Ladino New York.

Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) YouTube playlist:

Judeo-Spanish (widely known as Ladino) was once spoken by the Jews of Spain — after the expulsion of 1492, most of those speakers moved to the Ottoman Empire or to Morocco.

By the early 20th century, with the arrival of tens of thousands of speakers from cities such as Salonica, Istanbul, and Izmir, New York had become one of the language’s global centers.

These are the stories of “Ladino New York” — in 12 episodes, the stories of those speak the language or remember the language and its major role in the history and future of Jewish New York.

In the first one, Stella Levi, “a native Ladino speaker from Rhodes now in her 90s,” starts off by introducing herself as “Leví, o Levi — los italyanos dizen Levi, ande vos otros era Leví.” And in the fifth, Alicia Sisso Raz, whose family was originally from Tetouan, Morocco, speaks Haketia, mentioned here back in 2003. Thanks, Y!


  1. AJP Crown says

    It’s a shame that the surviving Jews who had been living in Rhodes didn’t return after the war. She didn’t like Los Angeles but it sounds from Stella Levi’s account like the Jewish section of Rhodes was a more interesting community, living on top of and underneath each other, than anything they could have found elsewhere. And that Rhodes had the Alliance Française, the Italians, some Germans and the Ladino-speaking Jews all together on one island seems very much in the ancient Mediterranean spirit. It’s an unusual body of water that unites people rather than dividing them.

  2. Exactly. I hate separation by national/ethnic origin! Down with purity!

  3. David Eddyshaw says

    Amen. As a mongrel myself, I plan to rally all the other mongrels and drive all the purebloods into the sea. (Shouldn’t be hard, as we are many, and they are few. Very few.)

    Some preliminary consciousness-raising may be called for, of course. Not all mongrels are aware of their glorious heritage, and some have even lost sight of their true Mongrel nature.

  4. John Cowan says

    “Excuuuuuse me. I am not a [snort] mongrel. I have … hybrid vigor!” Not at all my sentiments, but I find it amusing.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    You say hybrid, I say tomato. I count you as an ally.

  6. David Eddyshaw: … drive all the purebloods into the sea. (Shouldn’t be hard, as we are many, and they are few. Very few.)

    Those exceedingly rare unicorns.

  7. Athel Cornish-Bowden says

    In 1996 I was on sabbatical in Chile when I needed to go to a meeting in Israel. I thought It would be interesting to buy a magazine in Ladino and later to show it to my Chilean colleagues, asking them what language they thought it was in. Previous exposure to Ladino indicated that it was easy to read when written in the Roman alphabet, very similar to Spanish but with weird spelling. I bought a magazine in Jerusalem called Mesage that I thought might be in Ladino, but on opening it it proved to be in Rumanian. I didn’t manage to find one in Ladino, and afterwards I thought maybe they would use Hebrew characters.

