Ladino classes for children – how?

collage-s-0027messy haired chid with peaches and little dog with woven house

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It is not only South Asian Indians who enroll their children in their respective language classes, whether Telugu or Gujarati or others.  Greeks in the US have routinely been offering Greek classes for their children in their Greek congregations for years.

One is left wondering why Sephardic Jews – at least temporarily – dropped their own language?  That becomes a question to mull over at home nd for congregations to begin discussing.  For what exists now is a glaring gap in the education of Sephardic youngsters, leaving them without the heart of their own culture.

How hard would it be to begin to correct this stark omission?

Not hard at all.

There are students taking college courses in Ladino who would be capable of offering beginning classes to little chldren if there were simple primers to follow, as inexpensive as the stapled primers used for beginning Hebrew.  And those college students could earn income from teaching the classes parents pay to enroll their children in, thus creating demand among college students for Ladino classes for themselves.

Studying Ladino would be a route to teaching children Ladino.  Children taking Ladino would be graced by having college and graduate students to teach them, making no demand on a congregation but bringing young people and children together.  Older Ladino speakers might come to contribute, uniting even more generations and creating a bond through the language.

And in terms of bonds, university students who have been studying Ladino could take up residencies in smaller communities in order that they, too, could benefit.   Those university students would find themselves especially welcome and the traveling students would not only  bring Ladino to the smaller Sephardic communities but connect communities through their stays.

Those creating the primers would be publishing books in Ladino.  Add those to the text books for university students and a small Sephardic industry would begin to grow.

What is the direction of all this?

College Ladino classes lead to university students as teachers for young Sephardic students, which leads to parents having an avenue for their young children to learn the language, which leads to children developing language skills that are unique and a source of pride and accomplishment, which leads to Sephardic kids beginning to converse with existing Ladino speakers, which leads to excitement in the entire Sephardic community as they do a stunning but, oddly, very do-able thing – bring Ladino back into the life of the community.

For overtime, the young teachers will become more skilled themselves, the primers will develop, and the young students will become fluent.

And paradoxically, with Ladino as a language, the world opens up to those young people the more deeply immersed in their own culture and history.

What is the alternative?  Sephardic parents could buy their children corporate T-shirts (“It’s not a party without a Sephardi”), hoping that and occasional boyas serve as culture, and meanwhile sigh at vulgar English slang.  In Ladino, is there a sneering use of  the word, “Whatever!” for teens to answer flippantly to their parents’ remarks, as happens so typically in English?  One can hope there isn’t.

* A note to those in congregations which include Persian Jews or others whose language would not be Ladino.  This route to teaching children family languages that are being lost is open to everyone, and there is no reason a congregation might not have more than one language class for children – all dependent on university students acquiring enough knowledge to use primers with the children.

Ladino classes for Sephardic children


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Perhaps Sephardic parents would ask, “Why should I pay for my child to learn Ladino?”

The reasons are many, even if one discounts Ladino central role in what it actually means to have be part of a authentic Sephardic culture that goes beyond “Love me, I’m Sephardic” T-sihirts.

Put that main reason aside and move on to the benefits of your child speaking Ladino.

1.  Perhaps you might consider how fluency in Ladino would look on a college application.  Foreign language skills are always highly valued.  But to speak a medieval language would outstrip French and Spanish.  It would stand out.

2.  Speaking Ladino allows one to converse in Spanish, so it doesn’t isolate the speaker because the language is special.  Far from being a language that make it hard to speak to others, the entire Spanish speaking world would understand, and any Spanish speaker would be curious and interested.  Ladino open even more doors than Spanish, to meeting others.

3.  Speaking another language is good for thinking in general, for learning in general.  And if one is going to learn another language, why not study one’s own language?

4.  For parents, there would be satisfaction of knowing and telling friends and family, “My child is learning Ladino.”  It would not only be an accomplishment of the child’s but one of the culture.

5.  The children who learn Ladino automatically would have their own language between themselves and their Ladino speaking peers, which becomes a bond. And that bond is contributes to bonding a future Sephardic community.

6.  Learning Ladino would educate a Sephardic child in the basics of their own culture – with their simultaneously learning history about themselves and other places Sephardic Jews have lived,, picking up wisdom about living a good life, becoming imbued with the humor in the language, and altogether widening their world even as they become more closely connected to their own – truly their own – culture.

7.  Learning Ladino presents future job possibilities, since interest in unique cultures is growing.

8.  Ladino classes are already happening and the demand will spread.   Those who speak it will be in a wonderful position to teach it.

9.  Your children will thank you for the special gift you gave them.

10.  There would be many other reasons, but to culminate this list with a number, there is the undeniable fact that speaking Ladino – not to put too fine an English a spin on it – is simply “cool.”  It’s reason for pride.

The next question might be how this can happen.   A future post will discuss the possibilities and ease of implementation.



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In the US and elsewhere some universities are now offering classes in Ladino.  This is a marvelous thing and arises out of work by people like Mathilda Koen-Sarano who created texts books for just this purpose.

