SAC Campers at Ladino Day at University of Washington

Courtesy of The Daily at University of Washington!

UW hosts second International Ladino Day

Kids at International Ladino Day Kids at International Ladino Day -Kids from the Sephardic Adventure Camp in Seattle come together in song to commemorate International Ladino Day.

Photo by Shane Solomon / Contributing photographer

Ladino may be considered a dying language, but the Ladino community in Seattle is still very much alive.

More than 300 community members, along with UW students and faculty members gathered at Kane Hall for the second International Ladino Day on Thursday. Presented by the UW’s Sephardic Studies Program and the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies, the event commemorated the language and traditions of Sephardic Jews.

Members of the local Jewish community ranging in age from elementary school children to community elders celebrated their culture through sharing poetry, stories, song, and skits, all performed in the Ladino language.

Judeo-Spanish, commonly known as Ladino, is the language of Sephardic Jews, a Jewish ethnic subgroup historically hailing from the Jews of Spain, Portugal, North Africa, and the Middle East.

When the Spanish crown expelled the Jews from Spain in 1492, the diaspora spread across the continent, absorbing the native languages of their new communities. As a result, the Ladino language is a reflection of 14th- and 15th-century Spanish with elements of Hebrew, Arabic, Turkish, Greek, and French.

Los Ladineros, a local group of elderly Sephardic Jews, is one of few existing Ladino conversation groups in the country. Every Tuesday morning, the group meets to speak with each other in the language of its ancestors.

At the event, members of the group told the story of Calvo and Policar, two young Sephardic Jews who came to Seattle in 1902. As the legend goes, they stood on a waterfront street shouting ‘yehudi’ (the Ladino word for Jew) repeatedly in search of other Jews. The Seattle Sephardic community has been slowly growing ever since.

“Ladino Day and the Sephardic studies program is only made possible through the support of our community,” said Devin Naar, assistant professor and chair of the Sephardic Studies Program.

In Seattle, the community of Sephardic Jews totals 4,000 people, second in the United States only to New York and Los Angeles.

“We are now transforming UW and Seattle into an international center of the Sephardic world,” Naar said.

The Sephardic Studies Program has been working to keep Ladino and the Sephardic culture alive in the Seattle area. Naar and his colleagues in the program have been curating literature for the Sephardic Studies Digital Library and Museum, one of the largest collections of original Ladino literature in the country.

To see so many people come together for this language, whether they grew up with it or are just discovering it, is moving, said Lauren Spokane, associate director of the Stroum Center of Jewish Studies.

“Some don’t even have a connection to the Jewish community, but see the richness of the tradition and the value of preserving it,” Spokane said.

Molly FitzMorris, Ph.D. candidate in the department of linguistics and Jewish studies graduate fellow, is an example of one of these people. She told the crowd she was hooked on the culture after attending a single Ladino class.

“It’s not often you find a 9-year-old and a 90-year-old sharing the stage to sing songs in an endangered language,” FitzMorris said. “We might be looking at the next generation of Ladino speakers.”

Reach contributing writer Alexa Teodoro at Twitter: @titalexie

December 11, 2014 · by  · in SAC Blog · Tags:

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