Elizabeth Graver and Michael Frank come together for a special conversation about two books that capture the stories of two shapeshifting Sephardic women who lived many lives over many decades. Graver’s novel Kantika (“song” in Ladino) draws a fictionalized portrait of her grandmother Rebecca Cohen, daughter of the Sephardic elite of early twentieth-century Istanbul, whose journey took her to Cuba, Spain, and New York. Michael Frank’s One Hundred Saturdays: Stella Levi and the Search for a Lost World depicts Frank’s six-year-long encounter with Stella Levi, who was born and came of age in the Juderia of Rhodes, Greece. Levi was deported to Auschwitz, along with the rest of her community, in July of 1944. Both Rebecca and Stella—fierce, creative, and vibrant—came to create new lives for themselves in America.   

Maira Kalman, who illustrated One Hundred Saturdays, will join in the conversation. The evening will also include a performance of Sephardic music by singer Shoshana Bean with guitarist Dan Nadel.

Doors open at 6:30 PM. The Museum is free and open to all on Thursdays from 4:00 to 8:00 PM with Jewish and Russian fare on offer from LOX Cafe. Currently on view: The Holocaust: What Hate Can DoSurvivors: Faces of Life After the Holocaust, and Andy Goldsworthy’s Garden of Stones.

Elizabeth Graver’s fifth novel, Kantika, was inspired by her grandmother, Rebecca née Cohen Baruch Levy, who was born into a Sephardic Jewish family in Istanbul, and whose tumultuous and shape-shifting life journey took her to Spain, Cuba, and New York. Graver’s fourth novel, The End of the Point, was long listed for the 2013 National Book Award in Fiction. Her other novels are Awake, The 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 Stories, Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and Best American Essays. She teaches at Boston College

Michael Frank is the author of What Is Missing, a novel, and The Mighty Franks, a memoir, which won the 2018 JQ-Wingate Prize and was named one of the best books of the year by The Telegraph and The New StatesmanOne Hundred Saturdays received a Natan Notable Book Award, two National Book Awards from the Jewish Book Council, and the Sophie Brody Award for outstanding achievement in Jewish literature. Frank is the recipient of a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship and lives with his family in New York City and Camogli, Italy. 

Maira Kalman illustrated E.B. White and William Strunk Jr.’s classic The Elements of Style and is the author of bestsellers My Favorite Things,Principles of Uncertainty, and And the Pursuit of Happiness. She is the author/illustrator of twenty children’s books and has created over one dozen  The New Yorker covers. Her work is held in the collections of museums around the world and recent exhibitions include the smash-hit Sara Berman’s Closet at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her watches, clocks, and accessories, under her legendary design firm M&Co, are featured at the Museum of Modern Art and the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum. Kalman’s most recent book is Women Holding Things.

Shoshana Bean was most recently seen starring opposite Billy Crystal in Broadway’s Mr. Saturday Night. Tony & Grammy nominated for her role as Susan Young, she has previously starred on Broadway as Elphaba in Wicked and Jenna in Waitress. Her six independent studio albums and EPs have landed her on top of the iTunes and Billboard charts, including the peak position of #1 on the Billboard Jazz Chart. She has sold out concerts around the globe and lent her voice to countless films and television shows, a few of which include Sing, Sing 2, Enchanted, Jersey Boys,Glee, and Galavant. Bean made her Broadway debut in the original cast of Hairspray, appeared Off-Broadway in the 2000 revival of Godspell, and in Songs for a New World at City Center Encores. She won an IRNE Award for her performance as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and earned a Jeff Award nomination for her portrayal of CeeCee Bloom in the pre-Broadway musical production of Beaches. She has appeared in Bloodline, Bill and Ted Face the Music, and recently filmed a solo concert special for PBS. Bean will next be seen starring in Hell’s Kitchen at the Public Theater this fall.

Dan Nadel is an Israeli born guitarist and composer, whose personal style combines flamenco, jazz, and Middle Eastern influences. His debut album, Brooklyn Prayer, was released in 2005 to critical acclaim, and was followed by recordings and performances as a bandleader, a solo performing artist, and an in-demand collaborator. A busy musician on New York’s scene, Nadel has also worked with many world-renowned artists, including jazz musicians Chico Freeman, Dave Liebman and Anat Fort, Israeli-French pop star Yael Naim, jazz vocalist Gabrielle Stravelli, opera soloists Chen Reiss and Maya Lahyani, and genre-crossing musicians from around the world. Nadel is the music director for Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan and director of the 92NY’s new program Connect, Reflect, Transform: The World of Jewish Music.

Photo Credits: Maira Kalman by Kimisa H, Michael Frank by Marta Barisione.