  8. Off topic.
    REVIEW: Ariel Sabar, Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife (NY: Doubleday, 2020)
    At a glance, the fake so-called Gospel of Jesus’ Wife might seem to be old news, but this investigative report reveals new aspects that should concern us. And it documents and engagingly narrates the appalling train of academic mistakes.
    “Confirmation bias” is a term that may go back merely to the 1970s, but as an occasional reality it is as old as humanity. Sometimes one of us becomes dead set in believing just what one wishes to be true. (Could such a custom-fit “ancient” text be manufactured to mislead me? Neveryoumind.)
    At first, Prof. Karen L. King reportedly thought an email offering a papyrus with Jesus mentioning “my wife” was quite likely a fake. She had published on the manuscript in Berlin of the Gospel of Mary. And here was a man claiming to have on him a related manuscript! It turned out that he was also experienced in Berlin, West and East. But she later changed course, and ran with it, despite red flags. (Disclosure: my late dear Mom graduated, cum laude, from Harvard Divinity School; I think her favorite prof was Krister Stendahl.)
    Harvard Theological Review got, for King’s proposed article on this margin-less non-continuous pastiche odd text written with something other than a traditional pen, two negative peer reviews. For the other reviewer, see page 285. They did delay publication until tests showed that the ink was carbon-based—ink that anyone can make today—and that the papyrus was genuine—but dated not to ancient but to medieval times! As Myriam Krutzsch and Ira Rabin (New Testament Studies 61.3 2015) and others caution, scientific tests can check for anomalies, anachronisms, but these are not authenticators.
    Here are some quibbles with the book, maybe minor. Sabar helpfully mentioned other suspected fakes. But he wrote (p. 34) about Morton Smith’s “Secret Mark” that “Eminent scholars added the Secret Mark letter to the standard edition of Clement’s works.” And (p. 35) “That Clement wasn’t known to have written letters made the find all the more curious.” Adding, provisionally, a text uncertainly attributed to an ancient author is hardly an endorsement. (Compare editions of Posidonius.) And Smith in his snarky article, in Harvard Theological Review 1982, “Clement of Alexandria and Secret Mark: The Score at the End of the First Decade,” may have overstated the extent to which the letter was accepted as genuine Clement; at least one scholar listed as agreeing has denied that. (See also Eric Osborn, “Clement of Alexandria: A Review of Research, 1958-1982,” Second Century 1985 291-44.) And Clement was indeed said to have written letters. Sabar cited (pp. 15-16 and endnote) a 1989 article by Tal Ilan on how extremely widespread was the most-popular female name, Mariamme or Maria, which is fair enough, but better, with considerably more data, is her 2002 book, Lexicon of Jewish Names in Late Antiquity: Part I, Palestine 330-BCE-200 CE.
    One of the values of this fine and readable book is its emphasis on the importance of investigating provenance. Especially of claims of “writing into” or “writing out of” important ancient texts.

  9. Trond Engen says

    I thought we’d been dissecating The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife before, but apparently not. Hat tried to start a discussion first here and then here. Finally elessorn brought it up here.

  10. Athel Cornish-Bowden: about Ladino’s transition from the Hebrew alphabet to the Latin alphabet,

  11. Edith Gormezano (aka Eydie Gormé) from the Bronx was quite a polyglot; her family were Ladino speakers inter alia. She had a successful career as a singer in Spanish too – “Sabor a Mí” remains a favourite of mine.

  12. By the way, there’s German textbook for Ladino by Armin Hetzer, published by Harrassowitz in 2001: Sephardisch. Judeo-espanol, Djudeszmo. Einführung in die Umgangssprache der südosteuropäischen Juden

  13. Coming soon: TV show in Ladino. With travel out of the question, this may be the new best way to learn a language.

  14. From that article:

    The show will be in four languages: Hebrew, English, Arabic and, yes, Ladino! (Yes, finally some Ladino representation on TV!)

    It’s been a long time since I saw it, but as I recall, Mar Mani had a fair amount of Ladino.

  15. @Athel, @Jonathan: in nyc there was, for a while, a more than occasional juxtaposition (on fliers and broadsheets, and possibly newspapers) of judezmo in latin characters and yiddish in jewish characters – and likely more bilingualism between the two than is usually thought of…

    and for folks looking for more judezmo (the more common endonym, according to max weinreich; i mostly prefer it because i like it when jewish languages are just named “jewish”), @LadinoLinguist on twitter is worth a look for glimpses into the current revitalization movement.

  16. Thanks, Rozele! About this 1912 New York newspaper page about the sinking of the Titanic

    the New York Public Library’s annotation says, “Text mainly in Ladino with some articles in Yiddish.” I didn’t spot any Latin characters except in the masthead, though, and there the languages are both Judezmo and English.

  17. @Jonathan:

    that’s fantastic!

    and it also makes me wonder if La America thought of itself primarily as a sefardi paper rather than a judezmo(/ladino/judeo-espanyol) one, and so had a scattering of yiddish articles for whatever audience of yiddish-speaking sefardim was out there in nyc. which could’ve been both folks from the small scattering of european sefardim who were yiddish speakers, and the u.s.-born or -raised folks who grew up in english/yiddish environments with judezmo as an older-generation private language they were discouraged from learning…

    i don’t know enough to know.

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