Sherifa Zuhur is an academic. She studies and dances under the name Samrah AzZuhur Arabi. None of this is a secret. I expose nothing by linking the two names as she often posts about both names/aspects of her life on her various social media.
Her life in dance and academia is legitimately rich in lived experience and research. That is not in doubt. I’m just saying that the way she represents her ethnic and racial identity is dodgy.
Her racial fraud: False claims of being Arab-American or of Arab descent ( usually Lebanese or Syrian) due to her father’s lineage. She also consistently claims to be “brown and white” or “br white” Sometimes she simply disputes coming from a Jewish family.
There’s nothing wrong with having Jewish parents unless, like her, you are denying their existence
I’m putting this here to have a location separate from Facebook to store a copy. I’d removed my pinned post on FB once Sherifa had quieted down but then she began harassing BIPOC dancers by messenger again.
Is my blog the best place for this? No, but this woman is not worth creating a new site for. She doesn’t have an specific academic or dance empire that I could target even if I had some sort of power or pull. Her academic work speaks for itself and is outside my purview. I just want her to stop harassing and threatening people without a legit legal cause.
She believes I have been involved in blackmailing and blacklisting dancers.
I understand the hypocrisy in laying out all this in the name of wanting her to stop harassing others…but she uses her racial identity at times in the dance community in ways to pull rank and silence disagreement..so here we are.
When I first wrote this there HAD been a video interview with Samrah AzZuhur Arabi by Cairo Shimmy Quake that included the claims that her father and grandfather introduced her to Middle Eastern culture and music due to their background and discussed her mother more in depth (and the family move to Rhode Island when her mother remarried) and used the G slur to refer to the musicians her grandfather would hire but in the last month it has been removed from the site
Born Aug 31, 1953, Sherifa Zuhur’s birth name was probably Danna Carolyn Blum, her mother’s maiden name was listed as Helmuth. She seems to have still had that name when she married her first husband in 1973.
It is legal to change one’s name. I don’t need to know if she’s always been Sherifa or if she became Sherifa later on. The obituaries of Robert C Blum and of James Scheville respect the name change to Sherifa Zuhur.
First let’s establish who Sherifa Zuhur/Samrah Azzuhur Arabi’s mother is. In interviews in the dance community she has mentioned that her mother was an opera singer when Sherifa was born and that this led to many family travels.
Sherifa Zuhur’s Mother: Margot Helmuth Blum Schevill.
Sherifa Zuhur’s mother is Margot Helmuth Blum Schevill. She was born Margot Carolyn Helmuth on Aug 15, 1931 in San Joaquin, California. She is still alive as of when I’m posting this. She’s an opera singer turned academic anthropologist specializing in South/central American textiles
Here’s a link to an article about Sherifa’s mom, Margot with first hand accounts of Margot’s life in her own words.
From Dorothy Bryant’s article Books; Threads of the Life of a Singer, Anthropologist, Author:
In 1951 she began singing on high holy days at Temple Emanuel. Soon she was hired to sing at services on all Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. At about the same time she married and became Margot Blum. The next five or six years became the classic juggling act of the woman artist—she had two children, and sang with ensembles of all kinds, including the Civic Light Opera’s 1957 production of South Pacific.
It was Mary Martin who stopped her after a rehearsal and said, “Why are you wasting your time here?!” She gave Margot the courage to audition for the Merola Program, which grooms promising young soloists for the San Francisco Opera. She was one of the chosen few accepted into the intensive program, which includes free coaching in languages and stage deportment. “You know, like, how to fall and die gracefully.”
Margot had almost arrived. Almost.
“There was one problem I already knew about: my voice wasn’t big enough for the San Francisco Opera House. My best chance in opera was to build a career in Europe, where there were many companies and many fine smaller houses.”
Margot shakes her head. “Impossible.”
In those days, barely a decade past the Holocaust, the idea of an American Jewish couple raising their children in Europe was unacceptable.
“It was time to give up my ‘golden ambition’ to do opera.”
But not to give up singing. Margot hired an agent who kept her busy during the early 1960s, singing at concerts and on radio, performing with numerous ensembles, large and small.
Margot Helmuth married Robert C Blum around 1951 and became Margot Helmuth Blum.
Sherifa/Samrah was born in 1953 as Danna Carolyn Blum. The children from this first marriage of Margot and Robert C. Blum are Sherifa and her brother Paul Blum. Samrah/Sherifa would have had her first married surname, Jenkins, when starting in the dance scene.
Please note that Margot Helmuth Blum Schevill stresses the fact that her family with Robert was an American Jewish family and that is why she did not build her career in a post Holocaust Europe.
In 1953, the year of Sherifa’s birth, Margot H and Robert C are listed as residing together in the city registry of San Francisco county register published by R L Polk & C. They continue to be listed at that address/number together for about four subsequent years.
Margot’s Parents/ Sherifa Zuhur’s Maternal Grandparents:
From Margot’s entry on everybodywiki and first husband confirmed on Ancestry
“She was born in Stockton, California, on August 15, 1931, the second child of Ruth Carolyn Zuckerman Helmuth and Gay Frederick Helmuth.
Her mother moved to San Francisco, and remarried twice, to Samuel Glichberg, and to Emile Hartmann. She had an elder brother, James (Jimmy) and younger half-brother, George.”
Sherifa’s Father and Margot’s first husband: Robert C Blum
Robert C Blum was 73 when he died of ALS April 15 2001. This date was also Easter of that year.
