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María del Carmen Valentín

This article is an overview of the Judeo-Spanish dramatic literature in the Balkans. I take a look at the history of this Sephardi adopted literary genre and review some of its main aspects such as authors, themes, and other elements involved in theatrical expression.

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Western Judeo-Spanish (Hakitía)

Tracing Speech Through Narrative

Isaac Benabu

The oral transmission of culture became the subject of serious academic study at the end of the nineteenth century, and since then we have come to recognize its pivotal role in any consideration of cultural dynamics. If we take the case of Judeo-Spanish culture, research has shown that the assimilatory forces of the dominant or co-territorial culture in which the Jews settled after the Expulsion, in both the Eastern and the Western Mediterranean, threatened to obliterate their cultural heritage, and in particular their language. Added to this, the displacement of the traditional speech communities during and shortly after the Second World War at both ends of the Mediterranean, as well as contact with the new cultures in which these Jews settled, seemed to augur badly for the survival of Judeo-Spanish culture. Furthermore Judeo Spanish has all but lost its currency as a spoken language, in the home and in the street, because the language is no longer transmitted to succeeding generations in the traditional fashion. Nevertheless an ever-increasing number of people are taking to the pen to write in the language and about its culture. This article also proves that defining features of the language have survived in spite of the impact of Modern Spanish in the areas in which Western Judeo-Spanish (hakitía) held currency traditionally.

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Ilana Tahan

Among the rich Hebrew holdings of the British Library there exists a small cluster of thirty-eight Judeo-Spanish handwritten texts, the majority of which date from between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. To the best of our knowledge, none of these manuscripts, except one, has been the topic of scholarly investigation or in-depth research. Intended at raising scholars' and specialists' awareness of this important, yet barely known literary resource, this article outlines the manuscripts' principal characteristics, such as subject matter and authorship, as well as origins (i.e. place of completion) and provenance. An inventory of all the relevant manuscripts is appended to the article.

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Judeo-Spanish Traditional Literature

Half a Century of Fieldwork and Scholarship

Samuel G. Armistead

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.

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Moisés Orfali

This discussion of the processes of Spanish acculturation among Moroccan Jews deals with influences that Spanish Jews brought to Morocco both before and after 1492, especially their regulations establishing a considerable improvement in the status of Jewish women and restrictions on expenditure on the occasion of family celebrations. In accordance with the Valladolid Takkanot (1432), they forbade the wearing of certain jewellery and the display of valuable finery. These social and ethical-religious measures also expressed a concern not to expose property and people to the envy of non-Jews. The megorashim (newcomers from Spain) spread the Castilian custom of ritual slaughter of animals for consumption. The re-Hispanisation of the Judeo-Spanish language (Ḥaketía) was consciously considered among the descendants of the megorashim as part of their Spanish identity and collective memory.

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Towards a New Style in Nineteenth-Century Judeo-Spanish Prose

Two Judeo-Spanish Versions of the German Novel Der Rabbi und der Minister

Aitor García Moreno

For more than one hundred years texts of rabbinical prose were the only model of educated style. With the arrival of new literary genres imported from Western Europe towards the middle of the nineteenth century, Sephardi authors and translators promoted a change in their style of writing. This article compares syntactic structures in two texts from the second half of the nineteenth century. They belong to the same literary genre and share the same subject, but are anchored in different discoursive traditions trying to exemplify the different styles of Sephardic prose that coexisted at that time.

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Yvette Bürki

This article deals with one of the most productive manifestations of Sephardi letters of the second third of the 19th century: The Judeo Spanish press. The contribution is divided into two parts. In the first, we will offer a broad view of the Judeo Spanish press, indicating its origins, its development and periodization and its importance for the modernization process of the Sephardi community of the Ottoman Empire. In the second part, the undeniable influence of the Judeo-Spanish press on different manifestations of Sephardi life will be illustrated, starting from the two newspapers La Época and El Avenir, published in Thessaloniki – the centre of the Sephardi print production, especially as far as the press is concerned. At a socio-historical level, the press functions as a medium, which forms public opinion; at the level of letters and linguistics, and as a new textual and discursive reality, the press genres play a fundamental role in the development of the modern Judeo Spanish.

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Ladino in Turkey

The Situation Today as Reflected by the Ladino Database Project

Karen Gerson Sarhon

Judeo-Spanish is today considered to be an endangered language even though there has been much research into it. The Ladino Database Project, which has been set up and conducted by the Sephardic Center in Istanbul (, aims at documenting the spoken Judeo-Spanish of the last native speakers in Istanbul. The data, which will soon be available on the internet, will be invaluable for all researchers of the language and culture.

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Paloma Díaz-Mas

This article is an overview of the characteristics, history and the diffusion of the different types of Judeo-Spanish songs of mourning and dirges: Sephardic quinot in Judeo-Spanish for Tisha beab festivity, dirges for endechar (that is, to lament the death of a person), ballads used as songs of mourning and satirical dirges that were published in Sephardic newspapers at the beginning of the twentieth century.

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'Regaladas de Sus Madres'

Judeo-Spanish Women's Poetry on the Holocaust

Shmuel Refael

This article examines the characteristics of women's Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) poetry of the Holocaust. We will try to answer several questions, such as the subjects addressed by women's poetry, the generational circles to which Sephardi women belong, the explanation for the high percentage of writing among Sephardi women on the Holocaust, and above all, the existence of unique gender characteristics in Judeo-Spanish women's Holocaust poetry.