Talking Jewish Picture Books with Sarah Aroeste

Sarah Aroeste just gave a masterclass on Sephardic culture, Ladino, and the importance of inclusive picture books, music and beyond! Here are a few highlights from our conversation in honor of Jewish American Heritage Month.

▪️ The history of Sephardic Jews, those who trace their history back to Iberian peninsula before Spain expelled all Jews in 1492, and how the Ladino language formed from that dispersion across the Mediterranean
▪️ How an Albanian family and their commitment to helping others—a pledge of honor called “besa”—saved her grandmother’s life when she fled the Holocaust
▪️ Ladino as a living, breathing culture that is vibrant— not something dark and stuck in the past; it should be represented with that same color and joy on the page, too.
▪️ Board books as an opportunity to introduce kids (and adults) to Sephardic culture in a way that normalizes and excites folks to want more
▪️ Overcoming a chip on her shoulder about others not knowing her Sephardic heritage; moving towards a mindset of wanting to give people honest and hope-filled reasons to celebrate these stories
▪️ Pushing beyond ashkenormativity in the pursuit of diversity; the importance of publishers, booksellers, consumers and writers making space for, demanding and creating wider representation in Jewish stories
▪️ “Todos los dedos de la mano no son unos” is a Ladino saying meaning “all the fingers of the hand are not the same”— our Jewish stories (and all stories) are unique, yet intertwined. We need to seek them out and listen.

What a gift you are, Sarah. Your passion and vision for a more inclusive Jewish tradition is nothing short of contagious! If you are feeling inspired by Sarah’s voice, join me in ordering her books and supporting her music (more below)! I hope to see you tomorrow at 11am PST in conversation with @ericasperl!

For quick reference:
BUEN SHABAT, SHABBAT SHALOM by Sarah, illustrated by @ayeshalrubio_illustration
ORA DE DSPERTAR, TIME TO WAKE UP by Sarah, illustrated by @miriamzross
Check out Sarah’s albums, including the upcoming The Monastir Project, at

(Conversation held on May 19, 2021 on IG Live @carolinepritchardwrites)

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