Judith Rideout: Voices from a Lost World: When rare oriental texts are dusted off in a Spanish bazaar

When asked to conceptualise the traditional Spanish-speaking world, most people think of Spain and her former imperial territories, and historical studies of the Hispanic press are a reflection of that fact. Few Hispanic scholars think to include the Sephardic Jewish diaspora as part of the Hispanosphere, despite the fact that their abandonment of Spanish territory after 1492 did not mean that they abandoned their hispanidad. Rather, while the Edict of Expulsion prevented them from taking out ‘gold, silver, minted money, or other items prohibited by the laws of our kingdoms’ (Gerber 1994: 288), their precious culture, skills and day-to-day language, which after the expulsion came to be known mostly commonly as Judeo-Spanish or Ladino, travelled with them to their new destination.(1) Early migrations (15th/16th centuries) were mostly to the Ottoman Empire which, unlike Europe, allowed Jews to practice their religion freely.(2)  Ladino survived into modernity, preserving many forms now archaic in Iberian speech and with idiosyncratic features due to other linguistic influences.(3)  The Ladino of the Ottoman Empire, or Ladino Oriental as it is also known (Ladino Occidental, or Haketía/Hakitía, is the now-extinct variant of Moroccan Jewry) took elements depending on time and place from languages including, but not limited to, Hebrew, Turkish, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian, Greek, Italian and French.(4)

There are many reasons that the Sephardic cultural contribution remains obscure to Hispanic Studies researchers. One of the biggest reasons for the exclusion of the Sephardim from the Spanish-speaking imaginary is because of their traditional classification under the Jewish Studies taxonomy, which is its own separate sphere of scholarship, rather than an interdisciplinary field. Thus, with few exceptions, the post-1492 Sephardim are exiled from the Hispanic Studies library shelves, university lectures, academic journals, and conferences.(5) Another reason, which in turn would prevent greater interdisciplinary penetrability, is that while the Sephardim spoke a variety of Castilian which would be comprehensible to any perceptive hispanohablante, they printed their language in the Rashi script, a semi-cursive typeface for the Hebrew alphabet alien to the typical Hispanic studies researcher. (6) Added to this is the factor of great scarcity of Ottoman Jewish material literary artefacts, with no more than a thousand texts remaining, including newspapers (Borovaya 2012: 4). This is very little when one considers that, at the turn of the 20th century, there were approximately 250,000 Jews in the Ottoman Empire (Benbassa & Rodrigue 2000: 70), and that between 1845 and 1939, approximately three hundred Sephardi periodicals appeared in the Ottoman Empire and its former territories.(7)  Finally, as leading researcher in the field Olga Borovaya attests, of what is left of these scant sources, most Ladino newspapers, plays and novels are available only on microfilm, meaning that field research in Israel and elsewhere is required to study the sources. If that were not enough to dissuade the interested scholar, many of these sources are incompletely bound, their typographic quality is very poor, and many periodicals have lacunae where articles have been cut out by readers.

Given the situation for the layperson interested in Sephardi literary culture, one can imagine my reaction when, on compiling quantitative data from Hispanic Modernist magazines as part of a research project at the University of Augsburg, I came across three articles which had been taken from early 20th-century Ladino magazines and transcribed into Latin script for Spanish readers.(8)  Benito Fernández Alonso (1848-1922), a Galician intellectual, historian and a friend of Dr. Ángel Pulido Fernández, submitted these articles to Gente Vieja in order to inform readers about the continued existence of los israelitas españoles and to help foment a philosephardic sentiment among the wider reading public.(9)  His submissions also coincided with the publication of his friend’s now-famous 688-page epic Españoles sin patria y la raza sefardí, which was published that same year (1905) and in which his own photographic portrait was to feature.(10)


Before I continue with an analysis of these three articles found in Gente Vieja, I would like to outline some details about Jewish periodical publishing in the Ottoman Empire, the newspaper industry in Salonica (the city from where these articles were taken), and the use and status of Ladino in the Sephardic community, so that these articles may be understood within their larger context.

Jewish periodical publishing in the Ottoman Empire

Periodical publishing in Ladino was part of the first Ladino literature printed for secular purposes, as prior to the 19th century almost all writings in Ladino had been religious, a necessary way of communicating rabbinical and biblical teachings to the vast majority of Ottoman Jews who could not read Hebrew.(11) There is no doubt that the popular press helped to secularize Jewish culture, which in turn allowed for Ottoman Jewry to modernise. Interestingly, it appears that it was perceived threats to the community from outside which galvanised first the creation and then the expansion of the Jewish press. There is scholarly consensus that the emergence of the Ladino press emerged out of the insecurity generated by the Damascus Affair, more precisely, the blood libels in Damascus and Rhodes in early 1840.(12) With diplomatic intervention necessary from influential Jews living in far-off lands (Moses Montefiore and Isaac Adolphe Crémieux travelled from London and Paris respectively to intercede), it became clear that information needed to flow in order to create an international Jewish network of solidarity. Thus, the first Ottoman Jewish newspaper to make it beyond the prospectus stage was Sha’arei Mizrach/Las Puertas de Oriente, founded by Rafael Uziel in 1845 in Izmir.(13) The founder’s mother-tongue Italian heritage and education can be seen in his idiosyncratic Ladino and Rashi typesetting choices while the magazine itself was printed at the town’s missionary press, run by Englishman G. Griffith, the only press with Rashi characters. This latter fact is in itself a telling indictment of how far the Sephardim had fallen within the Empire, given that it had been Sephardic Jews themselves who had introduced printing to the Ottomans, setting up the first printing press in Constantinople in 1493 and enjoying a monopoly on printing in the Empire (always with Rashi characters) until 1727 (Harris 1994: 131).

The market was very small however, and difficult to survive in. Uziel’s newspaper closed after only two months due to lack of subscribers, despite efforts to advertise the newspaper to the (rich) Sephardim living in London.(14) This was no surprise due to the Ottoman Jewry’s dramatic fall from a position of great power and wealth within the Empire only a century before. As an American traveller to the Empire in 1835 noted:

I think it will hardly be denied, that the Jewish nation in Turkey is in a complete state of indigence, as is sufficiently proved by the mean and vile employments to which the individuals belonging to it devote themselves. (Porter 1835: 166)

Little wonder then that in such a desperate situation, compounded by the Great Fire of 1841 which devastated Izmir’s Jewish quarter and left thousands homeless, Las Puertas del Oriente did not make it beyond the first few issues.

While new titles began to emerge in the early 1870s, it was only with the beginning of the Dreyfus Affair in 1894 that the Ottoman Jewish press industry, which at that point comprised both French-language and Ladino magazines, underwent a renaissance. Joseph Nehama, the author of the third article which will be analysed and here writing under the pseudonym of P. Risal (1913 [1918]: 281), said of this time: ‘L’affaire Dreyfus avait passionné les Saloniciens pour la lecture et avait donné un rapide essor au journalism local. Il n’y avait eu, jusqu’en 1895, qu’une unique revue hebdomadaire que parût en dehors du journal official turc. A partir des premières controverses au sujet de la fameuse Affaire, les journaux foisonnent.’(15) However, even with this boost from the Dreyfus scandal, the Ottoman newspaper business was a very economically difficult and fraught with challenges.

Throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ottoman Jewish newspaper industry was not particularly profitable, which meant that editors had to be indefatigable and multitask as editors, printers, translators and distributors, often producing their periodicals single-handedly (despite their protestations to the contrary), signing the various articles with different pseudonyms and shamelessly self-promoting. Many Sephardi literati went through tremendous hardship to try to keep their periodicals afloat, with one struggling Ladino journalist recalled rifling through the garbage of Cairo in search of food (Stein 2004: 66). In additional to economic difficulties, editors also had to be wary of falling foul of state censorship, and needed to ensure that their periodical had a licence, something that journalist Judah Nehama (the father of Joseph Nehama, and discussed below), found out to his cost when his magazine El Lunar was shut down and he narrowly escaped jail in 1865.

There were, however, additional reasons for the low subscription rates to Ladino magazines aside from the most obvious economic one. In his memoir, editor Sam Lévy calculated that at least ten percent of Salonica’s Jewish families had sufficient income to pay for an annual subscription to his magazine La Época and on the basis of his calculation that there were more than 20,000 families, this would mean that at least 4,000 people could pay for the journal (Lévy 2000 [1956]: 101).(16) However, given that (according to Lévy himself) the actual subscription figure was around 750, this meant that other factors were at play to suppress the growth of new cultural expression. Illiteracy was a factor, with Lévy calculating that 50% of Salonica’s Jews were unable to read (ibid.).(17) In addition, a large proportion of Ottoman Jews were conservative (non-Westernised), and thus simply not interested in liberal or progressive newspapers. Lévy (ibid.: 38) put over 75% of Salonica’s Jews into this category, a huge impediment for liberal press editor. This issue was compounded by the fact that ultra-conservative rabbis would excommunicate journalists or indeed anyone whom they did not like. This would certainly explain the reason for the continued sub-optimal circulation figures of Lévy’s La Época, as its name was associated with Lévy’s father Saadi Halevy, who in 1874 was issued with the strongest excommunication, the Herem Gadol, for singing in Turkish, a punishment which lasted until the writer’s death in 1903 and which was referred to as ‘la catastrophe’ within the family (ibid.:16, 22).(18)

Two other big factors which stymied magazine subscription growth were the practices of magazine sharing and collective reading. Collective reading was not at all unique to Ottoman Jewry, it was a common nineteenth-century among the European working classes, especially when one person reading aloud could mean that others could attend to handiwork (the equivalent of the factory workers or household later listening to the radio). However, there is the Sephardic cultural practice of the reading group (meldado), recommended by the vernacular rabbis for the collective reading of musar literature which would have intensified the practice of the collective reading of magazines, and the general collectivist nature of traditional Jewish life, in which activities were generally done together for sociability and group bonding.(19) This would translate into Sephardim getting together spontaneously in order to read a newspaper or a thrilling serialized novel as late as the 1920s (Borovaya 2012: 48).

Magazine sharing was an equally pernicious practice for the magazine editor looking to survive, and was deeply rooted in the Sephardi Ottoman reading culture. Even when an individual subscription was affordable to those partaking in the practice, it made more sense to share it between households for Ottoman Jews, who were very frugal in their everyday life and sober in their lifestyle.(20) From the very beginning of the Ladino press (the first and fifth issues of Sha’arei mizrach) editors asked their readers not to share the newspapers, but it was to no avail leading Sam Lévy in the third issue of his new venture aimed at intellectuals, El Luzero (Zemun, summer of 1905), to tell his readers: ‘Read El Luzero. Show El Luzero. Recommend El Luzero. Do not share El Luzero.’ (Borovaya 2012: 48). Of what he saw of La Época being read and discussed by all social classes, he calculated that for every subscriber there were eight to ten readers or listeners (Lévy 2000 [1956]: 101).

Finally, a factor which affected Sam Lévy’s magazine subscription rate, if it was not more widespread, was the issue of fraud. For fifteen months, at the point when the magazine had begun serializing novels, the printers had been printing 1500 copies of every issue and selling half of them secretly, cutting out Lévy and keeping the profits. Ethical considerations aside, this proved how, just as in the ‘motherland’ Spain, and France, the locus of nineteenth-century literary enunciation and source of most Sephardic serialisations (and the country in which Eugène Sue’s Le juif errant increased the circulation of the previously moribund Le Constitutionnel by almost 700%), serialized novels were wildly popular with Sephardic newspaper readers.(21)

All factors of abnormally low circulation are crucial in trying to work out what was being published and where. Salonica, with its majority Jewish population (60% at the turn of the century), was by far the most active Jewish centre for literary culture, but even here it was difficult for a business to flourish. What chance then, for the Jews of say, Edirne, to have their own newspaper?(22) As one might except, there was very little choice, if any, for the smaller Sephardic populations in the Empire. Of course, as with Spain, it is likely that individuals did try and fail, with new ventures, but many of these ephemeral titles are likely to be lost forever in time.

Sephardi journalism in Salonica at the turn of the 20th century

Given that two if not all three of the articles to be discussed were printed in Salonica I feel it fitting to provide an overview of the Salonican press situation at the time that the articles were printed, with an emphasis on La Época, as this is the magazine which is likely to have featured all three articles within its pages.

Between 1865 and 1918 a total of 40 Jewish periodicals were published in Salonica, with 33 of these being printed in Ladino and the remaining seven in French. By 1905, at the time these articles were printed in Gente Vieja, not only did Salonica see this diglossic situation reflected in the newspapers for sale, but there were also different magazines for the two opposing ideologies (Zionist/Alliancist) which competed for Jewish hearts and minds.(23)

The longest-running Jewish magazine in Salonica during the year under study was the aforementioned Ladino La Época (its full title being La Época: Revista comerciala y literaria), which had been launched on the 1st of November 1875, and which lasted until the 22nd November 1911.(24) At its time of launch, most Sephardic Jews of the surrounding region did not read any language other than Ladino (in Rashi script), which would be one of the explanations as to why the editor’s experiment with using Roman script for a few issues in 1879 was not a success.(25) La Época began as a weekly, later became a biweekly, and eventually appeared five times a week.