Robert C. Blum, an expert in philanthropy who with his wife developed fund-raising strategies that are now used by universities and nonprofit organizations throughout the world, died April 15 in Kentfield from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was 73From Robert C Blum’s obituary
The following are screenshots of his whole obituary by Mark Martin. it can also be found here.
Also from his obituary:
“Mr. Blum is survived by his wife of 34 years, Joan Blum of Kentfield; two sisters, Shirley Levine of Beverly Hills and Barbara Semelman of Atherton; two sons, Chris Blum of San Rafael and Paul Blum of Lincoln, Neb.; three daughters,Louisa Lucie-Smith of London, Sherifa Zuhur of Beersheva, Israel, and Marty Blum of Greenbrae; and 10 grandchildren.”
There are Sherifa Zuhur and her brother Paul Blum.
From the obituary, “for more than 50 years, Mr. Blum also was a member of the Austral-Asian Fundraising Association, Lake Merced Golf and Country Club and Lake Tahoe Yacht Club, and was a Knight of the Order of Saint Stanislas in Poland.”
The lake Merced Golf and Country Club was historically a Jewish golf club.
The obituary also notes that “He was president of the National Society of Fund Raising Executives in the early 1980s.”
I found a photo of him from a 50 year history that group, identifying him as the president in 1980-1981, the group was called the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2010 . That photo can be easily compared to a public facebook post in which Sherifa identifies her father.
Robert C Blum’s Parents/ Sherifa’s grandparents.
In interviews Sherifa Zuhur claims her Middle Eastern lineage is through her father, so her father’s parents are important.
Robert C Blum was born in San Francisco. His obituary notes “A native of San Francisco, Mr. Blum graduated from Lowell High School and Stanford University.”
1940 Census Data
He was 12 when the San Francisco 1940 census was taken. You’ll see his two sisters, Shirley and Barbara, listed in the census. They are also mentioned in his obit with their married surnames Shirley Levine and Barbara Semelman .
Robert was listed as white but that doesn’t mean not Arab …there’s no category for MENA in the census so we need to know more about his parents. Luckily they are in the same census.
Robert C Blum’s mother, Mildred Blum, was listed as having been born in Russia.
His father, Jean Blum, was listed as having been born in Romania.
Sherifa’s step father/ Margot’s second husband:James Erwin Schevill
Who Sherifa Zuhur’s step-father is shouldn’t matter.
Sherifa’s own mother identifies herself and her first husband as a Jewish couple AND her father’s parents are from Romania and Russia so they are not Syrian/Middle Eastern.
Yet Sherifa Zuhur/Samrah AzZuhur Arabi consistently claims that all confusion about her racial identity (Br/white/biracial/notwhite/not Jewish) is because people confuse her father with her step-father. So let’s differentiate who her step-father, James Erwin Schevill was.
The marriage between Robert C Blum and Margot Helmuth Blum ended in the early 1960’s. Robert C Blum went on to marry his second (and last) wife Joan and Margot married her second (and last) husband James Schevill to become Margot Helmuth Blum Schevill.
From the Dorothy Bryant article about Margot Helmuth Blum Schevill regarding her life in the 60’s:
Around that time her marriage was unraveling, as was Jim’s. They fell in love and
were married in 1966. By 1968 they were settled in Providence, Rhode Island, where, for the next twenty years, Jim Schevill was to teach and write poetry and plays at Brown University.
At that point Margot’s story could have become that of the faculty wife with a few music pupils, an occasional singing gig, and—like the vast majority of our best practitioners of all the arts—occasional twinges of regret for the fame and fortune bestowed on the lucky few. Instead, she made a surprisingly smooth turn in a new direction.
From the Everybodywiki
“In 1967, she returned to Europe and then moved to Providence, Rhode Island after marrying poet/playwright James Schevill who became a faculty member at Brown University. While there she sang with the New Music Ensemble funded by the governor of R.I., taught music in the public schools and returned to college to graduate in the first class that included women at Brown earning a BA in Music and Spanish. She then obtained a Masters in Anthropology and began a second career as a museum anthropologist specialist in textiles.”
Sherifa Zuhur’s step-father is James Erwin Schevill. Sherifa Zuhur and her brother Paul are listed in James Schevill’s obituary as his step-children. The photo above is Margot with a musician, not her second husband the poet.
From James Shevill’s Obituary:
Professor Schevill is survived by his second wife, Margot , of the family home in Berkeley; two daughters, Deborah Schevill of New York City, and Susie Schevill of Berkeley; a stepson, Paul Blum of Lincoln, Neb.; a stepdaughter, Sherifa Zuhur of Carlyle, Pa.; three grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.
And that is the family Sherifa Zuhur/Samrah Azzuhur Arabi was born into as far as I can find.
I don’t care who she eventually married or divorced or what countries her marriages may have allowed her to gain citizenship in. That has no effect on her ethnicity/racial identity. I’m only concerned with who her parents and grandparents were.
Sherifa has written a lengthy post refuting this on facebook. Here is the link. You are a freethinker. You can judge for yourself. You’ve got this here and that there.
I generally trust that people are honest about their ethnic identity and I don’t question if someone who is white passing, or any other hue, says an identity I didn’t expect. When I make a mistake, like assuming someone is white and they’re just ligfht skinned, I try to apologize quickly when I learn of my mistake. These are best practices.
I’ve also known a scammer who did misrepresent her identity to be more interesting. I’ve known people who’ve claimed false relatives/false kinship. I’ve followed the scandals in acedemics and organizing groups of white people who have posed as Black, Afro-Latinx and Latinx. That it happens at all is enraging. It’s not something that can be allowed to go unexamined.