(JNS.org) The Spanish Royal Academy (RAE) has announced plans to create a new institute in Israel to help preserve and promote Ladino, a Sephardic Jewish language derived from Old Spanish that is spoken today mainly in Israel and Turkey.
Darío Villanueva, director of the RAE, told The Guardian that Ladino is “an extraordinarily important cultural and historical phenomenon” that was overdue for a preservation effort.
“The Jews who were expelled in 1492 dispersed around Europe and the Americas, taking with them the Spanish language as it was spoken at the time of their expulsion,” he said, adding, “All of this has been miraculously preserved over the centuries. There’s literature, folklore, translations of the Bible and even modern newspapers written in Ladino.”
According to Villanueva, nine Ladino specialists have been appointed so far to establish the new institution in Israel.
Isaac Querub, the president of Spain’s Federation of Jewish Communities, praised the move to recognize the “rich and profound cultural legacy” of Ladino.
Experts say around 400,000 people in Israel have some knowledge of the language. The move to preserve Ladino comes as both Spain and Portugal in recent years have passed laws to allow the descendants of Jews expelled during the Inquisition to regain citizenship.