The magazine’s founder, Saadi [Sa’adi] Besalel [Betsalel] Ashkenazi Halevy [a-Levi], known more commonly as Saadi Halevy (1820-1903), was an autodidact with very little formal education who was nevertheless the most important Jewish printer of this period.(26) By the age of 16 he was an orphan in charge of a sick younger brother and a dilapidated printing press operated by four old printers. He was, however, very committed to the cause of education and the moral enlightenment of his people, despite (or perhaps because of) his own educational deficiencies. It is that which motivated his incredible drive to keep La Época afloat for so long, and which motivated his launch of Salonica’s first French-language newspaper, Le Journal de Salonique, in 1895, despite not understanding French himself. His commitment to education and to liberal, assimilationist values more generally also explains his involvement in establishing local Alliance schools, his decision to send his daughters to the new Alliance school, and his (unusual and costly) decision to allow his eldest daughter and youngest son to study in Paris.

By 1905, the year of the Gente Vieja articles, there were a total of five Ladino periodicals competing within the Salonican marketplace.(27) The first of these competitors to be launched was El Avenir: Jurnal Politiko, Komersial i Literaryo on the 15th December 1897, and which lasted until 1916.(28) As a weekly newspaper, it offered a Zionist perspective on the Dreyfus affair, on the First Zionist Congress and on local events, and also published a magazine supplement of the same name. El Avenir would have been stiff competition for the La Época, having a higher intellectual level and very importantly, also undercutting La Época by a third (costing 40 paras compared to 60 paras).(29) It would also have undoubtedly dented La Época’s subscription figures, a situation which would have been compounded three years later by the launch of Zionist David Florentin’s fortnightly El Nuevo Avenir (Salonica, 1900-1918) and the monthly La Revista Popular (1900-1913, published by the Zionist Kadima Organisation), but as Borovaya (2012: 106) points out, without La Época’s previous thirty-year existence in Salonica to establish a magazine-reading culture, El Avenir would never have had the success it did. Perhaps it was the tougher economic environment created by this new competition which influenced Halevy’s decision in 1898 to pass the baton of editorial control of both of his magazines to his fourth and youngest son, best known to posterity as Sam Lévy.

Like his father, Shemuel/Shmuel Saadi Halevy (1870-1959) was a pro-assimilationist, as evinced by the Europeanised pen-name, Sam Lévy, with which he signed all of his articles in French. A product of an Alliance school, an avowed Francophile and polyglot, Lévy had two extended stays in Paris, which involved classes at the Sorbonne and reports on the Dreyfus Affair for both of his father’s newspapers. Each time his father summoned him back to Salonica from Paris he returned reluctantly, but the needs of the family business prevailed. Lévy’s European education, which encouraged him to critique his local milieu through Orientalist eyes, created a dual consciousness in Ottoman Jewish intellectuals of his generation. It might be argued that when writing in Ladino Lévy wrote for his fellow Sephardim as a fellow Ottoman Jew seeking to educate or moralise, but when writing in French he internalised the more distant, even hostile, view of the European (Christian) intellectual, and defamiliarised his kinfolk with ethnographic writing style. This antisyzgy appears to be accepted by his readers, and indeed traces of it may be seen in the first Gente Vieja article.(30) When Zionism emerged as an ideology in Salonica, Lévy positioned himself as an Alliancist, seeing the Jewish issue as a resolvable dichotomy of progress/backwardness (i.e. that education and assimilation was all that was needed to make anti-Semitism a thing of the past), rather than the new Zionist dichotomy of Jews/anti-Semites which, being eternal and insoluble, necessitated a Jewish homeland.(31) Although due to Ottoman censorship neither Zionism or anti-Zionism could be openly expressed, Lévy’s editorship, which sought to portray positive examples of assimilated Jews in various countries, most certainly influenced his choice to feature the first article under discussion in his magazine.(32) If this second article also comes from La Época, which is very likely, its inclusion could be easily explained by his view on the importance of a good education.


The use and status of Ladino within the Ottoman Empire

Due to its low social prestige, Ladino had not been standardized by the turn of the century and, as will be seen the forthcoming analysis, there were variants in spelling, grammar and vocabulary not only by region but by individual, as Ladino reading and writing was only ever taught informally for everyday needs.(33) A single article could thus be borrowed from one Ladino journal and be ‘translated’ for another in a different locality. One journalist jokingly called for a Ladino-Ladino dictionary to reflect the chaotic situation of the language (Stein 2004: 73). With the emergence of the Alliance schools who, with the Westernised elites ‘waged war on Judeo-Spanish’ (Benbassa & Rodrigue 2000: 94) and insisted on the French being the language of instruction, Ladino was condemned to its status as a low-prestige language.(34) J. Mitrany, of Edirne (Pulido 1905: 423), gives an insight into how Ladino was perceived in the Alliance schools:

El judéo-español non es enseñado en las escuelas, siendo non es considerado como una lingua vivante, ma todos lo conocen por averlos enseñado sus parientes en sus tierna edad.

He also describes how, despite the best efforts of the Alliance schools to ‘raise the cultural level’ of Ottoman Jewry through infusing them with a Franco-Judaic sentiment across all social classes (even poor children could attend an Alliance school), the use of Ladino remained stubbornly persistent:

El judeo-español se conserva bien en nuestra ciudad aunque en muchas familias emplean la lingua francesa, el judeo-español predomina siempré.

Joseph Nehama (Risal, 1913 [1918]: 347) describes how, in Salonica at least, Ladino is the spoken lingua franca of the multi-ethnic town (although note the reference to the international Italian Jewish commercial class, popularly known as francos, who still speak Italian):

La vieille aristocratie juive parle italien; la jeune bourgeoisie parle français, mais la langue à tous est le castillan, encore très pur, importé jadis de la terre d’exil, et cette langue d’une contrée lointaine s’est imposée à toute la ville comme une sorte d’espéranto que le Grec, le Turc, l’Albanais, le Bulgare, l’étranger, baragouinent. Le conducteur de tramway truc, le garçon de café grec, le cireur de bottes tsigane vous interpelleront dans la langue de Cervantes quand ils concevront un doute sur votre nationalité.

With the secularization of Ottoman Jewish society, brought about in part thanks to the presence of the Alliance schools, Hebrew became side-lined as the high-culture literary language to become a language only for religious functions, while French became the prime language of high (secular) culture and business administration, the written language which served as the lingua franca for Jews wishing to communicate with a broader audience, especially outside of the Empire and outside of their religious group.(35) The impact of the Alliance schools on modernising Ottoman Sephardic culture cannot be overstated, as they eventually came to influence all Jewish education institutions within the Empire, from the kindergarten upwards (Risal 1913: 347). It was thanks to the AIU’s work that from the late 1870s onwards that there was a sufficient audience culturally prepared to read [secular] newspapers.(36) Most of the Jewish journalists working at the turn of the century were graduates of the Alliance schools and by the early 1890s, young Sephardi intellectuals began to publish newspapers and write books in French, but all could (and did) use both languages.

This prevailing situation of bilingualism in the individual, and diglossia in the Salonican press and society, can be explained by the fact that there were differing levels of ability and cultural familiarity with French, and some (particularly older people) preferred speaking and reading their mother tongue, regardless of its perceived linguistic shortcomings. One writer said of Ladino: ‘Turkish is a borrowed suit, French is gala dress; Judeo-Spanish is the worn dressing gown in which one feels most at ease.’ (Stein 2004: 59).

It seems that despite the best efforts of French Jewry to ‘regenerate’ their Oriental cousins through the promotion of a French-language education, there was something about the Ladino language which refused to be shifted. I would suggest that the reason for the language’s persistence, in spite of its low prestige and it being called even by the Sephardim themselves as not a language but a jargon (jerga), zhirigonza (jerigonza) and even a verguensa, was because it alone furnished them with a shared sense of identity as Sephardic Jews through its rich oral heritage. While Constantinople journalists such as David Fresko denigrated Ladino in a bid to pushing his brethren towards learning Turkish (and thus opening the doors of opportunity to the civil service and other powerful positions within the majority populace), Salonica, ‘the most important Jewish city of the Orient’ (Pulido 1905: 438) where Ladino speakers were a well-integrated majority of the urban population, was a stronghold for the pro-Ladino ideology. Sam Lévy himself, while a committed Francophile, recognized that speaking Ladino was a political act:

… en hablando en judeo-español yo quiero hacer una manifestación política. … vos declaro que el judeo-español es el mejor patrimonio, que la más emportante fracción de los israelitas de Oriente ha supido conservar á traverso los siécolos. Sí, señor; la mejor cosa que los judeos sefardim de Oriente tengan á hacer, es de respetar este hermoso patrimonio que nos transmitieron nuestros avuelos.(37)

His own view of Ladino was unashamedly supremacist:

Cet idiome suave, dix fois supérieur à toutes les langues latines, plus riche que le castellan lui-même, dont la culture aurait pu, mieux que le français et l’italien ou l’allemand… ce parler hamonieux, délicieusement chantant, fut lamentablement négligé par l’Alliance! (Lévy 2000 [1956]: 36)

His pride in his mother tongue even makes him go as far as to say that Ladino might be considered ‘le plus beau, le plus suave, le plus expressif de tous les langages humains’ (Lévy 2000 [1956]: 102).

Unsurprisingly then, Lévy believed that ‘los israelitas de Oriente cesarán de conocerse el día en que pierdan su lengua llamada Española’ (Pulido 1904: 446), while Antonio Suqué (1914: 623), who shared Lévy’s views, stated that ‘…el castellano es el vínculo que une las comunidades judías de Oriente’ and gave a dire prognostication on what would happen for the cohesion of the diaspora nation if the language were to be lost.

Having set the contextual scene for the layman who may not have a background in Sephardic studies, I will now pass to the Gente Vieja texts which are the main reason for this article. Due to the length of these texts I will not reproduce them in full, but rather suggest that the reader look at them in their original newsprint context online, for further reference.(38)

Article 1: Los israelitas españoles en Oriente (Gente Vieja, 30/5/1905)

Of the three articles, the first by far gives the most circumstantial information to the reader about the text itself. The Ladino text proper is framed by Benito F. Alonso, whose long introduction situates the text for the reader within the context of Spain’s post-1898 predicament of lost territories and poor economy and the parallel fate of her ‘exiled children’, now scattered across Europe and the Orient. His language is clearly sympathetic to the Sephardim, to encourage a potential rapprochement between the two ethnic groups now that Spain sees herself at a ‘low point in her legend’ and thus in a moment of painful self-reflection.(39) In order to convince his readers that this current sentiment of interest in the Sephardim and their language is justified, he states the following:

como prueba de la cultura y distinción que los israelitas españoles ostentan en las naciones extrañas, copiamos á la letra lo que dice La Epoca, de Salónica, refiriendo la opinión del sabio israelita Alfredo Straus…

Para que los lectores vean cómo el español del siglo XV, aunque mezclado de algunas palabras exóticas, sigue hablándose en aquellos países, no alteramos el texto, cambiando únicamente los caracteres hebraicos por los españoles.(40)

The text in question is very typical of the texts that Lévy writes and chooses for La Época because it shows assimilated Jews, happy, productive and respected in their host nation.(41) It is reported to have been authored by the Jewish Alfredo Straus, whom we are told sent this text directly to ‘El Visilo israelita, órgano conservador del judaísmo italiano’, from where it was picked up by La Época.(42) Alonso ends the transcribed text with a note for the reader who may wish to know more, thus explicitly situating his article within the greater philosephardic discourse of the day: ‘Tratándose de la importancia actual de los judíos españoles, hay que dejar la palabra á nuestro erudito amigo el Dr. Pulido, iniciador del movimiento semita, y aguardar la próxima salida de su último libro, del cual podemos prometernos un estudio curiosísimo.’ By the conclusive nature of the transcriber’s final word, and the fact that this is the only article which features any conclusion, one may reasonably conclude that Alonso had not originally planned to submit more than one article.

However, further research reveals that according to Pulido (1905: 25, 294, 509) the text’s author is (more correctly and completely) Dr. Adolfo D. Strauss of New York who is described as the ‘cónsul de Nicaragua (no israelita que sepamos)’. The letter was, from what must have been its original Castilian to judge from the author’s origins and the excerpt in Españoles sin patria, then translated into Italian and printed (in Roman script) in Il Vessillo Israelitico.(43) From there it was adapted and translated into Rashi-script Ladino for La Época, an adaptation which would not have proven difficult for Lévy, who understood Italian. This not only gives us a window onto the transnational circulation of a text but also gives us an interesting point of comparison between the two languages and the adaptations made to the original text (likely to have been made by Lévy given what we know of his readiness to adapt texts to suit his agenda, although the editor of Il Vessillo Israelitico may also have made changes). Even with the traces of this Castilian text being passed through both Italian and Ottoman Sephardic hands during the editing process, and then transcribed back into Roman script by a Galician aficionado, it is notable that this is by far the most accessible text to modern Spanish speakers, which may have been the reason why it was chosen to introduce the topic to Gente Vieja readers.

THE ORIGINAL VERSION (found in Pulido, 1905: 25):

El Dr. Adolfo Strauss, espiritual y sabio escritor, dice en una de sus numerosas relaciones de viaje, que siempre, y cuando sus viajes á Oriente le llevan por Salónica, se siente tocado de una viva admiración por los judíos españoles, efecto de dos motivos: su belleza física y su constancia en las tradiciones.

