Washington-area Sephardic Jews share traditional foods and converse in the disappearing language of their ancestors
[Podcast audio below.] It all started back in 2001, when Sarajevo-born folk singer Flory Jagoda invited roughly a dozen other Sephardim in the Washington area to join her for conversation over burekas and bumuelos (fritters, or doughnuts). More specifically, she invited them for conversation in Judeo-Spanish, also known as Ladino, the language spoken by Jews in medieval Spain and later in the far-flung lands to which they fled after the expulsion in 1492.
Today, the language is all but forgotten, except by those like Jagoda who spoke it growing up. The group has grown to include more than 20 participants. At their monthly meetings—which members call vijitas de al’had, or “Sunday visits,” after a centuries-old tradition from the Old Country—the men and women eat Sephardic treats, sing songs, and study a Judeo-Spanish reading exercise, complete with vocabulary lists. Vox Tablet’s Julie Subrin visited their annual Hanukkah gathering in 2008 for this audio postcard from our archives.
This story was originally published on Dec. 14, 2009.
Video: Grab the schmaltz, and don’t skimp on the onions when you’re making this uniquely Jewish dish