El Amaneser’s 200th.

David Ian Klein writes for the Forward about a publishing milestone:

Throughout the world, only about 60,000 people speak Ladino, or Judeo-Spanish. But the historic language of Sephardic Jewry is enjoying a bit of a renaissance. And what is believed to be the only print Ladino publication in the world, El Amaneser, reached a milestone last week when the Istanbul-based publication cranked out its 200th issue.

“What the editors of El Amaneser have accomplished is no small feat,” said Bryan Kirschen, an American and professor of Ladino at the State University of New York at Binghamton. “Ladino has a long-standing print culture and this monthly paper is a remnant of a thriving past and a hopeful future.”

Though the number of Ladino speakers is rapidly shrinking, with the last generation raised with Ladino as their mother tongue born in the 1940s, younger people are breathing new life into the language, said Karen Şarhon, editor of El Amaneser, which translates to “The Dawn.” And the pandemic has given those with an interest in Ladino more opportunities to study it, she said, with more online classes and Zoom meetups that put Ladino speakers and wannabe speakers around the world in touch with each other. […]

When El Amaneser was first imagined it was as a four-page supplement to the Ladino section of Şalom, Istanbul’s largest Jewish newspaper. Şalom, founded in 1947, had been published entirely in Ladino for much of its history. But when its founder and editor Avram Leyon died in the early 1980s, control of the paper passed to the Turkish Jewish community, and the decision was made to change the language of publication to Turkish — the main language of the Istanbul Jewish community at the time. One page of Şalom would remain in Ladino.

But after its first edition in 2003, the supplement quickly expanded and in a little over a year, the number of pages had doubled and it split off into its own separate publication. “We received so much material,” Şarhon said. That first issue that was meant to be four pages? ”It came out as 12 pages.” It wasn’t long before those 12 pages were expanded to 16, then 24, then 32, and now for its 200th issue 48 pages worth of articles in Ladino.

I’m not sure why they put El Amaneser in italics but not its sister publication Şalom, but never mind my editorial nitpicking — it’s nice to get good news about endangered languages. Aferin!


  1. I have a linguistic note that is unrelated to Ladino but which is related to the above news story.

    The legal name of the school where Bryan Kirschen teaches is apparently still “State University of New York at Binghamton,” but referring to it as anything but “Binghamton University” these days tends to make the administration there unhappy. The same thing applies vis-a-vis “Stony Brook University,” but not to the other flagship campuses in Buffalo and Albany. I don’t know what the Associate Press says now about how to refer to these universities, but seeing “State University of New York at Binghamton” these days seems somewhat unusual.

  2. It began as Triple Cities College, was renamed as Harpur College, moved to Vestal, and the campus is in (or is called?) Midsize City — are we sure it actually exists and is not just a joke?

  3. Netflix is streaming a 6-episode limited series from Turkey which is set in Istanbul in the 1950s. Titled “The Club” In English, the series is mostly in Turkish but includes some scenes and a few songs in Ladino. It’s a well-acted historical drama that was popular in Turkey and in Israel, and it might be of interest to readers here. More about it:

  4. J.W. Brewer says

    One of my dad’s good friends from his younger years was purportedly a professor at SUNY-Binghamton for decades before taking emeritus status and then moving elsewhere after he became a widower. So if the whole thing is a hoax or false-flag operation, considerable resources have been invested in making it look legit.

  5. I attended Suny Binghamton* and Midsize City surely must be some mapmaker’s joke; it’s nothing I’ve ever heard of until now.
    *The name in my heart.

    I don’t know if they were offering coursework in Ladino when I was there but I would have been tempted to indulge in it if they had and if I had known about it.

  6. Suny Binghamton is presumably a sister college to Bielefeld University.

  7. J.W. Brewer says

    FWIW, this suggests that SUNY-Binghamton now offers Ladino solely because they decided (rather unusually) to hire a specialist in linguistics-as-specifically-applied-to-Spanish and the fellow they hired (himself an alum) had as it happens become interested in Ladino while off in grad school — don’t want to suggest he lacked direction but he somehow accumulated three different master’s degrees from three different universities before getting a doctorate at a fourth.


  8. John Cowan says

    My mother always pronounced it Soon-ee-bee, and on one occasion actually hired someone from there.

  9. David Marjanović says

    Suny Binghamton is presumably a sister college to Bielefeld University.

    Ha! That’s what they want you to think.

  10. Lars Mathiesen says

    David, why can’t I read the name of the Uni in the comment you’re replying to? It’s like it stops existing when I look at it.

  11. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    Back in 1996 I was on sabbatical in Chile and in the middle of it I went to a meeting in Israel. I wanted to buy a magazine in Ladino to take back to Chile with the intention of asking people what language they thought it was in. I bought a magazine that I thought from the cover might be in Ladino, but on looking inside I found that it was in Rumanian. No good for my purpose. Later I realized that in Israel Ladino is normally printed in Hebrew characters.

  12. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    The last time Bielefeld came up I said that I had been to a meeting at Bielefeld University and that it really does exist, in a city developed enough to have a metro. Mr Hat said that that just meant that I was part of the conspiracy.

  13. As is Owen, who says “I attended Suny Binghamton” up there in the comments. The deceivers are everywhere.

  14. Stu Clayton says

    For those new to the game, the German WiPe article Bielefeld-Verschwörung relates the origin as being a spin-off of a colloquial German expression:

    # Auf einer Studentenparty im Jahr 1993 rutschte einem Bekannten des deutschen Informatikers Achim Held, damals Informatikstudent in Kiel, der Satz „Das gibt’s doch gar nicht“ heraus, als ihm jemand aus Bielefeld gegenüberstand. Die Idee einer entsprechenden Verschwörung wurde im Umfeld von Held weitergesponnen, zu dem auch ein Leser von Esoterikmagazinen gehörte. #

    Das gibt’s doch gar nicht = “unbelievable!” [expression of astonishment]

    Much of Heidegger’s terminology consists of everyday words pressed into service as altar boys of Higher Significance. When you don’t know they are everyday words, you’ve fallen for jail bait.

  15. January First-of-May says

    The version I heard was that the entirety of Upstate New York does not exist. If so, then Suny Binghamton, ostensibly located in that area, would thus consequently have to not exist as well.

    (Never been there, though my uncle supposedly lived in Poughkeepsie for a few years.)

  16. David Marjanović says

    I’ve been to Binghamton, didn’t see the university, and wouldn’t have guessed there’s one there.

    I’ve also been on a train that stopped in a station labeled “Bielefeld”. That’s more commitment than if you go by car, because you can’t see Bielefeld from the highway.

  17. I am deeply committed to the conspiracy. The only thing I know about Bielefeld is that it is the subject of conspiracy theories about its alleged existence. They taught nothing else about it when I was an undergraduate.

    David: The university, although named for Binghamton, is actually in the adjoining town of Vestal. The actual city of Binghamton is visible from campus but one common complaint among the student body was that campus wasn’t close enough to Binghamton’s bars and taverns.

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