The Secret Shofar of Barcelonaby Jacqueline Dembar Greene, Doug Chayka
Symphony conductor Don Fernando longs to hear the sounds of the shofar. Like other conversos during the Spanish Inquisition, he has to hide his Jewish religion and pretend to follow the teachings of the church. But when he is asked to perform a concert celebrating the new world, he and his son Rafael devise a clever plan to usher in the Jewish New Year in plain… See more details below
Symphony conductor Don Fernando longs to hear the sounds of the shofar. Like other conversos during the Spanish Inquisition, he has to hide his Jewish religion and pretend to follow the teachings of the church. But when he is asked to perform a concert celebrating the new world, he and his son Rafael devise a clever plan to usher in the Jewish New Year in plain sight of the Spanish nobility.
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Do you know what a shofar is? It is a musical instrument that is made from a ram's horn and used by Jewish people. In 1492, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand decreed that everyone in Spain must be Catholic. Most people of other faiths were forced to leave the country or convert. Some Jews who remained and pretended to follow Catholic ways were called "conversos" and had to hide their religion from the Inquisition. There is a legend about one such converso named Don Fernando Aguilar, who was a famous composer and/or conductor of the Royal Orchestra of Barcelona in the late 1500s, and this book is based on that legend. Author Jacqueline Dembar Greene notes, "While such a man may have existed, there is no mention of him in history books. Nor is there record of a Royal Orchestra. But music was an important part of Spanish life." Rafael Aguilar was listening to a new piece that his father had composed and was to conduct at a concert celebrating Spain's colonies in the New World. It had parts for many strange instruments that were used by the natives of those colonies. At the same time, the Aguilars and their friends were planning to hold their secret observation of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, since it would appear that they were only celebrating the festival. Rafael had the idea of including a part for the shofar as a "native instrument," saying, "Maybe it's safest to hide the shofar in plain sight," so that hearing it would encourage the Jews. But who would be brave enough to play the shofar in public, and would they be able to get away with it? With period-appropriate illustrations by Doug Chayka, The Secret Shofar of Barcelona will be of special interest to Jewish children, but it is a well written story that all youngsters should enjoy reading.