Cuando pasan delante de mí – dice – estos hombres fuertes, musculosos, de elevada estatura, de un exterior agradable, cubierta la cabeza con un bonito fez, encuadrado el rostro con una barba partiarcal, me parece que han resucitado los tipos del Viejo Testamento. Entre los 50.000 ó 60.000 judíos de Salónica no hay una sola figura deforme ó degenerada. El hamal que lleva, jadeante, sobre sus espaldas fardos pesados, está dotado de un exterior tan agradable y lleno de dignidad como el más rico de sus correligionarios.

Atribuye esta pureza admirable de la raza á lo excepcionales que son los matrimonios mixtos. Desde su exilio de Iberia, los judíos de lengua española se casan exclusivamente entre ellos. Hijos de Israel que dejaron el país de los hidalgos se refugiaron también en otras comarcas, como Alemania, Francia y Polonia; mas algunos perdieron su tipo característico por las mezclas, y están hoy en su mayor parte degenerados y mezquinos.


Todas las veses que mis viajes lievaron en Saloco, una viba admirasiion sobre los judeeos espaniioles se empatronaba de mi. Dos fatos sobre todo me inspiraba este sentimiento: la ermosura fesica de los judeeos é perseveransiia con la coala eliios observan las tradisiiones resibidas de sos padres.

Cuando eliios pasaban delantre de mi, estos ombres foertes ben formados, de alta taliia, de un esteriior agradavle, la cavesa cobierta con fis, la faja encoadrada, de una barva patriarcala, me parescia que las figoras de la Biblia se avian arevivido.
Entre los 80.000 (2. 75.000, más probable) echrrealitas de Salonico no se topa una solo que sea disformado el Tamal (portefaix), que lieve sobre so espalda pesos enormes, tiene un exteriior tanto agradable é lieno de dinieta coanto el más rico de sos coreligionarios.

¿Coala es la causa de esta admirable poresa de rasa? Simplijimente la raresa de los casamientos mistos entre judeeos é no judeeos: desde que los echrraelitas de lingoa espaneola foeron desterados de espaneea, eliios formaron una sojeeta aunada sin otras miliscamentos estraneeos. Los desindiientes de los ejos de Echrrael que abandonaron paeses espaneeoles é se abrigaron en otras partes; en Alimaniia, en Fransiia é en Polineea pedrieron el tipo característico.

After linguistic differences, there are three notable changes to this text. The first is that the population of Salonica has been substantially increased from the 50,000-60,000 stated by Strauss. This may be because Strauss had underestimated the population figures, around which there was certainly debate – while the Encyclopedia Judaica (s. v. ‘Salonika’) put the 1900 figure at 80,000, the Ottoman Census of 1902 indicated 62,000 (Borovaya 2012: 255). Even the transcriber Alonso weighed into the debate, with a footnote stating that the correct figure was more probably 75,000. While Servi was the first person to edit this text (that we know of), it is highly likely that the person who amended this figure upwards was Sam Lévy, who had a tendency to use play fast and loose with facts if it meant persuading his readers of Jewish importance in other countries, even if here his assertion is correct.(44) In his own autobiography he himself estimated the Salonica Jewish population to be 82,000 (of a total population of 140,000) between 1880-1890 (Lévy 2000 [1956]: 38).

The second significant change to the text is that the Ladino word for mozo de cuerda (porter, load-carrier), hamal, has been changed (misspelled?) to Tamal, and comes with a French gloss added afterwards in brackets. Both the change in spelling and the French gloss suggest that the Sephardi editor in question was unfamiliar with the word and assumed that his readers might not know its meaning.

The third significant change to the text is the removal of the (gentile) Strauss’s slur against the Sephardim who had settled in Germany, France and Poland, described as ‘degenerados y mezquinos’. We cannot know which of the Sephardi editors (Servi or Lévy) removed this gratuitously offensive commentary, but we can imagine that it would have been the first Jewish editor (Servi) who came into possession of the text.

There are also palimpsestic traces within the text of the original Italian magazine article, with the Italian influence likely being due to the Italian source text. However it must be remembered that Salonica, being a Mediterranean port city into which many Italian Jews had integrated over the centuries, did have a particularly strong Italian influence in its Ladino.(45) Words of Italian origin are marked in bold:

En efeto, los judeeos espaneoles son seempre los soditos mas calmos, los mas divoados é pasigoosos del emperiio Otomano. Elios se filisitan de aver venido en torquiaa é de vivir soto la podestaneaa Otomana. El goberno torco sempre tolerante vesso eliios é primeteao á los judiios espaneoles de conservar complidamente el caratere [carácter] naseonal.(46)

Note that the phrase caratere naseonal of the last sentence is given a footnote by Alonso, who wishes to leave the readers in no doubt that ‘[se] refiere al carácter y tipo español, ni más ni menos’. There is also an extra reminder to the reader that the Sephardim are Spanish in cultural practices as well as language with the footnote to the following sentence:

Los mas enteresante es de ver los judiios comer pepitas en Chavat, cuando es defendido de fomar.

While Chavat can be justified as needed a footnote to explain its meaning of ‘Sabbath’, it is unlikely that the Spanish reader would not need an editorial gloss for ‘comer pepitas’, being a common cultural practice even today. However, Alonso’s footnote ‘Pepitas de calabaza, huesos de fruta, etc., antigua costumbre de los españoles, como para entretenerse los días de fiesta’ underscores to readers the depth of history that they, as Spaniards, share with the Sephardim.

Another important paragraph to dispel any readers’ preconceived notions of the Sephardim is the following:

El Tamal, judeo, tiene una foerza moscolarea mira colosa. Un capitan de un vapor espaneeol me habiaa cargado de aser remitir so cargo el espidital, aa condision que todos los obradores foeeran judeeos, siendo solo entonses el poediia calcolar el josto de antes en coantas oras el laboro seria escapado. Entre los grandes negosiantes chrraelitas son conosidos, non solo en Oriente ma tambien en Osidente, notimos los Alatini Nodeano, Mirrach, Fernandos, Salon, Egitra, los coalos gosan de una boena fama enspiran la mas grande confiensa. La mas parte de los judeeos son comerseantes. Eliios son tambien endostriales é obradores, entre los coalos se topan los mejores marangones [1. menesterosos, pobres], fiereros é otros ofisiales: eliios no miran del todo á la natora del lavoro coando se trata de sostenes sos familias.(47)

The Jewish porter’s huge physical strength, and the fact that Jews are regarded in the port as the hardest-working menial workers, contradict the popularly-held notion that Jews were both incapable of, and shied away from, heavy manual labour. The author then goes on to talk about the successful business families whose fame is known both East and West, but importantly underscores their good reputation and their trustworthiness. As a whole, the paragraph informs the reader that just as in gentile communities there are all kinds of Jews, from the rich to the poor, the skilled and the unskilled, but none are too proud to do whatever job is necessary to support their families. One can see this paragraph as a way of helping to dispel existing anti-Semitic myths in the minds of the reader, myths which not only were seen in the wider culture of the epoch, but even within the pages of Gente Vieja itself.(48)

The narrative continues, discussing the Salonican Jewish talent for languages, although not, it would appear, for German, despite the commercial relations between the Turkish and German lands. Note the use of the Gallicism ‘malgrado’ (malgré):

Los echrraelitas espaneeoles de Salonico tienen un verdadero talento por las lengoos. Casi todos entienden el torco é emplean tambien el franses é el grego: algonos conosen el italeano; es remarcable que moe pocos conosen el aleman, malgrado las relasiones comersealas frecoentes de los paeses de lingoa alemana con la Torquia de Europa.

The Sephardim are then complimented for their physical beauty, and within the statement there is the implicit suggestion that Oriental Jews have a superior lifestyle and behaviour than Western Jews.(49)

Los ijos é las íjas de los echrraelitas espaneoles son de una ermosura particolara: eliios son bien conservados, porque eliios no pasan una vida desriglada como los mansevos de Osidente, é eliios se asen mesmo remarcar por sos boen comporto.

However, the final paragraph appears to contain a slight against the Salonican Jews, for the cardinal sin of expressing passions in public, which goes against the ‘esprito del progreso’ (read: ‘embourgeoisement in the Paris model’). It is hard to believe that Lévy, with his education from a culturally and economically dominant foreign nation, putting him in a quasi-colonial position of subordination, was not the one who wrote this element of the text:

Ee no manqué de visitar tambien en Simitereeo jodeeo, que ocopa mochos kilometros coadrados é se distingue de los otros por la maucansa de las plantas é flores. Los foneralos son selibrados de una manera moe primitiva é poco conforme al esprito del progreso donde los echrraelitas son animados. En general el elemento judeeo espanol de Salonico enspira una moe grande simpatia.

Of course, perhaps the second sentence was in the original text; we cannot know if this was Lévy yet again compelled by the desire to help his readers improve themselves, born out of a sense of alienation from ‘primitive’ Jewish practices.(50) While it is speculation that Lévy added this paragraph, it is supported by the circumstantial evidence of the Gallicisms (manqué, maucansa) and the fact that Lévy would have had funerals on his mind, having recently buried his father (January 1903). For his father’s funeral he had arranged for Chopin and Beethoven funeral marches to be played, much to his co-religionists’ astonishment, reasoning to the readers of Le Journal de Salonique (22/1/1903) that his father’s desire for liberalization and reform should not exclude funeral processions (Borovaya 2010b: 89).(51) It would appear that he could not resist, in an otherwise flattering piece about his fellow Salonicans, but remind them that there was still work to be done in the project of becoming perfectly assimilated to the Franco-Judaic ideal laid out by the AIU.(52)

Article 2: Pedagogía judío-española (Gente Vieja, 15/8/1905)

The second article comes with a shorter introduction from the transcriber about the nature and motivation for publishing the text, and here he is given the erroneous by-line of ‘Benito J. Alonso’.(53) While this text misspells his name, it does give more details about the man himself, stating that he is a chair of the Academia de la Historia, and that he sent the piece from Orense in the same month that it was printed.(54) The piece also comes with a dedication ‘Para mi paisano Don Eduardo Vicenti, actual alcalde de Madrid’, the word ‘paisano’ no-doubt a reference to the fact that Vicenti was a fellow Galician, who had represented Pontevedra in parliament several times.

In terms of the text itself we are told that it comes from ‘una revista de Salonica’ and no information is given about the author. This is a far more ‘foreign’ text than the previous offering, requiring many more glosses by Alonso in order for it to be understood. Unlike the previous article, which was from an outsider looking onto Salonican life, this is written by an Ottoman Jew for other Ottoman Jews, and therefore presupposes far more cultural understanding. The subject of this text is the unnecessary culture of violence in the Sephardi classroom which, far from facilitating learning, ensures that the animosity engendered towards the teacher results in nothing being learned. This culture of barbarity and violence towards children has been confirmed by contemporaneous Sephardic commentators (Halevy, Estrugo, Benardete, Molho) and is a curious piece to follow the first article, which presented Salonican Jews in a sympathetic light. By contrast, this article would be likely to decrease any potential reader goodwill towards the Sephardic Jews as long-lost fellow ‘españoles’. To give a sense of the piece I will reproduce the first paragraphs (which contain the historical information, it then passes to the author’s opinion), inserting Alonso’s footnotes in the body of the text itself.

Regla é palmatoriia – Las mestras [1. Mestras son las mujeres judias que recogen los niños de sus tribus con encargo de guardarlos durante el día para que sus madres ganen el pan] prometen aa las criaturas de meterlas en deende ahora, para que se comporten boeno en casa.(55)

Los roubisos [2. Roubisos, en singular Roubi, es el maestro que en la Sinagoga ó escuela enseña á los niños la lectura hebraica y las oraciones] no prometen de endorar la deentadora. Eliios asen minasos (amenazas) é recomendasiiones é avren los usos en meneando la parmatoriia.

La tarde, antes que se esqoresqa el sol, iioros é goeas [3. quejas] soben al siielo de las abrot [4. Escuela de Roubi, ó maestro] qe son ainda a la vieja.
Coando todo iia está pronto para dar palaca (bastonada ó subir al potro) la parmatoriia empesa á leir é ao vinir. Aa cada colpo ai una demanda é una ripoesta acompaneada de chimidos é goeotinas.

Todos los elivos [5. alumnos, discípulos], titereando sigoen mindando [6. leyendo], con gritos por cobrar los iioros del tortorado.

Coantas abrot ae, ainde ande estos usus viiejos son conservados? No creo qe ae mochas, ma iia ai, todas no desparesiieron. En las abrot que se iiaman moseeos [7. Moseeos ó Monsieurs, es el título que dan en Turquia á los maestros que se dedican á la enseñanza del francés], creendo estar en la via del progres se virgoensan de dar la palaca. Ellios dan chamaris [8. Chamaris, fuelles; el niño hincha una mejilla y aguanta de otro una pequeña bofetada; es lo que en gallego llamamos una inflá], poniios, carbon en las manos, en los dedos, travan los cabios, ó las orejas. Eliios mismos presiian los qe tienen la coadrada qe decha negrigon [9. Contusión, cardenal.] por ande pasa. Estos maestros poeden aser mocho mas mal de los qe son qedados del tiempo viejo e que tienen sépos  [10.Hierros, esposas, disciplinas]. La palaca se da con oras, ee para darla se queren aparejos. Si el maestro está rabiioso, en mientras qe estan atando é descalzando al colpante, la rabiia le calee é es con sangre friaa qe el aplica el nomero de colpos que ee de biervos en el pasoc [11. Versículo que se canta cuando se da la paliza y se aplica á cada palabra un golpe, semejante á los cordonazos de San Francisco]. El moseeo no tiene oras reservadas el castigo. Aa cada ponto, coando se eniierva é se ensaneea él arroja con sos manos bofitones, é tolondros con so regla.

