Spain to Cuba to New York for an arranged second marriage, she faces her greatest challenge―her disabled stepdaughter, Luna, whose feistiness equals her own and whose challenges pit new family against old.

Exploring identity, place and exile, Kantika also reveals how the female body―in work, art and love―serves as a site of both suffering and joy. A haunting, inspiring meditation on the tenacity of women, this lush, lyrical novel from Elizabeth Graver celebrates the insistence on seizing beauty and grabbing hold of one’s one and only life.

About the Author: 

Elizabeth Graver’s fifth nov­el, Kan­ti­ka, was inspired by the migra­tion sto­ry of her Turk­ish Sephar­ic grand­moth­er, whose journey took her from Turkey to Spain, Cuba, and New York. Turk­ish, Ger­man and audio edi­tions are forth­com­ing. Her nov­el The End of the Point was long-list­ed for the 2013 Nation­al Book Award and select­ed as a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her oth­er nov­els are AwakeThe Hon­ey Thief, and Unrav­el­ling. Her sto­ry col­lec­tion, Have You Seen Me?, won the 1991 Drue Heinz Lit­er­a­ture Prize. Her work has been anthol­o­gized in Best Amer­i­can Short Sto­riesBest Amer­i­can Essays, and Prize Sto­ries, the O. Hen­ry Awards. She teaches at Boston College.

About the Moderator: 

Rachel Amado Bortnick was born and raised in Izmir, Turkey, in a Ladino-speaking Sephardic family. She came to the United States in 1958 on a scholarship to Lindenwood College (now Lindenwood University) in St. Charles, Missouri, from which she has a B.A. in chemistry.  She met her husband Bernard Bortnick in St. Louis and after their marriage, which took place in Izmir, the couple lived in Holland, in Israel, and several cities in the United States before settling in Dallas, Texas in 1988. Having given up a career in chemistry early on, Rachel taught ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) for 35 years, including at Jewish Family Services, the JCC, and Brookhaven College here in Dallas.
Everywhere she has lived, Rachel has promoted her Sephardic culture and Ladino language. In 1n the 1980s, while she lived in San Franco, she founded and headed the organization for Ladino speakers, Los Amigos Sefaradis, and was featured in the documentary film, Trees Cry for Rain: a Sephardic Journey, produced in 1988, and shown in Film festivals around the world. In 1999 she founded Ladinokomunita, the Ladino correspondence group on the Internet, which is still going strong with over 1600 members from 32 countries.  Here in Dallas, she was instrumental in establishing the yearly observance of International Day of Ladino at Southern Methodist University. She continues to write articles and to lecture about Sephardic culture and Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish, language.
Rachel is a long-time member of the Society of Crypto-Judaic Studies and has served as its secretary.  Locally, she has also served as the president of Dallas Jewish Historical Society.