The Yiddish argument for Ladino

collage0056large man dances blue arm

Collage:  Anonymous American guy (until he speaks)

(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

There was an excellent article in the Forward on Yiddish that makes the case equally well for Ladino.

How Yiddish Could Save the Jewish People 

Language, Not Marriage or Religious Practice, Is Key to Community

The American Jewish community and its media frequently express concern about the Jewish future in America, citing mounting rates of assimilation and increasingly liberal trends in religious practice. In this discussion, intermarriage is frequently conceived of as being both the standard measure and the primary symptom of just how assimilated Jews are. What is usually left out of the discussion is any mention of linguistic assimilation.

In fact, most American Jews conceive of the Jewish people as being a religious group but rarely note the important role that Jewish ethnic and cultural heritage as expressed through language has traditionally played in Jewish survival.

The fact that many Jews cannot even conceive of ways of maintaining and transmitting their identity other than through religion testifies to the fact that outside of their religious affiliation, the vast majority of Jews are, culturally and linguistically speaking, hardly different from other Americans.

…. at a time when the internal Jewish communal dialogue around Israel is increasingly polarized and off-putting, Israel alone is not enough to guarantee Jewish continuity in America. We need an element that has kept us together no matter what we are saying to one another.  It might be time to turn to language to bond us as a people.

To read the rest ….

The writer is suggesting Yiddish as the answer to Jewish identity in America.  That would mean Sephardics learning Yiddish.

Is he joking?

But to even suggest such a thing it is great for Ladino.

For in that instant of thinking “Yiddish?” and maybe feeling a touch of “Oy gevalt” (a Yiddish phrase expressing surprise, incredulity ….), it becomes obvious to someone with a Sephardic background just how deep their attachment to Ladino is, whether they speak it or not.

One simply doesn’t create culture by learning a language that means nothing to the group.

Cuando avre la boca se conoce lo que es. 
When one opens his mouth, he reveals who he is.

And not many Sephardics want to reveal themselves as Ashkenazi.  So, the argument in favor of Yiddish for all American Jews is a marvelous thing for Sephardics who’ve been asleep about Ladino.  Yiddish may just wake them up.

8 thoughts on “The Yiddish argument for Ladino

  1. “Language, Not Marriage or Religious Practice, Is Key to Community”
    Complitely right. Language is the key. Hebrew helped to keep religion.
    But it’s not enough, a language needs a territory to stay alive: A country, a city, a street, even only a home

    • Ladino is used interchangeably with Judeo-Español, both referring to the language written and spoken by Sephardim.


      “Ladino, otherwise known as Judeo-Spanish, is the spoken and written Hispanic language of Jews of Spanish origin. Ladino did not become a specifically Jewish language until after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 – it was merely the language of their province. It is also known as Judezmo, Dzhudezmo, or Spaniolit.”

  2. I reiterate that the the writer is making a confusion as demonstrated by such prestigious academics as Prof. Haïm Vidal Sephiha, precisely in his thesis “Le Ladino”.

    Again, Ladino is not spoken. It is the litteral translation in older Spanish of sacred texts originally written in Hebrew.

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