Quite apart from the scenes of Inquisition which the author paints to the reader, it becomes clear just how much of Ladino vocabulary connected to education comes from French or Hebrew.(56) Of all the Hebrew words found in the Gente Vieja texts (Chavat, roubiso, abrot, pasoc, cidochin), this text best demonstrates the Ladino speaker’s tendency to code-switch with Hebrew, as Rodolfo Gil (1909: 32) described most poetically: ‘persiste entre ambas lenguas una reciprocidad y atracción irresistible, que da por resultado el cambio frecuente de modismos é ideas, y que, manteniendo el predominio del castellano, gusta de incrustar de cuando en cuando, como orfebre que engarzase piedras exóticas en su labor filigranada, una palabra, un pensamiento, una frase entera del manantial semítico’.

From a linguistic point of view, it is interesting to see how later in the text the second person plural imperative is rendered when the author implores mothers and teachers to desist from using corporal punishment as a way of maintain discipline, although it is important not to draw conclusions about the pronunciation based on modern-day conventions:

Madres soch sin entraneeas si encomendach á los maestros de castigar voestros ijos con asotes é virgas. Si voestras criaturas vos son qiridas no las confiech al qe las brotalisa é las entolondreaa.

Maestros que seach moseeos ó roubissos, no alivatéch nunca mano sobre voestros elivos. Es una cobardés. Eliios son flacos. Si no soch capases de aboltar sos maniias con palabras dolses é consejos de padre embialdos al lado de sos madres é endadros á bochear de ganar voestro pan de una manera mas onesta é mas omana en otro ofisiio. No machoquech á nuestros neneeos, no los metach mas aa la tortora.

Unlike with the first article, the transcriber does not conclude the narrative with words of his own, but rather the Gente Vieja article ends with the end of the embedded Ladino text itself.

The second text has a didactic function, which lends weight to the hypothesis that it was sourced from La Época, whose editor was openly about his didactic intention for the newspaper (a didacticism eschewed by the more sophisticated El Avenir).(57) In terms of authorship, possible candidates for authorship include Saadi Halevy, who blamed the cruelty of teachers for the ignorance of his generation (Rodrigue & Stein 2012: 38, 184), Sam Lévy, Joseph Nehama (a headteacher of an AIU school in Salonica who was also a journalist, who is discussed in the next section), and Moise Fresco (1864-1907) a headteacher of an AIU school in Galata, a Jewish district of Constantinople, who wrote texts for schools and contributed to magazines.(58) However, this is nothing but supposition, and as violence in schools appeared to be a fixture of Ottoman Jewish life, one could say that there are many potential authors of this article.

Article 3: Las bodas judías (Gente Vieja, 30/9/1905)

As with the first article, the name ‘Benito F. Alonso’ occupies the by-line, and it is only in a footnote that the original author is revealed. In this final submission, Alonso is described as a ‘Cronista de la provincia’ with his time and place of writing again given (Orense, September 1905). As with the second article, there is a dedication, in this instance ‘[A] mi amigo el Sr. D. Javier Ugarte.(59) With this final article however, there is no explanatory introduction or conclusion from the transcriber, the text is reproduced ‘cold’, making it clear that the reader is expected to understand the context of this submission from the basis of the earlier articles. 

We are told the following information about the text: ‘Versión del judío español, tomada de una Revista de Turquía, original del professor J. Nehama’. Given that the title ‘Revista de Turquía’ has remained tantalizingly obscure to me during my investigations, eluding mention in any secondary sources, it suggests that there was a mistake in capitalization at the typesetting stage, and that this does not refer to an issue of a magazine of that title, but simply to a Turkish magazine.(60) That being the case and given what is known about the author’s place of residence and political viewpoints, it is likely that this article, as those previously, comes from La Época.

Because the article author is given as J. Nehama, while it is much more likely to be Joseph [José] Nehama who was the author (for reasons which will be stated presently), it could also theoretically be a posthumous publishing of old work from his father, Judah [Juda/Yuda/Yehuda] Nehama (1826-1899), who, like Joseph, was both a teacher and a journalist in Salonica. In parallel with Sam Lévy, Joseph Nehama grew up with a father who was a prominent magazine editor, with Judah setting up Salonica’s first Ladino periodical, El Lunar, in 1864 as well as setting up his own school, Colegio de Padre de Familia, in the same year. Like his contemporary Saadi Halevy, with whom he partnered in business at one point, Judah Nehama was passionate about education, and was instrumental along with Halevy in getting the AIU into Salonica. Unlike, Halevy however, Nehama had enjoyed a much more fortunate and financially comfortable childhood, and had received a full rabbinical education. This, in addition to his multilingualism (he knew Ladino, Hebrew, French, English and probably Italian) meant a potential for scholarship, which he utilized by being an informal historian of his community. His ambitions to become a serious historical scholar were thwarted when in 1890 a massive fire ravaged Salonica, taking with it his entire personal library and his manuscript of the history of Salonica’s Jews. He did, however, build up another collection before his death in 1899 (books later used by Joseph to see his father’s idea come to fruition), and in 1893 he published his Hebraic correspondence with the Maskilim (European Jewish intellectuals) of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment).

As one might expect for the son of a man dubbed ‘the Turkish Mendelssohn’, Joseph Nehama (1881-1971) was equally accomplished. The director of the AIU’s Salonica school by the age of 25, the year that these Gente Vieja articles appeared, Joseph was already a prolific writer of books and articles in Ladino (Alonso 1905a: 73; Pulido 1905: 90, 447). A few years later, he published a study of Salonica, La Ville Convoitée (quoted from in this study), and a seven-volume Histoire del Israélites de Salonique which remains a ‘foundational text in the field of Sephardic studies’ (Cohen & Stein 2010: 361). He is, however, perhaps most famous for his French-Ladino dictionary, which took forty years to compile and which, despite its focus on his own Salonica dialect, arguably remains the best-known and most-used Ladino dictionary in any language (ibid. 363), and which will also be quoted from later in this study.(61)

As the title suggests, the article itself is about Jewish weddings, more specifically a lament of the recent practice of newlyweds slipping away quickly to avoid the expense of a community banquet. The author is practical, he does not want to see a return to the traditional week-long celebrations that would be ruvinoso (ruinous) for the bride’s dowry before the marriage had even begun, but nor does he like seeing the current perfunctory ceremonies which last less than an hour before the newlyweds rush away furtively to spend a lonely few days in a strange European capital, depriving themselves and their families of the joy and the precious memories of the event.(62) The fact that the traditional celebrations had been reduced to such a secular, individualistic format may be indictment of European modernity reaching the Ottoman judería, but it may simply be a reflection of the straightened economic times in which Ottoman Jewry was living at the turn of the century. Certainly, in his memoirs AIU teacher Gabriel Arié, a job in which he was posted to different parts of the Empire for work, see nothing wrong with following his own wedding ceremony with renting a hotel room in another part of Constantinople for a few days before the more traditional week-long stay with his in-laws. His brother Elia’s wedding was even more unconventional by traditional standards (not that this is discernible from its description within the memoir itself), with the betrothed travelling from Sofía to have a morning ceremony at Gabriel’s school in Cassaba (Turguthu) and after lunch, the newlyweds leaving for Sofía via Salonica, where they stayed for a few days. (Benbassa & Rodrigue 1998: 94-95, 115). Many Ottoman Jewish marriage customs were focused on the day after the wedding (sébah), with rituals based around the proof of the bride’s deflowering and her new status as a married woman. In Salonica the newly married woman was dressed by her mother-in-law in the ornate fustán de sébah, the special second dress in her trousseau, while gifts were exchanged in celebration of her modesty (Juhasz 1990:213).(63) All of these elements of tradition were being lost with the Western-style honeymoon that the author describes.

Clearly, young Ottoman Jews were discarding their ancient customs and embracing modernity without any qualms. Here are the first two paragraphs of the text:

Las bodas de agora se asen á las calliadas, serca á las escondidas. Folano se va aa casar; «vá aa partir». Esto se siente mochas veses en noestros dias. Va partir quiere desirse va liir á esconder en alguna casas de las campaneeas (casas de campo), de las campaneeas de chacas [2. Palabra turca, quiere decir de burla] – como disen mochos con rason,  –é se va rendir aa la brasireao [3. Voz francesa; Olimpo situado á cualquier distancia de la aldea] con so nueva esposa é un moiechico nómiro de amigos.
No se ven mas las bodas de antes ande miintras ocho longos, dias se fiestaba la formasiion de una moeva familiia con comeres, cantes, baiiles, con chalgi [4. voz turca, músicas] e divirtimiientos de todas las sorts. Hoy no eé espanto qe los pariientes de los casados se revinen para aser las onores de la boda aá los sovrinos, á los amigos, á los amigos de los eovrinos é alos sovrinos de los amigos. Al boen viejo teempo no era raro qe el noveeo gastara todo so vermé [5. en turco significa capital] para los ziafitoe [6. ziafitez, en árabe banquetes] de los ocho dias. Qien mete en coenta lo qe se va gastar en la boda de agora? No tenemos mas mesas é enquecherdos [7. cierta danza turca bailada muy lentamente], la moda desparesiió. El proverbiio de noestras mojeres asegura que no ay boda sen pandero. Poco á poco é este proverbiio se va aser viejo é no va aa tener mas ningon senso. El diaa se esta asercando anble la chente se van aa casar sen sirimoniia sen pandero ni mosica qoalonque.

What is striking about this text is the number of Turkish loanwords – chacas, chalgi vermé, ziafitoe, enquecherdos – a reflexion of the approximately 2,000 Turkish words which had entered the Ladino lexicon (Harris 1994: 109). From these loanwords, one would be correct to surmise that Sephardic Jews who settled in Turkish territory adopted many of the Turkish cultural forms of celebrating events, as at some point in the second half of the nineteenth century it became customary to have Turkish musical entertainment during Jewish celebrations.(64) While these elements seem alien, other informal, idiomatic elements make the text feel very Spanish indeed e.g. the use of folano (leaving aside the word’s Arabic origin), the ‘moiechico’ number of friends, the use of a refrán (‘no ay boda sen pandero’), which even if it is in the event a Sephardic neologism minted in exile, has the feel of an expression created with the matrix of a Spanish culture.(65) As with the Spanish Christians with whom they shared a language and territorial proximity for over a thousand years, the Sephardim have a rich culture of proverbs and refranes (or reflanes, in some Ladino dialects).(66) Estrugo (2002 [1958]: 135) goes as far as to say: ‘No creo que haya otro pueblo que haga tan frecuente uso de los antiguos refranes como el sefardita. Los viejos tenían uno para cada ocasión. Lo maravilloso es que fueron transmitidos oralmente de generación en generación, casi literalmente e intactos. En su mayoría son idénticos a los que leemos en El Quijote, aunque los sefardíes del Oriente Próximo generalmente no conocen a Cervantes.’ Indeed, much if not most of the totality of Sephardic proverbs, refrains and ballads had Peninsular origins, leading to the difficulty of analysing the provenance of Ladino proverbs, a task made even more difficult by the complication that successive waves of marranos left the shores of the Peninsula to settle in the juderías of the Ottoman Empire up until the 18th century.

As with the second article, 'Las bodas judías' ends with an exhortation to the readers, in second person plural imperative. While this may indicate that the same man (J. Nehama) authored both articles, it may also simply be the house style of these type of ‘improving’ opinion pieces. Interestingly, this grandstanding style of exhortation was similarly common in the late nineteenth-century Spanish press, and came at the end of an editorial to ensure that the readers was left in no doubt about what they had to do.

Creedme, pariientes, no dechech voestros ijos foliirsen [5. Huir] como ladrones pririjidos en la ora ande tenech la vintora de verlos entrar en caza é morada. Esta ora es prisiiosa. Sabed gosar de eliia vosotros é los voestros. Pariientes, sobre todo non pirmitach qe en la ora las más emportante en la vida de voestros ijos, eliios se livren á la brota comediia de la partensiia [6. Marcha] de mintiras (finjida).

It is likely to be due to Alonso’s long-term interest in documenting the history of Jews in his home province that these articles eventually saw the light of day in Gente Vieja. In Salonica on the 24th July 1904 Joseph Nehama wrote a letter to Alonso to ask him questions about the Jews in Galicia based on his new book Los Judíos en Orense in part of his own research on the origins of the Jews of Turkey. Nehama’s letter reveals (through his thanks) that Alonso had sent Nehama this recently published book, along with a ‘buena carta’, and I suspect that a lively correspondence grew up between the historians through their shared interest in what was essentially a very specialist topic: not many people would be fascinated by the smallest historical details of Orense’s Jewish population between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries. The letter which Nehama wrote to Alonso, printed as a part of Alonso’s article ‘Los judíos españoles de Oriente’ in the March 1905 issue of La España Moderna, was written in Ladino in a Roman script, and one wonders if Nehama returned the favour of a cultural exchange by sending his Galician correspondent some issues of his city’s newspaper, perhaps on Alonso’s request, to let him see the current cultural output of the exiled Sephardim’s descendants.(67) If this was the case, it would make sense for Nehama, who opposed Zionism vehemently (Cohen and Stein 2010: 376), to send his friend a copy or copies of the one local Ladino newspaper which reflected his own worldview (La Época) and in which his own work featured. I do not know if or where Alonso received information about how to transcribe the Hebrew alphabet, but I do know that he had been interested in Orense’s Jews for a long time, with one of his articles on the topic being published as far back as 1888, so it is not impossible that he had informed himself on this particular aljamiado in the meantime.(68) This is speculation on my part, but the circumstances surrounding the transcription of these articles as well as the circumstances surrounding the correspondence between these two men, the Galician and the Salonican, each in his own way on the periphery of the Spanish literary system, would be a fascinating topic for further research.

