(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

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.

Thoughts on Sephardic Jews in frontier America

collage0016man in orange pink geometric
I pulled the last post about Sephardic intermarriage with Native Americans after receiving a very useful email from a reader questioning the person who gave the lecture, but not the idea of intermarriage of Sephardic Jews and Native Americans.The idea of intermarriage with Native Americans was yet another instance of learning something truly surprising about the Sephardic Jews who went West.   My attention has always been on the geographic trajectory and experiences of relatives who went East to escape the persecution of the Catholic Inquisition and Christian Europe.  To now be more seriously imagining Sephardic Jews, who had faced torture under the Inquisition and been expelled from Spain, trying to find a home in a place as foreign as frontier America at that time, brought up thoughts about what skills they came with, and what they were avoiding as well.Those who went East to the Ottoman Empire would have already been generally aware of where they were going and may even have had contacts via merchant routes.  Thanks to their own history of migration across the Mediterranean to Spain, they knew the Mediterranean, and they were familiar with Muslims.  They had gotten along well with other cultures – Muslim and Christian – before the Inquisition, helping to create a Golden Age in Spain while Europe was going through the Dark Ages.Some Sephardic Jews went West, not east, with Carjaval to what was to be Mexico and began to settle there in northern Mexico and on up into the US.  But despite their courage is giving up so much an traveling  so far to find a better world, they had not left the Catholic Inquisition behind.

Those Sephardic Jews who were not killed went underground (some only now emerging as Crypto-Jews and seeking to recover their Jewish identity).I knew there was a continuing Inquisition in Central and South America, but I had never really considered the differences in portions of  the New World that was not under Spanish rule.  For Sephardic Jews, some communities – Native American ones, for instance – would present the unheard of opportunity to be away from Catholic power, as well as Christian power, Muslim power and power altogther.  Native Americans did not tax anyone, did not impose religious controls of any sort., and did not treat other people as though they were a lower class of human beings.

It is hard to imagine how such a culture would appear to Sephardic Jews after all they had been through, and were still going through, even after fleeing to the New World.  It would certainly make logical and emotional sense that Sephardic Jews might have liked the freedom to be themselves and the equality of living among Native Americans.  And with a history of mixing with other cultures – even antagonistic ones.  If genetics showed they  intermarried, then they mixed freely enough with Native Americans to fall in love.  That would say something about a lack of fear and lack of condescension toward people different from themselves.  But then, Sephardic Jews has already shown that in Spain.

Did it happen?

One reader with expert knowledge of Native American history, wrote in that they’d

never want to completely discount any intermarriage theory, because there definitely was a tremendous amount of interracial marriage going on in those days and it was considered a squeamish topic by the white elites, so it didn’t get written about in history nearly as much as it actually happened.

When we think about Ladino as a way to bring back culture, do we wonder what qualities that culture contains?  It seems that Sephardic Jews have an ease in living among other people without hatred or fear.  To me, that’s a trait to be extremely proud of.  It stands out as a cultural gift.

And the simplicity of the freedom and human respect Native Americans may have offered people who had been tortured and expelled for not submitting to the controls of others, stands out like a great blessing, against the evil of religious persecution, hatred, .murder and warfare.   How might that disparity have felt to people whose old world offered not one single place to be fully themselves and for whom most of the new world continued to seek their death?

Due to questions raised …

There have been a couple of serious questions raised about the person who gave the lecture cited here (  Though the genetics involved  seem not to be the issue (so people may want to investigate the history on their own), I’m pulling the post because the author has written some dubious things in the past.  My apologies for posting prematurely.

Sephardic pirates!

collage0011prince in profile with purse standing on ball

Collage:  Pirate

(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

And you thought Ladino was only spoken by grandmothers and lovers?

Watch this video on The Alhambra Deecree and how it led to Sephardic pirates

Then there is evidence that …

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