Press Release from The Foundation for the
Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture


Contact: S. Alfassa

FASSAC Attends UNESCO Conference to Save Ladino in Paris

Sephardic Jews from around the world met in Paris on June 17 and 18 in a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) sponsored conference to consider measures to preserve and perpetuate the Judeo-Spanish language they have spoken for more than 500 years. Sepharad is the Hebrew name for Spain and Portugal, and the Jews who dwelt there for centuries before their expulsion in 1492 are therefore called Sephardic. Dispersed throughout the world after their expulsion, the Jews of Spain and Portugal settled in the many countries of the Middle East comprising the Ottoman Empire, Western Europe, the Balkans, the Americas, and even Africa and the Far East. Wherever they settled their communities maintained a thriving commercial and intellectual life and retained a lively and flourishing culture.

The ravages of Hitler's Holocaust, however, so decimated their ranks, and dispersed the remaining few so widely, that it has become increasingly challenging for them to hand down to future generations their beloved Judeo-Spanish language and the culture it reflects.

The conference reviewed and assessed the present day status of Judeo-Spanish, sometimes also called Ladino or Djudesmo. The conference intended to formulate measures to be taken over the next decade to preserve and perpetuate this language. Sephardic communities from more than a dozen countries were represented at the conference.

Representing the United States and the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture was Rachel Amado Bortnick, a noted historian and expert on Sephardic language and culture and David W. Siman, who has taught Ladino at the University of Miami and in Palm Beach County, Florida. Also in attendance was Dr. Gloria Ascher, a professor of Ladino language at Tufts University. Hopes are high for the development of an effective international plan following the gathering.

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Ladino Preservation Council The Foundation for the
Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture

Release date: June 24, 2002