But this fall, 2013, classes in Telugu are being offered to small children by the SouthAsian community, even though

1.  Telugu as a language, unlike Ladino, is not under threat of losing its native speakers.

2.  And unlike Ladino, there are millions of Telugu speakers in India and world wide.

Yet starting on September 15, 2013, classes in Telugubadi are being offered to Indian (South Asian) children living in the United States.  What’s more, those classes are not inexpensive.

For the kids ages 6 and above:

1.       Interested parents have to register/enroll their kids online … before Sept 15, 2013, with a fee of $350.00 ….

2.      All enrolled kids have to take an entrance exam on September 15th, which will place them in the respective classes of Pravesam and Prasunam after the evaluation.

The effort to have the children be fluent and proficient in Telugu, even its script, is taken quite seriously, because without such an effort, children of Telugu-speaking parents would lose much of the language and be poor speakers and perhaps non-readers of it.  Their own children would be less capable.

Here is an example of the work the children are doing.

How does this apply to Ladino?

Those teaching Telugu begin with this statement:

The greatest and most powerful gift a parent can give their children is to pass their language and culture.  Literacy in the mother tongue strengthens cultural identity and heritage. The mother tongue plays a very important role in developing thoughts, shaping experiences, exploring customs, and articulating values.

That statement applies to Ladino as strongly as it does Telugu, if not more so since Ladino is a language carrying traces of multiple cultures and other languages within it, because of the history of the Sephardim’s expulsion from Spain.  Ladino is the essence of Sephardic culture (as is true of other languages, just as the Telugu speakers recognize), yet it has been swamped in the US by a corporate, religious and ethnic culture none of which belong to Sephardic Jews.  That not-of-their-own culture is what Sephardic children are being brought up in, with English distinct from their own history and carrying none of its humor, values, wisdom.

So the question is why Sephardic Jews are waiting til college to take classes in Ladino, when Sephardic parents could be requesting classes in Ladino for their young children.

The next posts will discuss how this is not only possible but why it may be important to Sephardic parents who don’t even speak Ladino themselves.

To give a sense of the possibilities, here is a small child, only 5 years old, singing in Ladino.

Your thoughts create Ladino’s life

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The way forward is inside you

The last two posts – on the Vatican planning the Holocaust and on UNICEF sterilizing and killing North African Sephardic children – were about who was really behind the terrible things that were done to us.  The Vatican – the very entity that invented the horror of the Inquisition, first hidden behind the Nazis and then behind the UN which it controls.

This has implications for Ladino even now, because out of ignorance of the UN’s connection to the Vatican, and of UNESCO’s specific eugenic intent, Sephardic Jews are actually working with UNESCO around the collection of our books in Ladino.  An agency committed to a singe world culture?  We do not need their help.  Why are we giving anyone access to our private works, especially a agency of the UN, related to the Vatican, which killed the writers and owners of those books?  Why?  No Sephardic Jews should be sharing anything with UNESCO or submitting the children to anything UNICEF is recommending.

The intent of the UN is a single world government and in the service of that, they want everything catalogued, every animal tagged, every person identified, in a Nazi-on-steroids effort at maximal control.  That may be their plan but Sephardic Jews have a lot of reasons not to be helpful to them.

You can see that truthful negative information is crucial if we are to free ourselves from potentially more danger to our culture.

But it is not only negative truths that have been kept been kept from us, but the largest possible positive knowledge and about our own power.

As you listen to the following video, notice that the critical material we needed was removed from early religious texts.  It was removed by the Catholic Church.  And as you listen, think whether attending a conference about “disappearing languages” in reference to Ladino, or even using the term “disappearing language” in connection to Ladino wouldn’t be a devastating mistake.

Please forgive all the “shocking” messages.  The true messages are very meaningful.

This article encourages you to reject any agency other than yourselves.  And to use words that do not threaten Ladino’s existence by concretizing its demise, disappearance, death, etc.

Hold a non-Vatican, non-UN conference.

Hold a  conference just for Sephardics and lovers of Ladino, celebrating Ladino.  No language used there about dead or disappearing or dying.  Instead, a great deal of joy at all that has been accomplished and pleasure in all the good people.  Then,  take time to sit quietly there, sharing a wonderful feeling state about Ladino (and a feeling state shared is raised to the power of the number of people involved).  What state might that be?  The one that arises in picturing a child greeting an adult in Ladino.

That feeling state holds the key.

Radio Ladino


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In a conversation with Rachel Amado Bortnick, she mentioned having tried to have a chat group there were technological problems, and was too hard to deal with.

Ah ha.   If you are going to bring back and language, and you are having trouble doing so, the “not-working” places are where things are very rich.  Those are the stuck places.

Clearly, speakers need to speak with each other.  But more than that, speakers yearn to speak to each other. 

So, there is something that could be done immediately to significantly boost the regular speaking of Ladino internationally.

What would that be?  A regular radio show in which people can call in from anywhere and talk to the host or guests.    Or just enjoy listening.