The Gente Vieja articles in their modernist context

The choice, transcription and publishing of these three articles also need to be viewed within the greater cultural context of modernism and philosephardism. For example, we are presented with the paradox that, even as Alonso makes the Ladino comprehensive to his Spanish readers by transforming it from the Hebrew script, as part of his stated aim to familiarise his Spanish readers with the Sephardim, his transcription technique simultaneously ‘defamiliarises’ the Spanish language of the text.(69) One might argue that this was a deliberate choice, given that he was submitting to modernist magazine which prized Orientalist tropes and romantic nostalgia for idealised medieval epochs in its fictional prose and poetry submissions.

Alonso may also been encouraged to submit his first article to Gente Vieja after having seen ‘La lengua de los gitanos españoles’ (Antonio Balbín de Unquera, Gente Vieja, 10/8/1902), a sympathetic and romantic portrayal of the Roma community (although ironically containing a casual anti-Semitic remark) and the posthumously published memoir in four parts ‘Una ascension al pico de Santa Isabel en la Isla de Fernando Póo’ (10/3/1903, 20/3/1903, 30/3/1903, 10/4/1903) in which El Conde de Fabraquer (José Muñoz Maldonado) details his adventures in Spanish Africa. Such articles, as well excerpts from Juan Álvarez Guerra’s book Viajes por Filipinas, namely ‘Un tifón en el Mar Pacífico’ (20/2/1901) and ‘La Cueva De Las Calaveras’ (20/4/1901), may have persuaded Alonso that his transcriptions from the Ottoman press would find a sympathetic audience in Gente Vieja. His age at the time of submission (59) would also have worked in his favour, because Gente Vieja, as its title indicates, was founded to provide a cultural platform for older authors.

As his introduction to the first article indicates, the Sephardic Jews are presented in Gente Vieja as a mirror for the Spanish to ruminate upon what Spain had been and could be again – if anything, these articles are simply a tool for painful Spanish self-examination. For this reason, the distinction must be drawn between the contemporaneous Spanish intellectual interest in the Hispanic aspects of Sephardic culture, an interest founded in nostalgia and self and nourished by the artistic currents of Romanticism and Orientalism, and the interest in the bearers of that culture themselves, an interest which would centre on the present, on life rather than art and on the Jewish people. Perhaps it was because of the very impossibility of the fulfilment of Pulido’s idea, that a reconciliation between the Jews and the Catholics of Spain would bring about a magical regeneration of a failing country despoiled of its last vestiges of empire, that it held an appeal for artists and writers enchanted by the quixotic quest. Días Mas (1997: 197) describes Pulido’s campaign as ‘un extraño intento romántico lleno – tanto por parte de españoles como de sefardíes – de apasionadas declaraciones de amor, de exaltadas proclamas patrióticas y de fantásticos proyectos de hermanamiento cultural y político’, a cultural current which one could argue was a function of modernism itself. The philosephardic movement in which these articles are situated then, was very much about the Spanish themselves, and about a yearning to rediscover the glories of their past. Alonso himself was a historian, and may have approached these articles from a historical perspective, seeing the Ottoman Sephardim as a curious kind of ‘living Spanish history’.

As a means of inspiration for regeneration, both artistic and philosophical, the first text is an excellent choice for portraying the lost sons of Spain to a Spanish audience as a potential key to arresting continued cultural decline. However, the second text, which presents to the reader a culture of violence towards children in an even less decipherable code, would be unlikely to endear the Spanish reader to the idea of a reconciliación or taking civilizational lessons from the Sephardim. It is therefore a strange choice for Alonso to submit to the magazine. Ironically, while the second article is a criticism of the residual backwardness of the Jews and a plea for modernity, the third article is a lament of their enthusiastic embrace of modernity. It would appear that the Jews themselves were just as much in flux between the appeals of tradition and progress as the Spanish themselves.


Back in the 1940s, the Hispanist Leo Spitzer described Judeo-Spanish as ‘a genuine Spanish before Colombus and at the same time a kind of kaleidoscope of Balkan and Romance languages: it’s an oriental bazaar on top of a genuine Castilian architecture…’ (Harris 1994: 67). Fittingly for a language compared to an oriental bazaar, these Ladino articles were found in the traditional bazaar of textual and visual forms, the magazine, which itself etymologically derives from the name for the Arabic treasure-house. It is because of the very miscellaneous nature of the magazine that gems can appear in the unlikeliest of places, and also why I would argue that distant reading projects can add value to research which has a more close-reading, qualitative focus. I have written this article in the hope that, by bringing this new material to light, specialists in the Ladino press or medieval Spanish might look into these texts and find in them something of importance or utility. This series of articles struck me, the non-specialist, as something incredibly rare, special and worthy of extra attention, and I hope to have piqued the curiosity of those reading to go to the original sources and read the full articles for their value as documents of an almost-forgotten, vanished world.

I also hope that by writing about these articles today, I have helped to fulfil Alonso’s original mission with his transcriptions, which was not only to inform his Spanish readers about the Sephardim as a people, but also to bridge the worlds of the Iberian Spanish and the Sephardim, a world which, from a literary perspective at least, had been walled off in the ghetto of the Hebrew alphabet. It is worth noting that scholarship about Sephardic Jews and their literatures tends to fall under the discipline of Jewish Studies as opposed to Hispanic Studies, which leads to questions about the ontology of the term ‘Hispanic’ and where the epistemological borders lie. This question arises not least because when ‘los españoles de Oriente’ were exiled from Spain, they maintained their patriotic pride, as well as the regionalism peculiar to the Peninsular Spanish, and sought to recreate the Spain that had been lost to them. Thus, there were several synagogues (kales) in each Ottoman city named after the place of origin of its congregation, leading to a kal de Aragon, a kal de Cordoba, a kal de Castilla, a kal de Barcelona, a kal de Toledo, a kal de Mallorca and a kal de Portugal in the Orient. Even culinary dishes remained largely identical to the greater Spanish culture, as did the culture of tapas.(70) To what extent then can Sephardic culture not be considered Spanish when mothers sang the same traditional lullabies to their children and wedding parties sang old Iberian cantigas and romanzas, many since lost on the Peninsula? If, as Unamuno said ‘la sangre del espíritu es el idioma’, then the oral and written literature of the Sephardim should be eligible for consideration under the purview of Hispanic Studies.(71) The Sephardic writer José M. Estrugo, born in Smyrna, described the Sephardim of the Middle East as ‘la vieja España en conserva’ (2002 [1958]: 79), a view shared by such luminaries as Ramón Menéndez Pidal, Benito Pérez Galdós, Emilio Castelar and Marcelino Menéndez Pelayo.

The historical and literary value of magazines such as Gente Vieja are still being uncovered, and their secrets can be easily overlooked. Just as poet Gabriel Alomar described Ladino as ‘una especie de Pompeya léxica’ (Estrugo, 2002 [1958]: 17), so one can describe the mechanical sifting through a huge corpus of antiquated periodicals as excavations of a cultural Pompeii. One noted researcher of Spanish modernist magazines, María Pilar Celma Valero (1991: 67) concluded in her essay on the magazine in question: ‘Gente Vieja transcurrió sus días sin pena ni gloria. Si hoy ofrece interés, aparte de por su elocuente título, es por la citada encuesta que sobre el Modernismo se llevó a cabo en sus páginas.’ With respect to Celma Valero, I would like to suggest that this is not the case, and that Gente Vieja, as other modernist magazines, has much interest to offer the careful researcher, and I hope that these articles, found unexpectedly during a distant reading project, can find their place in the extant Ladino literary corpus.

Postscript: Some additional notes on the linguistic features and transcription issues of the Gente Vieja articles

In addition to the social and cultural analysis of these Gente Vieja articles, are also language issues particular to Ladino which may be of interest to the layman. For specialists in medieval Spanish and those who are already familiar with Ladino’s idiosyncrasies, this section may be of marginal interest, hence its placement as a postscript. Nevertheless, it may be of interest to people who, like myself, are not experts in the field and who wish to know more about the features of the Ladino of the articles. These features are perhaps best encapsulated in the following excerpt from 'Las bodas judías':

…De esta fiiesta, el ombre qe conose el vero presiio de la vida debe goadrar [4. Guardar] el ricoedro el más alegre é el más virtoroso. ¿Ande mijor qe entre sos pariientes, mijor qe entre sos amigos é todos los qe los qieren been, los esposos poeden estar los primeros días de sos uniion? ¿Cómo mijor qe aviiertamente, sin vergoensa ni ripedeeo, con los qe amamos é mos aman, se poede silibrar como se debe el achontamiiento de dos corasones chovines é inocentes?

While some differences between the transcribed form of Ladino and standard Castilian may simply be caused by limitations of the Rashi script (see below), there are also noted features in which Ladino differs linguistically from Castilian. One of these is the evident resistance in Ladino speakers to the medial consonant cluster /rd/ and its replacement by the metathesized /dr/, seen in the passage above with goadrar (guarder) and ricoedro (recuerdo) and in the first text with pedrieron (perdieron) and acodro (acuerdo). This is a feature not known in any other varieties of hispanorromance (the other dialects of Spain prior to the expulsion), yet the mutation was so widespread in the major population centres such as Istanbul, Salonica and Izmir that Ladino speakers whose speech had remained unchanged (e.g. in Sarajevo) were known to believe that the /dr/ form to be more correct Castilian than the non-metathesized /rd/ (Bunis 2011: 31). The letter /r/ also seem to be occasionally mutable when in the presence of the letter /p/, and thus we have emprovissieron (empobrecieron), primeteao (permitió) in the first article, and demonstrated most interestingly when one Ladino-speaking journalist in Salonica stated bluntly on the eve of the Second World War: ‘Halvá ke koman los ke dizen ke mwestra lingwa es prove!’ (Let those who say our language is poor eat garbage!) (Bunis 2011: 33, quoting Aksyón, 10:2847, [Salonika 1938], p.3).

As also seen in the Aksyón quotation above, another well-known idiosyncrasy of Ladino is the tendency to labialize the /n/ at the beginning of certain words. This is seen in the article excerpt above (‘con los qe amamos é mos aman’) and in the second paragraph with ‘una mueva familia’. Fittingly then, that El tiempo journalist Isaac Ferrara referred to Ladino as ‘muestro español’ (Stein, 2004: 72).

Finally, but by no means exhaustively, the following are elements of archaisms or regionalisms found with the articles. There are the archaic forms of the adjectives ending in /l/ and /r/ formed after female nouns – patriarcala (partriarcal), comersealas (comerciales), particolara (particular) – forms that can be still be seen in the feminine forms of español and chaval, for example.(72) Similarly, the relative pronoun cual becomes cuala in the feminine (as seen in Article 1) and cualo in the neuter, following dialectal usage. Archaisms continue, with ande (donde, seen in the excerpt above), ainda (todavía, aún), delantre (delante), evropa (Europa, pronounced with the ‘v’), aficsiion (afecto), and amatar (apagar) all seen to varying degrees in the Alonso’s transcriptions as well as words that later became diphthongized in Castilian e.g. ben (bien), goberno (gobierno), escola (escuela) grego (griego) and sorts (suertes).(73) There are also many examples of the archaic prosthetic prefix a-, with acomplido (cumplido) , adolsada (endulzada) and arevivido (revivido). Another very notable feature of Ladino we can see from these texts is the preservation of the original /ll/ sound, with an extensive list of words such as have not undergone the process of yeísmo seen in contemporary Spanish.(74) One can also see from the spellings (siertas, resibidas, poresa, conoser, toleransiia, siudad, mansebos etc etc) that the Ladino preserved the seseo of medieval Castilian. However, I would be wary of drawing conclusions about pronunciation from the appearance of the /ch/ cluster in certain words, as can be seen with el achontamiiento de dos corasones chovines (el ajuntamiento de dos corazones jóvenes) in the above excerpt, for reasons I will give in the next section.

Transcription issues surrounding Ladino

As has been indicated previously, the Ladino transcription of the first article is different in nature from the others. Whether this is due to different rendering in the original Hebrew script, the original text being in modern Castilian, or because of a difference in the transcription process to the Roman script is hard to tell, but small elements indicate a systematic difference. For example, in this article the hard /k/ of standard Castilian /qu/ is rendered as in standard Castilian, that is with the q and u, (e.g. que, porque, enriqueser, Torquia) whereas in the subsequent articles the letter /q/ is (mostly, but interestingly, not always) rendered without the /u/ (e.g. qe, qeen/qien, aqi, chiqito, qieren). Similarly, the letters /ch/ are transcribed in much more non-standard spellings in the second and third articles than in the first, where the only unexpected use of /ch/ is seen in echrrealitas (indeed, the word ‘judeeos’ is spelt with a ‘j’ and not a ‘ch’ in the first article). In the second and third articles we see chimidos (gemidos), bachos (bajos), chente (gente), aloncha (aleja), chovines (jóvenes) and achontamiento (ajuntamiento) as well as all of the second person plural imperative forms in articles 2 and 3, some of which are featured in the excerpts of the study.

