Radio Ladino


(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

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.

Listen to another of your angels – Moshe Shaul


(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

There are people who have been working to keep alive the soul of our culture for us, while we, unaware of what was slipping away, have been slurping on corporate culture, as real as a Coke.

Meet another angel, Moshe Shaul, of the Autoridad Nasionala del Ladino i su Kultura (The National Authority of Ladino and its culture).   He has been sheltering Ladino in his heart and working hard to protect it.  Perhaps you can see that caring in his face.

If you don’t understand Ladino but can pick out a few words that sound familiar, that’s all to the good.  If you can’t even pick out a single word, but you can feel the warmth of the New Year’s wishes Mr. Shaul offering to you, dayenu.  It is enough.  You are, even with just that, inside your own culture.

Take a break for a few minutes.  Slow down from the craziness of every day.   Sit and take in what is yours.  Just listen.  It is the music that carried your culture through so much.  You may not know the lyrics, the words may just wash over you, but their tune will be pouring a very old blessing over you – for your health and for peace in the world.  All their melodious sounds filled with love  for you.

Conferring blessings for the New Year is a ritual.  Those blessings are especially rich and caring in Ladino.

Do you give a damn?

collage0028woman lounging on blue chair

(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

Many Sephardics believe there is no way that Ladino can be revived because they see it as an all or nothing proposition.  They can’t imagine themselves working to learn the language.  And to whom would they speak unless everyone did all that work.

But  the revival of a language comes piece by piece, just as learning a language does.  Babies use words because they want to be part of the world around them.

A Ladino revival is going on.  Three steps is all it takes to be part of it.

The first step is to ask yourself – do you see in fact give a damn whether Ladino exists?

  • Would you rather there were some people speaking it rather than none?
  • Does its existence have the least relevance to you?

The second step – if you find you got past step one and do give at least a tiny damn that Ladino is still in the world – is to recognize that that tiny damn on your part actually just made you a part in reviving it.

  • For a language to be revived, it must be wanted.
  • To contribute your own wanting Ladino to exist, is big.
  • In just caring that the language is alive, you’re creating the essential habitat for it to stay alive and begin to trickle back in.
  • When enough people care, others have stronger footing to go further, and the language grows.

The third step is to learn one word.

  • One word makes you a speaker.
  • One word takes you from outside observer to inside.
  • One word puts you in the fold of the language.

Here are a few words you might choose from.  Pick one, or find one yourself.

meoyudo – wise person

shamar – slap in the face

sorviko – sip  (Toma un sorviko.  Take a sip.)

You have a word.   Say it out loud.  You may not be exactly chatty,  but you are a Ladino speaker, however minimally.

What is significant, though, is that your care.  In wanting Ladino to live,  you give it energy.  Your heart has just moved things closer to renewing the language.

What do you think of Native American values?

collage0038boy glass bowl and feather as hat
Collage:  For himself or for his community?
(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

When we say we want to maintain our culture by reviving Ladino, what do we mean?  Aren’t cultures basically the same, other than their histories and customs?  What’s the big deal, really?

This article reports on a study of Keresan Pueblo Indian students and why there have been so few of them in gifted classes.  It turns out that their culture’s view of “giftedness” is radically different from that of the mainstream culture offering the “gifted” classes.

Continue reading

While we were sleeping ….

collage-s-0013peaceful medieval woman in bedroom cat

Collage:  Making guests welcome

(Art work on this blog is copyrighted.)

The last post talked about a push for Yiddish potentially waking up Sephardics to their, in fact, deep personal connection to Ladino.  But because most Sephardics were asleep, we haven’t much noticed or seemed to care what was happening to it.

Fortunately, we have been blessed with angels who have been watching over us and our language.Rachel Amado Bortnick is definitely one of them.  By starting an online community of Ladino speakers, Ladino Komunitika, she came up with an incredibly effective – and very friendly! – means to create connections between remaining Ladino speakers worldwide.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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 …

Continue reading