Blogtalk radio offers a very inexpensive online radio program for anyone who wants to start a radio show.  There could be an international Sephardic radio show up and running in a few weeks.

And more, once it’s apparent that there can be such a show, there is no reason not to put it on many days a week and have those days be for different functions.

Here is a potential schedule:

Monday for three hours in the evening, Ladino speakers chat like crazy.

Tuesday for three hours, there would be a program to begin to encourage Sephardic communities around the world to listen and to use a little Ladino.  It would be meant to make people comfortable and bit by bit to introduce some Ladino so hearing it becomes normal.  Every communities could take turns being guests on the show (or hosting) and they could speak in English or French or Italian or whatever other language, about all that was happening in their community, letting others know what they doing and showing off a bit.  A kind of Sephardic advertising.  During part of those three hours, Sephardic music could be played and news of births and marriages, etc. would be announced but those announcement would be given in Ladino.  Each of those posting would be encouraged to write their own very short announcement in Ladino (for which they could scramble to get help).   Family members and synagogue members would be very proud to hear these formal announcement in Ladino.   In addition, anyone in the community who wanted to send greetings or good wishes or get well wishes to their family and friends, either in town or elsehere, could do so on the radio if they did it in Ladino.  It might be only a single sentence but it would be an achievement.  This program would be meant to pull in each community and for them to enjoy hearing themselves on the radio and to see who had the guts to speak Ladino, even for 30 seconds.  If a child or teen were going to read a sentence or more in Ladino, there is no question that aunts and uncles and grandparents and friends would be notified and listening eagerly for the child or teen’s big moment. Perhaps people would get a little certificate congratulating them on joining the community of those keeping Ladino alive.

Wednesday for there hours in the evening, there would be a beginning Ladino class.  It might be run by Gloria Ascher or Mathilda Koen-Sarano or Rachael Amado Bortnick or any of the many young people who are studying Ladino now and would be willing to conduct a beginners class.  The material for that class could be posted each week, days before the class, at this blog.  All people would have to do is copy the lesson and just follow along.  Perhaps some might be willing to speak a little if asked.  This may be the first international language class in the world, all for Ladino

Thursday for three hours in the evening, there would be an intermediate Ladino class.

Friday for three hours would be for Ladino speakers to chat and enjoy the Sabbath together.  (For the Orthodox, this wouldn’t work but for others, it would be a way to bring people together who have been lonely on the Sabbath and could use the regular connections.)  This show might be mixed with music.

Saturday and Sunday might be filled with Sephardic speakers and stories and other entertainment, part in Ladino.  This might be a good time for Ladino singers to actually teach Ladino songs, to children and to older people.  Those who felt comfortable might sing on Tuesday nights, to show everyone what they had learned.

This schedule is only for three hours a day.  With enough demand, it could offer more time.

The goal of Radio Ladino would be a  Sephardic radio channel for everyone, with Ladino speakers having a wonderful time being together and Ladino itself increasingly present for those who have been disconnected from it.  Needless to say, the meaning and joy and connections such a radio channel would bring older Sephardic Jews would be life-sustaining.  Many may not be able to write to Ladino Komunitika but they could enjoy listening to the radio, and perhaps with help, call in to chat.  Some would hear friends.  It’s possible that some time might be devoted to those in Sephardic homes, choosing music they want, reaching out to be sure  these homes in different countries are connected to each other.  With enough demand, it could be a 24 hour show, playing Sephardic music or other recordings at night.  This wold be especially kind to elderly Sephardics who are alone or home bound or in homes.  It would provide a continuous community and familiarity.

The documentary, Saved by Language, (directed and produced by: Bryan Kirschen, Susanna Zaraysky, Elad Wexler) tells about Moris Albahari in Sarajevo and how Ladino saved his life during the Second World War.  Mr. Albahari is almost alone in Sarajevo now.  With a radio show in which he could be instantly connected to the entire Ladino-speaking community worldwdie, Ladino might save his life again.

Perhaps everyone is asking – who would run this?  Who would pay for it?

Paying it simple.  It costs almost nothing.

As for who would run it, there are Sephardic communities now with Ladino programs – Seattle, LA, New York, Paris, etc.  One community could be in charge for a year or 6 months, ensuring the system is up and keeping it running so Rachel Amado Bortnick can focus on Ladino and forget technology.  She and all the other speakers would have tremendous support and outreach.  The main community for that year or 6 months would appoint students and synagogue members to host the different evenings (which in most cases would be little more than introducing the show in a warm way and putting on music the guests brought, for breaks for everyone.  With people in the student and Sephardic community taking an evening (which they could share with friends), the task is easy but the rewards would be great.

If the Sephardic community if serious about protecting Ladino, this is where they can start.  If they want to do something wonderful for their older family members, this would be it.  The impact of such a channel on the Sephardic community as a whole would huge, not only in terms of Ladino but in terms of connections across the whole culture.  The radio shows would create a powerful community.