From Grandmother to Grandson—Judeo-Spanish Anecdotes in Israel Today: Emigration, Cultural Accommodation and Language Preservation

In: European Journal of Jewish Studies

I examine processes of cultural accommodation and maintenance of the Sephardic tradition as reflected in anecdotes of the generation who immigrated to Israel. The anecdotes reflect traditions and beliefs of Ladino speakers; I study their folkloric and linguistic aspects, while exposing the elements that create humor and reflect dominant social norms. The anecdotes present the obvious and the concealed tensions in Israeli society, yet they have a universal dimension: social conflicts in contacts between cultures, between ethnic groups, between the generation of the parents and that of the children and grandchildren, between next-door neighbors and between diasporas which converge in one social habitat. The article examines elements of performance, including the place of the storyteller in the storytelling situation and the techniques that generate laughter and identification with a marginal group: the group of Ladino speakers in Israel, as they clash with the hegemonic power in the Israeli society.

  • 1

    Richard BaumanStory Performance and Event: Contextual Studies of Oral Narrative (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press1986) 55.

  • 2

    Nina Pinto-AbecasisThe Peacock the Ironed Man and the Half-Woman (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute2014) 150–204 [Hebrew]. I outline a theoretical model for research into the anecdote that is based on three aspects that create the humor in it: the purely humorous aspect the linguistic aspect and the folkloristic aspect.

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  • 5

    Marion C. MoeserThe Anecdote in Mark the Classical World and the Rabbis (London, New York: Sheffield Academic Press2002) 31.

  • 6

    As cited in MoeserAnecdote in Mark32.

  • 8

    Dan Ben-Amos“Forward,” Genre 2 (1969): iii–iv.

  • 9

    Tamar Alexander-FrizerThe Heart Is a Mirror: The Sephardic Folktale (Detroit: Wayne State University Press2008) 381–383. Also see there a short review about documented anecdotes in the Ladino-speaking world.

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  • 24

    Matilda Koén-SaranoGizar kon gozo (Jerusalem: S. Zack2010) 97.

  • 25

    Arthur KoestlerThe Art of Creation (New York: Dell Publishing Inc.1964) 32.

  • 30

    On this see the book by Yuval HarariEarly Jewish Magic (Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute2010) 139 [Hebrew].

  • 33

    Shmuel Refael VivanteBeit hachaim: Final Resting Place Laws and Customs of Mourning among the Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) Speaking Communities (Ramat-Gan: Bar-Ilan University2012) 45.

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  • 54

    Bronislaw MalinowskiMagic Science and Religion and Other Essays (Long Grove: Waveland Press1992) 90. This analysis does not apply to “healing magic.”

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  • 55

    See Yaron Ben-Naeh“Il honor no se merka con paras,” Jerusalem Studies in Jewish Folklore 23 (2004): 9–38 [Hebrew].

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