Arts and Culture

Meet Sarah Aroeste, the Jewish Mom Revitalizing Ladino Music

Musician Sarah Aroeste (Courtesy of Sarah Aroeste)

(Kveller via JTA) — Sarah Aroeste is one of those people who seem utterly fascinating. She’s a mom and Ladino musician who recently released her fourth album “Ora de Despertar,” or “Time to Wake Up.” In her music, she explores her connection between her Sephardic roots in Greece and her passion for Ladino musical traditions. (Ladino is the Judeo-Spanish language written and spoken by Jews of Spanish origin, which means it’s a blend of medieval Spanish and words from Hebrew, Arabic and Portuguese.)

Recently, she became a second-time mom to her second daughter — so she’s been pretty busy balancing motherhood and being a professional musician. Her album, to be released on March 25, is a kid-friendly collection focusing on the times of day, food, body parts, numbers, nature and more.

I was happy to speak with Sarah about being a new mom for the second time, what inspires her to make music, her favorite website and her least favorite Hebrew word:

  1. You recently became a second-time mom. How do you find time to make music and parent? What’s your secret?

Luckily, life with my kids makes good fodder for my music. Whether I stare in awe of them by their simple joys, or seek a rock to hide under when they tantrum, I write songs about it! That cuts my work-time in half, as I don’t have to look very far for inspiration these days.

  1. What are you working on right now?

I’m just now releasing my 4th record, an all-original Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) children’s album. A lot of people think that Ladino is extinct, or at least on its

Aroeste's latest album is called “Ora de Despertar,” or "Time to Wake Up." (Courtesy of Sarah Aroeste)
Aroeste’s latest album is called “Ora de Despertar,” or “Time to Wake
Up.” (Courtesy of Sarah Aroeste)

way to a slow death. I want to make sure that people know this isn’t the case. Ladino culture is such an important part of Jewish history and I want to ensure that my daughters are proud of the rich tradition from which they come.

The project (which also includes an animated video series, songbook and more) is called “Ora de Despertar,” or “Time to Wake Up.” For children, it’s the

title track of the album and is just a fun, catchy song about the rituals of waking up in the morning. But for adults it’s a wake-up call — we have to start teaching our kids our culture or indeed it will get lost.

  1. What TV show have you binge watched?

I wish I could say something trendy and current, but I live in rural middle-of-nowhere and have no broadband. Amazon and Netflix are foreign to us in the boondocks. But the last show I binged on was “Breaking Bad” — my husband is from New Mexico, and before I married him, I wanted to understand his obsession with his state (the drugs notwithstanding).

  1. Biggest pet peeve:

In correspondences when people clearly can see my name spelled out in a heading and they still leave off the “h” at the end of my name when they address me. Especially when it’s a relative.

  1. If you were a Jewish holiday, which one would you be?

I’m a sucker for tashlikh, so I’d have to say Rosh Hashanah. It’s the perfect antidote after your family has driven you crazy the night before, you get the chance to apologize right after. No really, I truly love watching my regrets and apologies float away, there’s something so spiritual and cathartic about it that I look forward to each year.

  1. What’s your weirdest family tradition?

Naming my daughters hard-to-pronounce Hebrew names. Our extended families can’t understand why we did it.

  1. Least favorite Jewish phrase:

I can’t stand the word nudnik (annoying person). But I guess that’s the point?

  1. Favorite podcast:

Anything on NPR. I’m a junkie.

  1. What’s the last thing you do at night?

I’ve got a 4-month old baby — I’m likely feeding her!

  1. What personal object could you not live without? (Besides your phone!)

I’m one of the last people I know who still wears a watch. I feel lost without it. And it’s an old chunky Swatch watch to boot. I’m obsessed.

(Joanna Valente, Kveller’s editorial assistant, is the author of Sirs & Madams and The Gods Are Dead. Her full-length collection Marys of the Sea is forthcoming from ELJ Publications in 2016.)

Kveller is a thriving community of women and parents who convene online to share, celebrate and commiserate their experiences of raising kids through a Jewish lens. Visit