Search Results

Series:

Nourit Melcer-Padon

The protagonists of Grossman’s To the End of the Land (Ishha Borachat miBesorah) are bound to one another by their linguistic inventiveness. For more than thirty years, they expand their special vocabulary and build on it, using language as a device to fortify what they believe to be their private, secluded shelter. Yet contrary to their wishes, the protagonists’ idiolect does not constitute an exclusively private language. Their lexical inventiveness relies on the basic array of tools offered by Modern Hebrew grammar and world-building. Thus, their inventions are intelligible to a reasonably educated speaker of Hebrew. Some of these inventions follow the precise patterns of naïve creativity of many toddlers as they grapple with Hebrew morphology and word-formation. The protagonists’ ‘language capsule’ proves to be another prison, suffocating them from within as reality does from without. Ora, the main female protagonist, eventually rebels against the two male protagonists’ cerebral over-use of language, which represses femininity and the emotive side of their experience. Viscerally sensing the power of words, Ora runs away in an effort to avoid hearing the announcement of her son’s death - as if this could keep him alive. Yet it is precisely language, as a means of communication rather than separation, which may be the key to some form of hope in the future, and a better alternative in negotiating pain.

Nourit Melcer-Padon

Abstract

From its inception, the Jewish community in Livorno enjoyed a unique status, encouraging former conversos to settle there. In Livorno they could live openly as Jews. Thus, it is most interesting to study their attitude to their cultural heritage, according to the wills left by several of the Sephardi community’s prominent members. A linguistic analysis of phrases used by three testators is particularly revealing in assessing their positions regarding Judaism. Their words reflect anxiety and determination: a realization of hardships encountered by New Christians on their way to Judaism, and a further realization that only few will adhere to it.