LETTERS
Ladino speaker

I WOULD like to add to your most informative article on the Ladino language and Sephardi heritage.

There were a small number of Sephardi families who settled in Manchester and spoke Ladino; they came, in the main, as your article states, from the Balkans and Turkey, with some of the early settlers from North Africa.

My Salonika-born grandfather, Nissim Jeuda, arrived in Manchester in 1904 and married Judith Cohen, born in Smyrna, at the synagogue that is now the Manchester Jewish Museum, a year later.

They both spoke Ladino and French. Ladino often being used as the business language and French the language of the household. My father, but not his sister, spoke it well, but the language was not passed on to the next generation, and so, by the 1930s the number of Ladino speakers in Manchester was very few.

There was no distinct Ladino culture among Manchester Sephardim, but some would hold large parties on Saturday evenings where Ladino songs and music certainly featured.

My father went to the Kardomah cafe in Lower Mosley Street, where he would speak Ladino to one or two others over a game of dominoes.

We holidayed in the late-1940s in Majorca where he got talking to a beach pedlar who turned out to be a chueta (a local of Jewish descent); at the end of the conversation, the chueta said that my father had conversed in Castillian Spanish which dated back to the 15th century.

Proverbs and sayings were a feature of the Ladino language, and several books of them, ‘coplas’ and ‘refranes’, have been published.

I remember, sadly, only three. “En boca cerrada no entran moscas” — a closed mouth does not catch flies; “Despues de Purim platicos” — after Purim come the small plates of food; and “dime con quen vas i te dire quen sois” — tell me with whom you go, and I will tell you what you are.

Basil Jeuda,
Macclesfield.

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