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.
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.
While many of us are aware that Sephardic Jews, fleeing the Inquisition, found safety for hundreds of years under the Ottoman Empire and in North Africa, outside the reach of Christian Europe and the Catholic Inquistion, we tend to be less far less aware of what happened that left our culture without the bulk of its Ladino speakers (and writers and publishers).
The first post didn’t dilly dally around, did it? It said that Ladino is the heart of Sephardic culture. But heavens, what does that even mean?
In rummaging around looking for a Ladino saying that might help convey some sense of the meaning that language carries, I ran across Sephardic Proverbs by Michael Castro. For him, language goes beyond mere words.
Proverbs …. articulated the unwritten laws of how to be and how to see, and represented the distilled wit and wisdom of Ladino, or Judezmo, the medieval Spanish with a dash of Turkish, Hebrew and other influences, spoken as the main language in Sephardic communities throughout the world until the devastation of the Holocaust.