Current Methods and Methodology in Ladino Teaching

By Refael, Shmuel | Shofar, July 31, 2001 | Go to article overview

Current Methods and Methodology in Ladino Teaching


Refael, Shmuel, Shofar


Current Methods and Methodology in Ladino Teaching

"Current Methods and Methodology in Ladino Teaching" presents an historical overview of Ladino research in Israel from the early 1960s until the present day, which forms a backdrop for recent developments in the pedagogy of Ladino. Although the researchers of the sixties were primarily interested in the preservation of archaic Spanish forms in the Ladino ballads, recent years have witnessed the establishment of Ladino as a field of university investigation in its own right. As a result of an increased interest in Sefardic Studies as a separate discipline, committed scholars have successfully convinced Israeli universities that Ladino should be transmitted to a young generation of students as a research tool. Accordingly, most of the Ladino language learning materials are prepared for university students for the purpose of scientific investigation. Proficiency in Ladino using the Rashi script is preferable to Latin letters as it gives the student access to several centuries of Ladino literary documents. Adequate Hebrew/Ladino and Ladino/Hebrew dictionaries have yet to be developed.

A Spanish Philologist in the Holy Land

In March of 1964, with many decades of fertile research in the field of Spanish and Sefardic culture behind him, Don Ramón Menéndez Pidal realized a long-time dream. At age 95, he traveled from Madrid to Tel Aviv so he could finally fulfill two wishes: the first was to visit the holy places of Christianity, and the second, to talk with the Ladino-speaking descendants of those banished by the Spanish Inquisition residing in Jerusalem. In Israel, he was received by the activists of the Sefardic Committee in Jerusalem, and amongst them Isaac Molho, Abraham Elmaliah, and Rafael Molho. Menéndez Pidal felt caressed by the music of the Ladino that came out of the mouths of these Sefardic Jerusalemites, and they in turn thirstily drank every detail of what the Spanish old man said about the beloved forgotten land and the progress being made in the research of Ladino culture in Spain. Everyone at this meeting felt moved. Pidal did not consider this visit just a typical Christian pilgrimage, but rather the completion of a circle. Since the end of the nineteenth century, this man had persevered in the meticulous, systematic, and informative investigation of the Sefardic Romancero; and now he had the golden opportunity to meet face to face with the descendants of those anonymous characters hidden behind the hundreds of poems he had researched. It's possible Pidal wanted to transmit the thanks of the Spanish nation to these human vestiges of that terrible deportation, Jews who have maintained with such unrestricted love the assets of the Spanish spirit, and who have also so greatly contributed to the modern investigation of medieval Spanish.(1)

The Spaniards and the Investigation of Ladino and Its Culture

During Menéndez Pidal's visit to Israel at the beginning of the sixties, the culture of the Ladino-speaking Sefardic Jews was considered a very marginal research subject both in Israel and the Diaspora (with the exception of Spain). The investigation of Ladino culture as it is approached today at the beginning of the new millennium would surely be only a dream for those Sefardic Jews who had met Pidal in Jerusalem. The meltingpot society of Israel in those days, so busy with the creation of the new nation's image, did not make investigative resources available for the research of the Ladino-speaking culture of the Sefardic Jews. Ladino culture was then considered a very marginal issue, expressing only the personal needs of certain collectors who yearned for the nostalgic fragrances of their destroyed Sefardi homes. Pidal's hosts would not have dared to dream of the investigation of Ladino culture as an independent research discipline, especially without any autobiographic link whatsoever. Today, it is characterized by objective surveys performed by the most honorable investigative institutions and universities in Europe and the United States. …

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