International Ladino Day

International Ladino Day

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January 28, 2018 marks the fifth annual International Ladino Day. Around the world it’s a celebration in story and song that features the history and traditions of Sephardic Jews.

What is Ladino?

The Ladino language is often called Judeo-Spanish and it a language that bridges several cultures – it a Spanish language that includes words in Hebrew, Turkish, Arabic, and more. Ladino was the mother tongue of the Jews in the Ottoman Empire for 500 years. In the early 20th century, about half a million people spoke Ladino. Now there are 50,000-100,000 speakers, including my relatives here in Italy and my parents, of blessed memory, who spoke in Ladino when they didn’t want the kids to know what they were talking about!

Why is Ladino important?

Ladino is part of the B’nei Anusim heritage, the language spoken by Jews in Spain, Portugal, Sicily and Italy who were forced into Christian conversion but who survived as marranos, conversos and crypyo-Jews.

The Celebration

In 2013, Yitzhak Navon, Israel’s fifth President and Director of the National Authority for Ladino, endorsed the idea of International Ladino Day. Since then celebrations have been held in Jerusalem, Seattle, Istanbul, Madrid, Dallas, and this year will be the first international Ladino Day festival held in New York City in Manhattan!

Ladino Music

One of the most popular most beautiful Ladino melodies is called “Bendigamos,” which is sung in Sephardic synagogues as part of Hallel, in Sephardi homes at Birkat Hamazon, the grace after meals, and on the seventh night of Hanukah, known in Sephardic tradition as Chag HaBanot, The Festival of the Daughters.

The Lyrics – Ladino and English translation

Bendigamos –“Let us bless”

Bendigamos (a) el Altmsimo,

Al Señor que nos creo,

Demosle agradecimiento,

Por los bienes que nos dio.

Alabado sea su Santo Nombre,

Porque siempre nos apiadó,

(H)Odu] L`Adonai ki tov,

Ki leolam jasdo

Bendigamos al Altísimo,

Por el pan primeramente,

Y después por los manjares,

Que comimos juntamente.

Pues comimos y bebimos alegremente,

Su merced nunca nos faltó,

Load al Señor que es bueno,

Que para siempre Su merced.

Bendita sea la casa esta

Que nunca manque en ella fiesta,

Tarde, manaña y siesta,

A nos y a los hijos de Israel.

Blessed is the One most high,

The Lord who created us,

Let us give thanks

For all of the good things God gave us.

Praise be God’s holy name

For God has always had mercy on us.

Blessed is the Lord for he is good,

For his mercy endures forever.

Blessed is the One most  high,

First for the bread,

And then for the other foods

We have eaten together.

We ate and we drank happily.

His mercy has never failed us.

Praised is the Lord for he is good,

Whose mercy endures forever.

Blessed be this house

It should never lack celebration,

Afternoon, morning, and evening,

For us and the children of Israel

International Ladino Day celebration NYC January 28, 2018 at the Center for Jewish History and co-presented by the American Sephardi Federation and the American Jewish Historical Society. Chag Sameach and Buona Festa!

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