The guest of honor at Seattle’s biggest party this December will be an endangered 500-year-old language.
At the second-annual International Ladino Day, hosted at the University of Washington on December 4th, the Judeo-Spanish (or Judezmo) dialect of Sephardic Jews will bask in the spotlight of renewed international interest. Seattle boasts one of America’s largest populations of Jews who trace their ancestry to Spain before the expulsion in 1492. If last year’s vibrant Ladino Day celebration here was any measure, this community is extremely proud of its linguistic and cultural heritage.
Check out the highlight reel from Seattle’s 2013 Ladino Day celebration, which featured heartfelt musical performances, saucy folk sayings, video greetings from dignitaries, and a group narration of how Seattle’s Sephardic Jews got their start:
Molly FitzMorris co-organized last year’s successful inaugural Ladino Day, and is again working with Prof. Devin Naar, Chair of the UW Sephardic Studies Program, to coordinate this year’s bash. A Jewish Studies Graduate Fellow and first-year PhD student in the UW Linguistics Department, she studies the changing language patterns of Seattle’s Sephardic Jews. She also works with “Los Ladineros,” Seattle’s weekly Ladino conversation group, whose feisty musical performance at the first Ladino Day was an emotional highlight of the evening.
Says FitzMorris, “This year’s International Ladino Day celebration promises to be really memorable. Just like last year, our goal this year is to celebrate Ladino as a living language, and we hope to showcase current UW Ladino students and some of the other special things that are happening in Seattle right now. Because Seattle will be one of the first cities in the world to celebrate this year, we’re also hoping to collaborate with other cities in their celebrations.”
FitzMorris promises that many of last year’s performers will be back with encore presentations (as will the trays laden with Sephardic pastries and baklava, which is music to this writer’s ear!). However, there will also be exciting new twists in the program and increased student participation.
Another new addition this year will be an opportunity to keep the party going: the Stroum JCC is offering a special evening to honor the legendary Sarajevo-born Ladino singer Flory Jagoda on Saturday, December 6th. The legacy film, “Flory’s Flame,” will be followed by a live concert with Jagoda herself and several other singers. You can visit the JCC website for ticket information.