classes · Hispanics/Latinos · jews of color · Jews/Jewish/Judaism/Orthodox Judaism · language · Riverdale

Lonely in Ladino

Actor Hank Azaria was born to Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews parents. Wonder if his Ladino is as bad as my Spanish?
Earlier this Winter/Spring, I almost signed up for a Ladino class at the JCC Manhattan (groovy new site!). My sister, though, stepped in and said that I did not have THAT kind of money to be spending on taking classes in a language that none of my friends even speaks. And she added that I supposed to be spending time on my PHYSICAL health.

Instead, I decided to make a concerted effort (still hasn’t happened) to meet with the Spanish-speaking Jewish club at the Conservative Adath Israel Synagogue of Riverdale. I did, however, kidnap a bunch of the members and bring them down to the Orthodox synagogue I attend. My brain almost misfired from switching from Spanish (to speak to my Hispanic Jewish friends) to English (to speak to my Russian, Italian, Polish Jewish friends).

Apparently, if I was in California, I would not be so lonely and pining away for Ladino. In “Habla Ladino? Sephardim meet to preserve language” (J Weekly), a bunch of Jews get together to keep Ladino alive and kicking.

5 thoughts on “Lonely in Ladino

  1. Aliza,
    Ladino is an interesting language. I learned just a little when I worked on my MA in Spanish. It can be written using Hebrew alphabet as well as Latin. I hope that it makes a comeback and stays around for a while. I also wish the same for Yiddish.
    David

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  2. You'll find a lot more Spanish (& some Ladino) speaking Jews in Miami & around South Florida. Miami Beach's Temple Moses (a Sephardi Orthodox synagogue founded by Cuban Jews who fled Castro) is probably the largest, but there are several others as well, including some Ashkenazi congregations where Spanish is heard as often as English & Hebrew, across Miami-Dade & Broward County. There are also quite a few non-Orthodox “traditional” congregations as well.

    Same goes for Seattle, where there are two great Sephardi congregations in Seward Park (south of downtown (Bikur Holim & Ezra Bessaroth) where Spanish & Ladino are spoken. I think that the % of Sephardim in Seattle is probably higher than anywhere else in the US, unless you count Mizrachim (i.e., Iranians & Yemenites) as part of the overall Sephardi community. There was a huge migration from Rhodes, Turkey, & Greece to Seattle back at the turn of the last century.

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  3. I had a cool situation with the manager of the last apartment I was in here in Israel. We were having trouble communicating because my Hebrew is still pretty wonky, and I got stuck on a word. I couldn't think of what I wanted to say in English, either, so I said the word in Spanish. His eyes lit up, and he said, “Havlas Espanhol? Yo havlo Muestro Espanhol!” and after that, we just spoke in Spanish/Ladino. It was MUCH easier that way!

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  4. I was at Avi's favorite book store called “House of David”. A kind old man and I were chatting about something and he shared, not sure how we got on the topic, that he speaks and grew up speaking Ladino. When you are out here we should head to House of David because you'd LOVE it plus it's in one of the bigger Sephardic neighborhoods; though you can't tell that out of the blue. 🙂

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