We present to our readers Volume 2, issue 2 of Sephardic Horizons.
This issue brings the third and final portion of Sasson Somekh’s lecture series on “Arabic as a Jewish Language,” dealing with the “The Beginning and End of Judeo-Arabic” in the Middle East. Even as Judeo-Arabic speakers from various parts of the Arab world have reassembled, mostly in Israel, their language has largely died out, unlike Ladino, which has received new impetus in Israel. The second volume of Somekh’s memoirs, Life after Baghdad: Memoirs of an Arab Jew in Israel, 1950-2000, has also just been published by Sussex Academic Press.
Leon Taranto’s three-part family history also concludes in this issue, providing more information on the Taranto, Capouya and Crespin families of Rhodes and Izmir. In this connection, our Letters page shows how genealogists acquire some of their information, with three letters from Eliezer Capouya concerning his family and background in Izmir and their connections with the Taranto family, and a letter from Mauro Perani concerning Crespin family traces in Italy.
Elsewhere in our new issue, Ralph Tarica presents a transliterated version of a previously almost unknown Ladino poem (it was published in a booklet in Izmir in 1861), together with its English translation. Entitled “Ija miya, mi kerida,” it is by a possible ancestor of his, Rabbi Hezkia Shemuel Tarica, a mid-nineteenth century rabbi of Izmir and Rhodes who composed this searing portrait of the soul as it enters the world and falls prey to sin, thereby entailing divine punishment. Its language and seriousness would make it a good subject for Yom Kippur meditation and teshuva. This poem may be a neglected masterpiece of religious poetry: if it had been produced a thousand or a few hundred years earlier, and in Hebrew rather than Ladino, it would surely have entered our liturgy. Hezkia Shemuel Tarica must have decided to write in Ladino in the face of what he saw as the alarming secularization gaining ground among Sephardim of his times. In this way he continues the 18th and 19th century tradition of musar literature.
At a time when we remember the Holocaust, Yitzhak Kerem brings us “New Finds on Greek Jewish Heroism in the Holocaust,” based not only on new interviews with survivors, but on new archival finds that are becoming accessible for the first time. He thus maintains that, though informants are becoming rarer and rarer, some who were reluctant before are coming forward, while documentary sources can still bring us valuable new insights about the Holocaust as experienced by Sephardim.
In the Ladino section, we present a story by Rivka Abiry, and an essay by Santos Mayo, a new contributor and member of the Vijitas de Alhad, on the Pirke Avot. The review section includes Ralph Tarica’s review of a book that is currently receiving considerable attention: Sa’adi Besalel a’Levi’s memoir, entitled A Jewish Voice from Ottoman Salonica, translated by Isaac Jerusalmi and edited by Aron Rodrigue and Sarah Abrevaya Stein, also a recently discovered text from a time when religious ideas and growing modernity were clashing.
We hope this issue presents interesting and challenging reading, and as always we’d very much like to hear our readers’ opinions, so do write to us! Also, if you appreciate the caliber of Sephardic Horizons, please do consider a tax-deductible contribution of any size.
With thanks to Ralph Tarica, Elliott Blufer, and all our contributors to this issue,