However, it would be a mistake to assume that these spellings were a reliable transcription of the sound that was produced, and the fact that rejisto of article 3 is now spelled ‘rechisto’ in Modern Spanish is a clue to this. Medieval Spanish (and Ladino) contained sounds which no longer exist in modern Spanish and so therefore an attempt at rendering these sounds with modern spelling conventions gives a false impression to the reader. These words, now pronounced with the hard jota sound /x/, a sound which does not exist at all in Ladino Spanish words, were once pronounced in medieval Spain (and still pronounced in Ladino) with either the /ʃ/ or (š) (the sh in the English ‘share’) or the /ʒ/ or (ž) (the s in the English ‘treasure’) phonemes according to the whether the medieval word was originally spelled with a /x/ or a /j/ respectively. To complicate matters further, Ladino also has the /dʒ/ sound (the j of the English just) which also has no Hebrew letter. Thus, if the Ladino writer chose to use a gimel (the Hebrew ‘g’) with a rafé added (a diacritic put above a Hebrew letter to create a new letter/sound which does not exist in the Hebrew alphabet), which was the standard convention for the ‘ch’ or /tʃ/ words in Ladino (e.g. ‘mucho’), but uses it in a word which is now spelt with the jota instead of a /ch/, it is clear that he was trying to recreate either the /dʒ/, /ʃ/ or /ʒ/ sounds in the readers’ minds.(75) Certainly, we see the /ch/ cluster used for the š sound in other words such as echrrealitas, Chavat, tenech and soch (the second person plural verb ending -ech was pronounced –esh) and we know that the words seen here as chente and achontamiento were pronounced with the hard /dʒ/ sound, at least typically. It may also be possible that the transcriber of the Hebrew script has chosen the /ch/ cluster when rendering the text into Roman script as a way of approximating these sounds to the modern Spanish reader or, like the unexpected repetition of vowels, it was a misunderstanding in the transcription process.(76) However we also need to bear in mind that Ladino writers may also have been influenced by French writing conventions, in which /ch/ letters were used for the /š/ sound (cf. Don Quichotte), a French influence which also encouraged the sound change of jornal and joven from the Ladino /dʒ/  to the ‘French j’ or /ž/.

It is also very important not to give much credence to the apparently total interchangeability between the vowels /e/ and /i/, or between the vowels /o/ and /u/, in the transcriptions. This is a reflection of the Hebrew writing system, in which the letters /e/ and /i/ are both represented by the Hebrew yod, while the letters /o/ and /u/ are both represented by the Hebew vav (Zucker 2001: 12). It is likely that the Alonso transcribed the texts to a great extent with his modern Peninsular biases (but not always, note usus viejos), when in fact Ladino Occidental speakers had a tendency to raise the final –o, -e and –a to –u, –i, and –e respectively, in accordance with the northern Spanish dialects of Asturias, Aragon, Leon and Galicia (Harris 1994: 101). Given this fact, I would not consider these transcriptions to be any reliable guide to knowing how a local reader of La Época would pronounce these words, Salonica being part of Ladino Occidental. There was also a tendency for Ladino speakers not to pronounce initial es-, en- and em- prefixes with the same purity or emphasis as Spanish speakers, with field researchers (Wagner 1950: 17) noting this pronunciation as a schwa. The result of this was that sometimes this initial syllable is omitted by Ladino writers (seen here in the first article, with echrraelitas being rendered chrrealitas once in the first article).

As Zucker (ibid.) points out, this Hebrew-based alphabet might well have affected Ladino pronunciation over the long term through a phenomenon known as ‘reading pronunciation’. It may well be because both /e/ and /i/ look identical in written texts that the past-tense –é and í endings merged (e.g. so that pasé ‘I passed’ became ‘pasí’). In addition, the Ladino writing system does not indicate stress, thus allowing the Spanish strong preterite supe to become supí/sopí in Judeo-Spanish. However, I think that Zucker’s attempt to attribute these evolutions in the language to the deficiencies in the written system is incorrect – the changes he cites both serve to regularize the language, when regularization is often attributable to analogic formations, to be expected in a diaspora group isolated from the motherland without the anchor of a strong educational culture, any reference source (there were no accessible published grammar books on Ladino) or central linguistic authority to set or confirm correct usage.(77) Since they rarely received grammatical instruction or even literacy in their mother tongue, but were taught the grammatical system of another language, it makes sense that the Ottoman Sephardim often conjugated verbs erroneously by analogy with other Ladino verb forms or with conjugations from a similar Romance language such as French or Italian. Certainly, by the time these articles came to be printed in Gente Vieja, the AIU’s overwhelming influence on Sephardic culture had led to Ladino becoming the victim of such a ‘gallomanie galopante’ that Sephardi linguist Haim Vidal Sephiha (1986: 32) coined the term Judéo-fragnol to descibe the state of the language at the time. To what extent the aljamiado of the Hebrew script affected the spoken language of Ladino is a moot point, but Ottoman Sephardim themselves had no doubt about its long-term effect on their culture. Joseph Nehama (apud Benardete 1963: 116) says of his people: ‘Es un pueblo castellano casi latino, que cuando el castellano le habla desde las páginas de un libro que le llega de la madre patria impreso en el alfabeto romano, se desflora en la nada. No es exagerado afirmar que una de las causas esenciales de la decadencia de la comunidad sefardí es la trasliteración española en alefato rabínico. Y un pueblo que hasta entonces se había distinguido por un carácter reciamente occidental, comienza a orientalizarse y a fosilizarse.’  Benardete (1963: 117) himself agrees with his scholarly contemporary: ‘El alefato hebraico, pues deseca y esteriliza el campo en que ha florecido el pensamiento sefardí. Por muy severa que parezca esta sentencia, resume por desgracia una triste verdad.’ Given this context, one can understand the philosephardic campaign to bring Spanish-language schools to the Ottoman Empire and Morocco, to revitalise both the language and the cultural heritage of the Sephardic population.

Original source articles

Alonso, Benito F. ‘Los israelitas españoles en Oriente’, Gente Vieja (Madrid), 30/5/1905, pp. 9-10.

Alonso, Benito F.‘Pedagogía judío-española’, Gente Vieja (Madrid), 15/8/1905, p. 5.

Alonso, Benito F. ‘Las bodas judías’, Gente Vieja (Madrid), 30/9/1905, pp. 3-4.


Alonso, B. F. (1888). ‘Los judíos en Orense’, Galicia: Revista regional (La Coruña), Año II, no. 10, (Octubre)  pp. 489-494.

Alonso, B. F. (1901). ‘Los judíos en Orense’, El Eco de Galicia: órgano de los gallegos residentes en las Repúblicas Sud-Americanas (Buenos Aires), Año IX, No. 333 (20/01/1901), pp.2-3.

Alonso, B. F. (1904). Los judíos en Orense: siglos XV al XVII (Orense: A. Otero).

Alonso, B. F. (1905a) ‘Los judíos españoles de Oriente’, La España Moderna, Marzo 1905, pp. 71-80.

Benbassa, E. and Rodrigue, A. (1998). A Sephardi Life in Southeastern Europe: The Autobiography and Journal of Gabriel Arié, 1863-1939. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Benbassa, E. and Rodrigue, A. (2000). Sephardi Jewry: A History of the Judeo-Spanish Community, 14th to 20th Centuries. London: University of California Press.

Benardete, M. J. (1963). Hispanismo de los sefardíes levantinos. Madrid: Aguilar.

Bettin, C. M. (2010). Italian Jews from Emancipation to the Racial Laws, Palgrave Macmillan: New York.

Borovaya, O. (2008). ‘Jews of Three Colors: The Path to Modernity in the Ladino Press at the Turn of the Twentieth Century’, Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, Society n.s. 15, no.1, pp. 110-30.

Borovaya, O. (2010a). ‘The Emergence of the Ladino Press: The First Attempt at Westernization of Ottoman Jews (1842-1846)’, European Judaism: A Journal for the New Europe, Vol. 43, No. 2, The State of Ladino Studies I, pp. 63-75.

Borovaya, O. (2010b). ‘Shmuel Saadi Halevy/Sam Lévy: Between Ladino and French: Reconstructing a Writer’s Social Identity’ in S. Jelen, M. Kramer and L. Scott Lerner (eds.) Modern Jewish Literatures: Intersections and Boundaries. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Borovaya, O. (2012). Modern Ladino Culture: Press, Belles Lettres and Theater in the Late Ottoman Empire. Indiana University Press: Bloomington.

Busse, W. (ed.) (2014). La lengua de los sefardíes: Tres contribuciones a su historia, Tübingen: Stauffenburg Verlag.

Bunis, D. M. (2011) ‘Judezmo: The Jewish Language of the Ottoman Sephardim’, European Judaism: A Journal for the New Europe, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Spring), The State of Ladino Studies II, pp. 22-35.

Castelar, E. (1872). Recuerdos de Italia. Madrid: T. Fortanet.

Celma Valero, M. P. (1991). Literatura y periodismo en las revistas de Fin de siglo: Estudio e índices (1888-1907). Gijón: Ediciones Júcar.

Chevalier, T. (ed.) (1997). Encyclopedia of the Essay. London: Fitzroy Dearborn.

Cohen, J. P. and Stein, S. A. (2010). ‘Sephardic Scholarly Worlds: Towards a Novel Geography of Modern Jewish History’, The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 100, no. 3 (Summer), pp. 349-384.

Díaz Mas, P. (1997 [1982]). Los Sefardíes: Historia, lengua y cultura. Barcelona: Riopiedras Ediciones.

Estrugo, J. M. (2002 [1958]). Los Sefardíes. Seville: Editorial Renacimiento.

Gerber, J.S. (1994). The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience. New York: Free Press.

Gil, R. (Junio 1909). ‘La lengua española entre los judíos: Influencias y voces extrañas al castellano’, La España Moderna, Madrid, pp. 30-43.

Harris, T. K. (1994). Death of a Language: The History of Judeo-Spanish. Newark: University of Delaware Press.

Juhasz, E. (ed.) (1990). Sephardi Jews in The Ottoman Empire: Aspects of Material Culture. Jerusalem: The Jewish Publishing House.

Lévy, Sam. (2000 [1956]). Salonique à la fin du XIXe siècle. Istanbul: The Isis Press.

Kedourie, E. (ed.). (1992). Spain and the Jews: The Sephardi Experience, 1492 and After. London: Thames and Hudson.

Molho, M. (2006 [1944]). Traditions & Customs of the Sephardic Jews of Salonica. New York: Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture.

Nassi, G. (ed.) (2001). Jewish Journalism and Printing Houses in The Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. Istambul: The Isis Press.

Nehama, J. (1977). Dictionnaire du Judéo-espagnol. Madrid: CSIC.

Porter, D. (1835). Constantinople and its Environs, Vol II. New York: Harper & Bros.

Pulido, Á. (1904). Los israelitas españoles y el idioma castellano. Madrid: Sucesores de Rivadeneyra.

Pulido Fernández, A. (1905). Españoles sin patria y la raza sefardí. Madrid: E. Teodoro.

Rehrmann, Norbert. (1998). ‘Los sefardíes como ‘anexo’ de la hispanidad: Ernesto Gímenez Caballero y La Gaceta Literaria’ in Mechthild Albert (ed.) Vencer no es convencer: Literatura e ideología del fascismo español, pp. 51-74. Frankfurt am Main: Vervuert Verlag.

Risal, P. (1913 [1918]). Salonique: La ville convoitée. Paris: Perrin et Compagnie.

Rodrigue, A. and Stein, S. A. (2012). A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica: The Ladino Memoir of Sa’adi Besalel a-Levi. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Sephiha, H. V. (1986). Le judéo-espagnol. Paris: Éditions Entente.

Suqué, A. ‘Los judíos de Salónica’, África Española, 31/10/1914, pp. 611-624 (615).

Sciaky, L. (2007 [1947]). Farewell to Salonica. London: Haus Publishing.

Stein, S. A. (2000). ‘Creating a Taste for News: Historicizing Judeo-Spanish Periodicals of the Ottoman Empire’, Jewish History, Vol. 14, No. 1, The Press and the Jewish Public Sphere, pp. 9-28.

Stein, S. A. (2004). Making Jews Modern: The Yiddish and Ladino Press in the Russian and Ottoman Empires. Indiana University Press: Bloomington and Indianapolis.

Wagner, M. L. (1950). Espigueo Judeo-Español. Madrid: Aguirre Torre.

Zamora Vicente, A. ‘Judeo-español’ in (ibid.) Dialectología española. Madrid: Gredos, 1960, pp. 279-305.

Zucker, G. K. (2001). ‘Ladino, Judezmo, Spanyolit, El Kasteyano Muestro’, Shofar, Vol. 19, No. 4 (Summer), Special Issue: Sephardic Studies as an Interdisciplinary Field, pp. 4-14.


