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Elon celebrates International Ladino Day

"Kreer i esperar es la vida alargar" -  "Believing and hoping makes life longer" 

“Believing and hoping makes life longer” was the resounding theme of Elon University’s first ever celebration of International Ladino Day on Wednesday, Nov. 30. As suggested by Professor Judith K. Lang Hilgartner, adjunct instructor in world languages and cultures, this traditional Sephardic proverb refers to the hope that the endangered language of Ladino and the Sephardic culture can be protected and revived through grassroots efforts like this one.

The night’s events began with an exquisite rendition of a Sephardic ballad, “Yo me enamori d’un aire,” interpreted by Cantor Karen Kumin from Yavneh, a Jewish Renewal community in Durham, N.C., and Laura Goldstein, a harpist and active community member of the Elon community. Professor Geoffrey Claussen, assistant professor of religious studies, welcomed the audience with an introduction to the importance of the inclusion of Sephardic Studies in the typical Jewish Studies curriculum and a discussion of how the Jewish Golden Age in the Iberian Peninsula ended with the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

With humor and grace, Isabel Treanor ’18 and Hebrew instructor Boaz Avraham-Katz shared personal stories of their interest in the Sephardic world, demonstrating how multi-culturalism and diversity are inherent to the richness of Sephardic studies. Hilgartner showed a clip of her forthcoming documentary entitled, “Ladino Lives.” Cantor Katy Claussen and Inmaculada Hill, a Spanish teacher at Cummings High School, presented a choric speaking piece, “The Trembling Word,” based on Ladino poetry.

Finally, the program closed with another musical piece, “Adio kerida,” featuring Cantor Kumin and Rabbi Meir Goldstein, Elon’s associate chaplain for Jewish Life.  The piece bid the audience goodbye and invited them to enjoy the myriad of Sephardic dishes offered during the reception, including Turkish bourekas, guevos chaminados, halva, and more! With people attending the event coming from far as Chapel Hill and over sixty students, professors, and community members in attendance, Elon’s first International Ladino Day could only be called a grand success, thanks to the generous support of the College of Arts and Sciences, the World Languages and Literatures department, the Jewish Studies Program, the Religious Studies department, the Center for the Study of Religion, Culture, and Society, Elon Hillel, and the many community members who contributed their time and energy to the program.

Saving an endangered language is not easy, but one thing is for certain: Ladino Lives at Elon!

Geoffrey Claussen,
12/6/2016 10:45 AM