A Rich Language or a Bastard Tongue? Language Legitimacy and Ladino Translation

Mass migrations, assimilation, and ultimately, the destruction of the Holocaust, contributed to the dissolution of the Judeo- Spanish cultural world during the twentieth century. Now, in the twenty-first century, we have entered a third phase in Judeo- Spanish translation. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, authors rendered Hebrew sources into Judeo-Spanish, even if they initially perceived the latter as a "foreign tongue." From the nineteenth into the twentieth centuries, a second phase of translation involved bringing modern European cultural trends into the Judeo- Spanish milieu that also introduced a new anxiety about the target language: that it was not a language at all, but rather a bastard tongue to be abandoned. Still others viewed it as a worthy vehicle for literary production and for building intercultural bridges. Now, in the twenty-first century, most of the estimated five to six thousand Judeo-Spanish publications remain unknown and inaccessible. While a few new translations of classics into Judeo-Spanish continue (The Little Prince, 2010; The Odyssey, 2012), a third phase now involves a move in the opposite direction: out of Judeo-Spanish into more accessible languages, such as English.

From: AJS Perspectives
The Translation Issue | Fall 2015


Turkinos beyond the Empire: Ottoman Jews in America, 1893 to 1924

During the early twentieth century, as many as sixty thousand Jews from the Ottoman Empire and its successor states migrated to the United States, mostly settling in New York. While they outnumbered the twenty-five thousand Ottoman Muslims who arrived during the same period, they constituted a small minority compared to the more than two million primarily Yiddish-speaking Jews who came to America. While frequently marginalized within Jewish historiography, Judeo-Spanish (Ladino)-speaking Sephardic Jews from the Eastern Mediterranean have received some scholarly attention in recent years. Building on this scholarship, and by reference to sources from both sides of the Atlantic, including archives and newspapers from New York, Salonica and Istanbul written in Judeo-Spanish, French, Turkish and English, this article provides the first exploration of the ‘‘Ottoman’’ component of Jewish migration from the Eastern Mediterranean.

Set within a transnational framework, this articles focuses on linkages created and retained by Ottoman-born Jews in the ‘‘old wold’’ and in diasporic offshoots in the ‘‘new.’’ How did Jews from the Ottoman Empire, who referred to themselves as Turkinos, conceptualize their relationship with their empire of origin? How did their experiences with other Jews in America or with other migrants from the Ottoman Empire, such as Muslims, Greek Orthodox Christians, or Armenians, shape their understandings of being Ottoman? How did the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire impact the ways in which Ottoman-born Jews in America understood their sense of community and their connections to their land of birth?

From: Jewish Quarterly Review 
Volume 105, Number 2, Spring 2015 
pp. 174-205 | 10.1353/jqr.2015.0012


Fashioning the “Mother of Israel”: The Ottoman Jewish Historical Narrative and the Image of Jewish Salonica

Using sources in Judeo-Spanish, French, German, and Hebrew, this article explores the complex processes through which Ottoman Jewish intellectuals fashioned their own vision of Ottoman Jewish history, positioned Salonica at the center of that narrative, and in the process popularized an image of the city as the “mother of Israel.” Ottoman Jewish history writers internalized Enlightenment discourses about “regeneration,” “civilization,” and “modernity” that also shaped the nineteenth-century historiography of Greek Christian, Ottoman Muslim, French Jewish, and German Jewish intellectuals. This article focuses on how Ottoman Jewish intellectuals translated French Jewish and German Jewish historical narratives about Ottoman Jewry into Judeo-Spanish, adapted and rewrote them, and ultimately overturned them. Discovering that German Jewish historians portrayed Ottoman Jews as being in decline while French Jewish writers adopted a more sympathetic perspective, Ottoman Jewish intellectuals recast their own former narrative of tragedy as an exceptional story of Jewish redemption and romance in the Ottoman realm. In reclaiming Ottoman Jewish history they sought to strengthen their position within the Ottoman Empire and to elevate their status in the eyes of world Jewry. The Salonican Jewish intellectuals who participated in this effort presented an image of their city and its storied Jewish past as an idealized symbol of the broader Ottoman Jewish experience and founded a Salonican Jewish historiography that still shapes our understanding of the city’s history today.

From: Jewish History
December 2014, Volume 28, Issue 3, pp 337-372


Jerusalem of the Balkans

On September 28, 2013, masked policemen armed with machine guns arrested 22 members of the ne0-Nazi Golden Dawn party, including several representatives to Greece's parliament. The rise of the anti-immigrant, anti-Jewish group unearths reminders of Greece's compliance with the Nazis in World War II. In the Spring 2013 issue, Devin E. Naar explored the resurgence of Salonica's all-but-erased Jewish community, which is growing alongside the rising tide of Greek anti-Semitism.

From: Jewish Review of Books
Spring 2013, Artcle 134


From the "Jerusalem of the Balkans" to the Goldene Medina: Jewish Immigration from Salonika to the United States

A few scholars have succeeded in giving voice to the Jews from the eastern Mediterranean who lived in early twentieth-century America. They have filled important lacunae by focusing on the efforts of these immigrants at communal organization, their interactions with the "Old Sephardim" and "Ashkenazim," and their creation of a Ladino press in New York.8 Such scholars point out city-based identity but often represent it as a source of conflict and an obstacle to overcome in the formation of a broader group identity. This article seeks to push even further and reconsider the received taxonomy of "Levantine," "Sephardi," and "Ladino" by presenting the case...

From: American Jewish History 
Volume 93, Number 4, December 2007 
pp. 435-473 | 10.1353/ajh.0.0044