The Virtual Kahal gets a Voice: Ladino Spoken on the Internet

"Salon de Mohabet"

By Shelomo Alfassa

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On Sunday May 13, 2002 the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture debuted the first ever scheduled Ladino audio chat over the Internet took place. There were twelve participants, and after some technical difficulties, a conversation ensued. The participants were from four countries and three states, including Jerusalem, Sweden, Argentina, Texas, Florida and California.

Scott Alfassa Marks came up with the original idea, and on Sunday was the host and technical advisor for the event. Among the participants were Rachel Bortnick, the founder of the worldwide Ladino chat Ladinokomunita; from David Siman of the Sephardic Federation of Palm Beach, Florida; and from Moshe Shaul the editor and founder of the world's only cultural magazine written entirely in Judeo-Spanish, and the world's last surviving all-Ladino publication.

The participants spent one hour talking, getting to know one another, and getting familiar with the software. For the first time many people who have only corresponded with one another in writing were able to hear each other's voices. No longer was a Sephardi in the Diaspora verbally isolated from a Sephardi in Israel. Through technology, the variations of spoken Ladino such as pronunciation, dialect and perception can all be discussed in real time. In an age where the Ladino language has been declining since WWII, the opportunity to converse in spoken Ladino over the Internet provides another opportunity to preserve it; this is possible because by connecting the speakers of the language, people who might have brought with them there own distinct dialect, variation of the language and vocabulary from their previous homelands can share this information in a verbal conversation.

Everyone agreed the Ladino audio chat was a success, and another date would be set in the near future to communicate once again in the language of the Sephardim.


Please participate by downloading the FREE software at After installing the software, sign up for a free log-in (identity/nickname) to use on the Pal Talk service.

Paltalk is a Jewish owned company, and is the best audio client on the Internet. Your voice will come in very clear, and you will be able to talk to your friends around the world as if you were in the same room. You will need a microphone and headphones (or speakers) with your computer. Please download * * PRIOR * * to chatting, and try it in one of the chat rooms before we the scheduled chat--why? Because though it is easy to use, practice makes perfect.

The Ladino room will be in the JUDAISM section, and the room will be locked. You will need the code # 5555

It is very easy, please do all you can to join us in this Ladino audio chat. There will be a little English spoken for administrative purposes but this is a Ladino only room, non-Ladino speakers can participating by listening, and typing, but not speaking.

The room is moderated, and missionary and anti-Jewish discussion will be silenced by the moderator.



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