Some great news about Ladino

This has never been a “recipe” blog, and I know that frustrates some of the people who come across it, but my aim here is to keep Sephardic cuisine alive by giving it meaningful context. So much context is conveyed through the names of our foods, which come of course from the Sephardic language, Ladino. Today I’m apologizing for my slow output (I’ve gotta make a living, too), but there are some fun and interesting posts on the horizon, and maybe some snark. Frankly, sometimes I unearth historical information that makes my hair stand on end. I hope to publish some of that here before too long.

In the meantime, I’ve just finished reading an article in The Forward about the linguistic cultural work of Rachel Amado Bortnick, a Sephardic woman born in Izmir who lives in the States. This dedicated woman is achieving for the Ladino language what I set out to do for Sephardic food: to keep it alive by giving it meaningful context. Through her online language group, Ladinokomunita, she has given the existing Ladino-speaking community a forum to keep using the language in the context of Sephardic life and recollection, and provided resources for others who’d like to learn it. Take a look.

Though she was born in New York, my mother’s first language was Ladino. I heard it spoken pretty much every day of my life until I was nineteen; when my grandmother died, everyone switched to English. Grandma had been the linguistic glue.

I never learned to speak Ladino, though I surely know and love its utterly charming accent, inflection, and key phrases that are as much my history to me as is our food. Language exhibits the character of the culture it springs from, and my memories of daily life and special occasions are all filled with aural pleasures, too, with much laughter and the delightful – and often saucy – lilt of Ladino. It’s like no other language, and I’ve heard many.  I have been at times impressed, amazed or saddened, to realize that in my family, mine is the first generation in 510 years not to speak our beautiful tongue.

My mother, who is now eighty-six, has never learned to use a computer. Maybe Ladinokomunita will be just the right incentive for her to learn the ways of communication of this era, and for me to learn the ways of communication of hers.



Filed under History, Other Reading

9 responses to “Some great news about Ladino

  1. Catherine

    Wonderful post and fascinating article! Yes–although beautiful things in both food and language are born through all the new culinary and linguistic encounters, mixtures, and alterations that come with migration and globalization, it is so important to keep our conciousness of food and language heritage alive and thriving. Gracias, Janet!!

  2. Janet, thank you for mentioning my name and the article ( ). I suppose you are related to the late Albert Amateau, of blessed memory, with whom I was very close. I may have even met you.

    We have 90+-year-olds on Ladinokomunita. Please subscribe your mother, or send me her name and an email address, and I will subscribe her.

    Rachel Amado Bortnick

    • janet

      Rachel, yes, the Albert Amateau you mention was family, though I never met him (all the Amateaus are related).

      Seriously, my mother doesn’t even have an email address. I’ll send you my aunt’s instead (my mother’s sister). I think she’ll be thrilled – and so will I 🙂 Thank you for writing, and a huge thank you for creating Ladinokomunita.

  3. Hunter

    This is nice, I’ve read both this blog and Ladionokomunita for years and, it’s touching to see you’ve discovered each other.

  4. Mark L

    I’m interested in learning Ladino- I especially LOVE Ladino songs, ballads, romances etc. I agree that Ladino is a beautiful language, one of the most beautiful in existence. Because of its unique historical circumstances, I find it has a charm and gentility that modern Spanish sometimes lacks, particularly the New World dialects of Spanish. Thanks for mentioning this, Janet!

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