Bracha Zefira – Creating an Israeli Style of Music
Stand for Israel | March 3, 2021
Born to Yemenite Jewish parents in the Holy City of Jerusalem, Bracha Zefira came to know tragedy early on, while also learning of her faith.
Bracha’s mother died in childbirth, while her father died of typhus three years later, orphaning his young daughter. Bracha lived with an uncle for two years, but ran away at the age of five, being taken in off the streets by a family in the Persian Jewish section of Jerusalem. When that family moved, Bracha lived with a widow in the city’s Sephardic Jewish neighborhood. So throughout her troubled childhood, Bracha also learned the religious and festive songs sung by many Jewish cultures.
Early on, a teacher recognized Bracha’s musical talent. The girl studied singing and acting, and performed before many luminaries in the Holy Land. When she sang, Bracha Zefira performed with her hair loose and her feet bare, saying it let her “feel the earth.”
Bracha married a Jewish Ukrainian olim (immigranted) named Nahum Nardi who played piano. Zefira and Nardi blended their Jewish cultures – hers Middle Eastern, his Western – to create a new “Israeli” music, much like the diverse Jews that made up her homeland.
Above, Bracha Zefira sings “God I Ask,” a song she performed many times. Accompanied by her husband on piano, Bracha sang it as the first Hebrew song over the airwaves in 1936 when “The Voice of Jerusalem” radio began (it would then become “The Voice of Israel,” the Jewish state’s official radio station until 2015). Truly, Bracha Zefira was a voice of the Holy Land and an Israeli You Should Know.