(1) For a description of the debate around whether Spanish Jews were already speaking a uniquely Jewish form of Ibero-Romance prior to the expulsion, based on the differences deriving from Judaism as a civilisation, see ‘The Language of the Jews in Pre-Expulsion Spain: Did a Sephardic Spanish Exist?’ (Harris 1994: 53-65). Nevertheless, there is no argument that the language variant diverged most significantly after the prolonged geographical isolation that resulted from forced exile.
(2) Other significant regions of early Sephardic migration include North Africa, the Kingdom of Portugal and the Italian city states, however, many of these Sephardim subsequently migrated to the Ottoman Empire to join their brethren when finding themselves under severe persecution in the decades that followed.
(3)  After Olga Borovaya et al, I have chosen the term Ladino to refer to this language out of the many designations used by scholars and speakers.  While some scholars argue that the use of the term Ladino should be limited to the literal Judeo-Spanish calques of Hebrew texts, free translations of rabbinical texts and original works such as the Me’am Lo’ez were denoted by the authors themselves as Ladino on the title pages, despite the fact that the language was not a calque from the Hebrew, but the language of the masses (Benbassa & Rodrigue 2000: 61). For a fuller discussion on the naming debate, see ‘The Name of the Language: What Should We Call This Dialect?’ (Harris 1994: 20-29).
(4)  These uses of the terms oriental and occidental should not be confused with how they are used by Ladino specialist Max Leopold Wagner (1950: 9), who uses the terms to subdivide Ottoman (Oriental) Ladino into the eastern Ottoman Empire (Edirne, Istanbul, Smyrna, Bursa and Rhodes) and the western (Bosnia, Romania, Macedonia, Salonica).
(5)  Notable exceptions to this rule include the work of Norbert Rehrmann, which deals with the Sephardic Jews in terms of their relationship to the Spanish mainland. See Rehrmann (1998) as an example. 
(6) The cursive form of Rashi letters, known as soletreo, was used for writing Ladino manuscripts. This situation changed after 1928 when, as part of Kemalist reform, all non-European alphabets were banned in Turkey.
(7) Two-thirds of these periodicals were published in the following areas: Salonica (105, the centre of Ladino publishing), Constantinople (45), Sofia (30) and Izmir (23), all of them under Ottoman control, and most of them only emerging after 1908, the year of the Young Turk Revolution (Borovaya 2012: 24).
(8)  The project is called Cultural Magazines from ‘Modernismo’ to Avant-garde: Processes of Modernization and Transnational Networks’ (project ID 327964298), and involves the compilation of masses of quantitative data from a huge magazine corpus which will form the basis of computer models, or visualisations. It is hoped that these visualizations will in turn reveal the underlying structures, networks and other hidden ‘truths’ within and across Hispanic Modernist magazine titles. Further information on the project can be found at: http://gepris.dfg.de/gepris/projekt/327964298
(9)  In the interests of future research, I have referred to Alonso with his full name here, however it should be stated that he appears as Benito F. Alonso (or Benito J. Alonso) in all of the by-lines that I have seen.
(10)  For an overview of Pulido’s philosephardic campaign or ‘causa sefardí’, its inspirational beginnings and the reactions both from Spanish society and the Sephardim themselves, see chapter 5, ‘Los Sefardíes y España’ (DÍaz Mas 1997 [1982]: 185-219).
(11) See Yaron Ben Na’eh, ‘Hebrew Printing Houses in the Ottoman Empire’ in Nassi 2001: 73-96 (76-77).
(12) Avner Levy asserts that the Damascus blood libel proved to be a turning point in the modern history of World Jewry. Prior to the blood libel, there were nine Jewish journals appearing in five countries, while five years later there were thirty-four journals in twelve countries. See Avner Levy, ‘The Jewish Press in Turkey’ (Nassi 2001: 13-27 [15]). Gerber (1994: 233) and Benbassa & Rodrigue (2000:73) put the latter figure even higher, saying that by 1846 fifty-three Jewish newspapers had appeared in thirteen countries.
(13)There is scholarly disagreement regarding whether Uziel’s La Buena Esperanza (Izmir, 1842) was the first Jewish journal in Turkey, because no copy of the magazine is known to have existed. Avner Levy (ibid.) states that it was Turkey’s first Jewish journal whereas Borovaya (2010a) gives this title to Sha’arei Mizrach of 1845, arguing that there is no evidence that La Buena Esperanza ever got beyond the prospectus stage.
(14) Italian Sephardi David Pincherle, settled in England, used The Jewish Chronicle to regularly promote subscriptions of the newspaper among Sephardim in London, including running advertisements (Borovaya 2010a: 66).
(15) Borovaya (2012) points out that prior to Dreyfus there were other Salonican periodicals in Greek and Turkish that Nehama might not have been aware of, and that the magazine that he was no doubt referring to, La Época, was biweekly at this point.
(16) To give a point of comparison, Moisés Abravanel (Pulido 1905: 439) estimated that two-thirds of Salonica’s Jewish population at the turn of the 20th century were poor, illiterate and carried out menial labour (e.g. fishermen, porters, longshoremen, factory workers). Benbassa & Rodrigue (2000: 81-2) point to Salonica having the only important proletariat of the Sephardi world at that time and poverty being endemic, with almost half of Salonica’s Jewish families receiving some sort of assistance from community benevolent societies in 1911. Salonica’s very rich (the bankers and industrialists) were a tiny elite typically of foreign citizenship/protection, but the middle class (e.g. doctors, lawyers, merchants, accountants) were much more numerous, with Jews being over-represented in the city’s doctors, 75% being Sephardim who went Paris or Italy for training (Pulido ibid.).
(17) This estimate could be quite accurate, as by 1927 in the Ottoman Empire only 65% of Jewish men and 48.9% of Jewish could claim to be literate in Ladino (Stein 2000: 14).
(18)  As was paralleled in contemporaneous Catholic Spain, the story of rabbinical censorship is the history of the secularization of the Sephardic community and of weakening rabbinical power (both psychological and legal) within the Ottoman State. As the role of religion diminished, not only could excommunications no longer isolate reprobates from other members of the community, they actually made the enheremados more famous among their literary peers and readers. An excommunication eventually became a dubious ‘badge of honour’, a situation which mirrored that of the Freethinkers in Catholic Spain.
(19) Meldar, a Ladino verb from the Hebrew melamed (aprendedor) meaning ‘to read, learn’ (Pulido 1904: 43, 46). For a full description of a typical meldado, see Benardete (1963: 134-6).
(20) Moisés Fresco (apud Pulido 1905: 411). While Fresco states that the Jews of Constantinople made up for this everyday frugality with ostentation in their fiestas, the third article to be analysed will show that this traditional custom was also changing with the demands of modernity.
(21) Le Juif errant, which ran from June 1844 to July 1845, raised the newspaper’s circulation from 3,600 to 25,000 by 1846, saving the newspaper and, one can assume, making a good deal for the famously large 100,000-franc fee that was paid for the rights. See Antony Levi (s.v. ‘Feuilleton’) in Chevalier (1997: 279-280).
(22) In fact, there were two diglossic Ladino/Hebrew newspapers in Edirne prior to the Young Turks revolution, but neither of them lasted long: the monthly Carmi (1881-1882) and the fortnightingly Yosef Da’at/El Progreso (1888-1890).
(23) Alliancist is the term used for the specific assimilationist ideology promoted by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) which was modelled on the historical assimilation of French Jewry, and which was influential on Ottoman Jewish thinking.
(24) I have chosen to use the transcription choice La Época here, but variants La Epoca and La Epoka are also seen in secondary sources. 
(25) According to Joseph Nehama (Risal 1913: 347) and Rodrigue & Stein (2012: xv) the first AIU school in Salonica was opened in 1873 which would not be long enough to acquaint the Jewish population in general with Roman script (according to Zucker and Díaz-Mas, Salonica was the site of the first Ottoman AIU school in 1865, although they do not give their source).
(26) As is common with Hebrew names, there are various spellings seen in the secondary sources. Yaron Ben Na’eh (Nassi 2001: 91) refers to him to as ‘Sa’adi Halevi Ashkenazi (the Second)’ while among his people he was known as ‘Ha[ch]am Sa’adi el de la Estampa’ in honour of his trade.
(27) See Nassi (2001: 46) for further details on these titles.
(28) Sh. Eliezer Bensandiji’s Guerta de Istorya, launched in 1890, cannot be counted, because it ended in 1894.
(29) According to Halevy’s memoir, El Avenir was set up by the same enemies who had seen him excommunicated, in order to take work away from his own business, ‘ma esto non turara muncho tyempo, espero en el Dyo.’ (Rodrigue & Stein 2012: 112, 260).
(30) For a further discussion of Lévy’s ‘Othering’ of his own people, which appears to be an accepted sociocultural convention for Jews reading and writing in French, see Borovaya (2010b).
(31) These helpful dichotomies come from Borovaya (2008).
(32) From October 1908 however, Lévy agreed with Victor Jacobson for both La Época and Le Journal de Salonique to be subsidised by the World Zionist Organisation which, knowing that it would be difficult to make Alliancist newspapers change their political line, paid to neutralize them (Borovaya 2012: 126; Benbassa & Rodrigue 2000: 125).
(33) Assertions in various scholarly sources that Ladino was never formally taught in schools is not strictly correct, as nineteenth-century Protestant missionaries brought translations of the Scriptures in Ladino in order to proselytize. Although they did not succeed in getting many converts, their translations, along with the distributions of the Bible Society of England, aided many Sephardim, including Saadi Halevy, in their study of Ladino and the Bible. The London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst Jews opened its first school in 1829 in Izmir and two schools in Istanbul in 1855 and 1864. The Church of Scotland established schools in 1846 and 1873 in Izmir and one in Istanbul in 1873 (Harris 1994: 310; Rodrigue 1990: 37). According to a correspondent in Smyrna [Izmir], Ladino was taught alongside Castilian (and English) in the ‘Scotch Mission School’ and in private schools (Pulido 1905: 451-2).
(34) The Alliance Israélite Universelle (AIU) was a philanthropic organization founded in Paris in 1860 with the goal of supporting persecuted Jews throughout the world. Beginning in Istanbul in 1865, it set up schools throughout the Ottoman Empire to provide a modern (secular, European) education, promoting French liberal values and providing a model of integrated Franco-Jewry for its students. Other European Jewish associations which founded schools (on a much lesser scale) include the German Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden and the Viennese Camondo.
(35) A good example of this language shift is seeing the language use over two generations of Sephardi journalists who will be discussed later in this study. Rabbi Judah Nehama (1826-1899) was fluent in French, but communicated with his Maskilim peers in Hebrew, while his son, Joseph Nehama (1881-1971), who had a good knowledge of Hebrew, authored books and wrote to his Jewish friends in Europe in French.
(36) Borovaya (2012: 12) has made the assertion that it was only from the 1870s onwards that there was a sufficient audience for an established press, whereas Avner Levy, when dividing his history of the Ottoman Jewish press into stages, designated The Period of Establishment as 1871-1908, citing as his reasoning the founding dates of the important and long-running titles La Esperanza (later La Buena Esperanza, Ízmir, 1871) and El Nacional (Istanbul, 1871), El Tyempo (Istanbul, 1871), El Telegrafo (Istambul, 1872). The period prior to this, 1842-1871, he calls the ‘The Early Experimental Period’ (Nassi 2001: 15-6).
(37) Sam Lévy, apud Suqué (1914: 615).
(38) The magazines can be found online in the Hemeroteca Digital of the Biblioteca Nacional de España website. http://hemerotecadigital.bne.es/index.vm [last accessed 17th January 2018].
(39) In the event, the philosephardic movement, based on a romantic sense of shared patriotism with the Sephardim, only moved a minority of the population to action, primarily intellectuals, artists and poets. Its aim to make the Spanish government take responsibility for the wellbeing of Sephardic Jews could be considered a rather Quixotic mission in the circumstances of the period. No diplomatic or humanitarian overtures were ever made towards the Sephardic diaspora by the Spanish state, despite Pulido’s best efforts.
(40) In order to facilitate understanding while preserving the original, Alonso adds many footnotes for the elements he thinks his readers may not understand, as well as additional information and corrections. These footnotes are in themselves very revealing.
(41) See Borovaya (2008) for further examples of Lévy writing in this vein. Perhaps it is because of this idealistic striving for Jewish assimilation that that Benardete (1963: 255) says of Lévy ‘con profundo respeto [le] llamamos el Don Quijote del sefardismo’. Isaac Molho describes him as ‘…l’homme des contrastes, des paradoxes, le Don Quichote séfardi, comme il s’intitulait lui-même, le Juif tragique, une âme en peine, miroir de son siècle…’ (Lévy 2000 [1956]: 7).
(42) El Visilo israelita, or properly Il Vessillo Israelitico [The Hebrew Banner] was a Jewish Italian-language monthly newspaper based in Casale Monferrato, edited by rabbi Flaminio Servi from 1874 until his death in 1904 when his son Ferruccio took over (Source: jewishencyclopedia.com, s. v. Il Vessillo Israelitico). Like La Época, Il Vessillo Israelitico took was a staunchly anti-Zionist publication and Strauss’s ethnographic study of happily assimilated Jews would have been a most welcome article for their publication (Bettin 2010: 58).
(43) The Ladino of the Sephardim who had settled in Italy had disappeared by the middle of the nineteenth century in large part to the similarities between Ladino and Italian (Harris 1994: 210).
