Judeo-Spanish Traditional Literature

Half a Century of Fieldwork and Scholarship

in European Judaism
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  • 1 University of California, Davis
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Our collaborative project concerning the traditional literature and folklore of the Spanish-speaking Sephardic Jews of the Balkans and North Africa began in 1957 and has continued up to the present. During the project's fifty-three years (so far), we have interviewed some 164 Balkan and seventy-five North African Sephardic informants, in the U.S. (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, New York), in Israel (eight different communities), in Morocco (six communities) and in Spain (Madrid). Our Eastern informants originated in Rhodes, Salonika, Tekirdağ, Izmir, Israel, Monastir, and a number of small Bosphorus communities. Our collection of traditional ballads (a majority of medieval Hispanic origin) totals just under 1,500 texts. We also collected abundant examples of lyric poetry, folktales, proverbs, folk cures, and popular beliefs. Five volumes of our projected sixteen-volume edition of Sephardic narrative ballads and other folk literature have already been published; three more volumes are currently being prepared for publication. Our editions systematically include studies of the songs' texts and their traditional tunes (the latter transcribed and studied by Israel J. Katz). One of our many crucially important aims has been to save, for the benefit of future generations, the precious oral literature and folklore of the Sephardic Jews.