(44) Perhaps Lévy’s most outrageous claim was that there were 40 million perfectly integrated Kaifeng Jews in China, a flight of fantasy which was confected to present his readers with an imaginary of what could be possible for Jews with the correct education and enlightenment, and which simultaneously made the Zionist dream of a homeland for global Jewry an absurd Utopia. See Borovaya (2008) for more on Lévy’s ‘The Jews of China’ and his other attempts to gloss over the current realities for many Jews around the world at that point.
(45) Another source of Italian influence on Ladino were the Italian Dante Alighieri schools which, before the AIU became dominant, set up in the larger cities such as Salonica, with the goal of making Italian the language of Mediterranean trade.
(46) The final sentence of the same paragraph also alludes to an Italian influence with: ‘Mientas el diaa Chavat se ven pocos marineros en el porto seendo casi todos son judios que non laboran en el día santo del reposo mismo por todo el oro del mundo’, while elsewhere in the text we see: el laboro/el lavoro (el trabajo, spelt alternatively even within the same text) and fato (hecho). For a full discussion of Italian influences on Ladino, see Laura Minervini, ‘El léxico de orígen italiano en el judeoespañol de Oriente’ (Busse 2014: 65-104).
(47) Note that in Ladino ‘escapar’ means ‘to finish’, which did lead to misunderstandings with standard Castilian speakers, as Hank Halio attested when his Ottoman Sephardic mother, having immigrated to New York in the 20th century, took on a Mexican maid (Zucker 2001: 11).
(48) José Fernández Bremón’s short story ‘Sacrilegio (Episodios del siglo XXIII)’, printed in the magazine’s second issue (21/12/1900), tells the story of a man waking up after three hundred years in a coma to find that all advanced Western nations (England, Germany, France, Russia and the United States) are ruled by Israeli Jews from the world capital of Jerusalem, who use monopolies of all resources and amenities, debt slavery, control of the media and eternal warfare to subjugate the goyim. While it is presented as a satirical comedy, and an opportunity to make sharp commentary about Spain’s backwardness and laziness, the author appears to touch on every trope found in the slightly later Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, going even further with a denouement involving a reptilian anti-Christ.
(49) Emilio Castelar (1872: 327-328) also gives a detailed description of a strikingly beautiful Spanish-speaking Sephardic woman he met while both were visiting Florence.
(50) This ‘primitive celebration’ could not be due to the use of planyaderas (plañideras), as this tradition had been lost by the mid-19th century in Salonica, although it persisted into the 20th century in other Ottoman Jewish communities. However, there were other many elements of the funerary rites and traditions in Salonica which would have been seen as primitive to European eyes of the period. See Molho (2006 [1944]: 166-194 [175]), Chapter VI: Death and Mourning,
(51) The AIU was aware of the ideological colonialization that their schooling had on their Ottoman pupils, with one member declaring in 1891: ‘the French language gives French habits, French habits lead to the buying of French products. He who knows French becomes a client of France’ (quoted in Gerber 1994: 239). This soft power was particularly useful to the French when in 1875 the Ottoman Empire declared itself bankrupt, and large sections of the economy were being controlled by different European nations who competed with each other for hegemony. Stein (2000) shows how meaning was (re)created in the Ottoman Jewish press when the West was the prime referent.
(52) Lévy was not the only Francophile Sephardi to be horrified with his co-religionists’ traditions. In 1900 AIU teacher Gabriel Arié wrote to the Alliance Central Committee in Paris to report on the noise, disorder, open trading and general irreligiosity of his local Smyrna synagogue and to suggest that the school be converted into an alternative religious location for ‘order and contemplation’ and ‘reelevation of the faith’. The letter is reproduced in full in Benbassa & Rodrigue (1998: 155-6).
(53) The introduction reads as follows: ‘Como muestra del castellano que los israelitas Sephardi continúan hablando en Turquía, vaya ese artículo recientemente publicado en una revista de Salónica, del cual no hacemos sino la version, sustituyendo con algunas notas los caracteres hebraicos por los latinos, así conserverá todo el sabor arcaico de nuestra lengua, salvo las voces extrañas que en ella se han entrometido, y es como sigue:’
(54) Such mistakes with names were not at all uncommon in nineteenth-century magazines, and understandable in the context of handwritten contributions and unwitting/unknowledgeable typesetters. In this case, it is particularly understandable when one sees the author’s standard signature (available to view online at https://riuma.uma.es/xmlui/handle/10630/13006 where one can see that librarians at the University of Málaga have made the same mistake).
(55) Life under the mestrica (child minder) was miserable for poor children. Typically ignorant and poorly paid, the mestrica would have her tiny charges sit on small stools or the floor in filthy oppressive rooms which were frozen and damp in winter, where they were obliged to sit still and silent. ‘These poor children, of a frail constitution, knew nothing of the benefits of sunshine, free movement, fresh air, songs, and games. […] Today, those of us who are over fifty years of age will remember the heart-rending spectacle of these young children seated along the walls, silent and still, or sleeping in their seats with their faces covered by a cloud of flies and obliged to remain there motionless for long hours’ (Molho 2006 [1944]: 77).
(56) The author is not exaggerating for effect. Ottoman Sephardi José M. Estrugo (2002 [1958]: 68-69) describes the various tortures ‘dignas de épocas medioevales’ in which blood flowed in the schoolroom, and describes an incident in which the same torture was meted out to a sadistic teacher by resentful older pupils. In his memoir Saadi Halevy describes the sadism of the tortures found in his Talmud Torah as a child, from which he escaped. The treatment, which left children unable to stand, was bad enough for three of his classmates to convert to Islam (Rodrigue & Stein, 2012: 35-38). See also Molho’s chapter ‘Education and Teaching’ (2006 [1994]: 79-119) for a full description of Sephardic education in Salonica, with pages 104-109 devoted to the various forms of corporal punishment.
(57) Borovaya (2010b: 84-85). Perhaps it was a desire to be seen as sophisticated that the magazine’s editor Moise Aaron Mallah chose the French word avenir rather than its Spanish/Ladino equivalent porvenir for the title, despite Max Nordau’s admonishment of him for this choice (Pulido 1905: 48). Certainly, his choice indicated that the future for Ottoman Jewry was seen in terms of the French language rather than the Ladino.
(58) I have put Fresco forward as a candidate for authorship because of a letter that he sent to Ángel Pulido, in which he recounts memories of his own schooldays, criticising the deficiencies of the traditional Talmud Torah schools, and describing the uncontrolled violence of one male teacher, something which clearly had an effect on him (Pulido 1905: 413-418, 425).
(59) This may be the politician Francisco Javier Ugarte Pagés (1852-1919), but I have no evidence to verify this supposition.
(60) Significantly, there is no mention of any Revista de Turquía in Gad Nassi’s thorough ‘Synoptic List of Ottoman-Turkish-Jewish and Other Sephardic Journals’ (Nassi 2001: 30-71).
(61) Not only was Nehama an accomplished scholar, he was also an astute businessman – Benardete (1963: 190) describes him as a ‘gran banquero’.
(62) The author was not alone in mourning the passing of the old ways. In his memoirs of boyhood in Salonica at the turn of the century, Leon Sciaky recounts how his 103-year-old great aunt Tia Gracia (b. 1796) fondly tells him of his grandfather’s traditional wedding. She then reveals how at his father’s wedding ‘the bride and groom disappeared and went traipsing to foreign lands. That’s coming to be the fashion these days, my soul.’ (Sciaky 2007 [1947]: 46).
(63) For further details on a traditional Sephardic wedding ceremony and the eight days of Huppá (rejoicing), see Molho (2006 [1944]: 20-34), Juhasz (1990: 196-217), Díaz-Mas (1997 [1982]: 46-49) and Rodrigue & Stein (2012: 114-118, 263-267). Estrugo (2002 [1958]: 61) points out that the eight-day-long wedding celebration was also a common feature of traditional Iberian life into the 20th century.
(64) This information comes from Saadi Halevy (Rodrigue & Stein 2012: 27, 172), who was a highly regarded professional singer who sang in Hebrew, Ladino or Turkish according to the needs of the occasion, and whose singing of Hebrew liturgical chants in the Turkish style during weddings caused apoplexy among the rabbinate.
(65) ‘No ay boda sin pandero’ is found in Joseph Nehama’s Dictionnaire du Judéo-espagnol (p.92, s.v. ‘boda’) and is given the following possible meanings: a) ‘point de noce sans accompagnement de musique’; b} ‘point de réjouissance sans gaspillage’. For examples of the lyrics and musical scores of Sephardic wedding songs, see Molho (2006 [1944]: 301-313).
(66) This richness can be seen in the numerous books written on Sephardic refrains, with Meyer Kayserling perhaps being the first in 1889 to document 775 of these gems of Sephardic/Spanish folk wisdom along with traditional Sephardic romances, in his Refranes é Proverbios de los Judios Españoles.
(67) Incidentally, the Ladino written by Nehama looked very dissimilar to the transcribed Ladino of these articles, which leads me to believe that Nehama did not transcribe these articles for Alonso.
(68) Alonso had previously written about the history of Orense’s Jews for both a Galician and a Galician diaspora (Argentinian) magazine, in 1888 and 1901 respectively, his work on the topic culminating in the 46-page book Los judíos en Orense: siglos XV al XVII, published in the year prior to the Gente Vieja articles (see bibliography).
(69) For example, the ubiquitous vowel duplication and the inexplicable use of the letter ‘q’ without a ‘u’ to represent the hard ‘c’, features I have not seen in any other transcribed Ladino text.
(70) For a full description of how Sephardic cuisine has maintained much of Spain’s traditional regional cuisine, see Estrugo (2002 [1958]: 73-77).
(71) This quotation was taken from a letter Miguel de Unamuno wrote to his friend Pulido in support of the philosephardic movement, expressing his belief that, as Spanish speakers, Spain was the patria of the Jews of the Orient. This letter, alongside a photograph of Unamuno, can be seen in Pulido (1905: 104-5).
(72) Not all of such formations were archaic. The feminine –a and (more rarely) the masculine –o endings to adjectives ending in a consonant were sometimes added in an analogical effort to express gender agreement, examples being internasyonala, kruela, mondiala, joveno, sosyala, ženerala (Harris 1994: 85). This tendency to emphasise the feminine can also be seen with some surnames, at least in Smyrna, where the sister of Salvador Estrugo would be called Miriam la Estruga, and Baruj Alazaraque’s wife would be Estrella la Alazaraca. (Estrugo 2002 [1958]: 44). Ladino also assumes that the terms los hermanos/los hijos/los esposos/los padres etc is referring to a solely male grouping, as, they did not subsume the female into the male, a feature also seen in traditional Galicia (ibid. 2002 [1958]: 97; Alonso 1905a: 77).
(73) The word risfolgo (alivio, descanso) in ‘Las bodas judías’ no longer exists in modern Spanish, but compare the modern Portuguese resfolgar (descansar, respirar), and the resolgar (respirar) used by Santa Teresa, a form still current in the Albacete region (Zamora Vicente 1960: 300).
(74) Word within the texts which can be seen to conserve the /ll/ sound are lievaron (Ilevaron, also seen with lieve and liievatelo), eliios (ellos), talia (talla), lieno (lleno), calies (calles), degoliiliio (degollación?), calliadas (calladas), liir, (ir), foliien (huyen), embroliios (embrollos) and soliios (suyos). Some scholars state that the preservation of the /ll/ sound is a noted feature of Ladino (e.g. Zamora Vicente 1960: 303), but most others give yeísmo as the standard practice, reflected in spellings such as eya, akeya, yorar, beya, estreya. Wagner (1950: 101) even gives the spellings for ida and ir (seen above as llir), as yida and yir respectively.
(75) The use of the gimel+rafé (normally for ‘ch’ or /tʃ/) to represent the English ‘j’ or /dʒ/ makes linguistic sense – ‘ch’ is the unvoiced equivalent of the ‘j’ voiced stop consonant. In a similar way we see the unvoiced Ladino empatronaba for the voiced Castilian ‘empadronaba’ in the first article, and both colpos and golpes used interchangeably in the second. It would therefore interesting to know if the confusion or equivalence of voiced/unvoiced stop consonant pairs was a general feature of Ladino – certainly we see it with gameyo (camello), which unlike the lenition of the Ladino bico (pico) and perikolo (peligro), does not appear to have originated from another Romance language/dialect (Portuguese and Italian respectively – see Wagner 1950: 35, 84). The word Ladino itself (Latino) is itself the most obvious example of this phenomenon.
(76) This is the only time I have seen Ladino transcribed with redundant vowel repetition e.g. podestaneaa, viiolensiia, moseeos, which makes the text look needlessly alien, especially given that Rashi script also did not accent words or distinguish between e/I and o/u (for example, moseeo – the Ladino rendering of monsieur – is much more discernable when it is written musiú by a Sephardi writing in Roman script (Estrugo 2002 [1958]: 115).
(77) Rodrigue & Stein (2000: 112) do assert, however, that spelling books for learning Ladino proliferated at the turn of the 20th century.



The esteemed specialist Dr. Olga Borovaya has asked me to paste her comment here, as she is unable to make the comment herself on the forum. The comment is as follows:

The author has made a very important discovery, which is a valuable contribution to the field of Sephardi history and culture. These finds will be used by scholars working on the Sephardi-Spanish relations.
I have only one comment to offer. It appears more likely that the second of the three Ladino articles published in Gente Vieja would have first appeared in El Avenir rather than in La Epoka. Hopefully, someone will check it out.