Tú Sos Muestro Dio: You Are Our God – Reclaiming a Sephardic Identity in Guayaquil, Ecuador

by Heidi Schultz.

7 Reading from the Torah during Shabbat 1

Family Shares Torah Reading.

A small but extraordinary Jewish cultural renaissance is taking place in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The port city of Guayaquil is Ecuador’s largest urban area. Among its over two million inhabitants, there is a small but growing congregation of Jews who attend services at Templo Bet Jadesh (Beth Chadesh Temple). Most of the attendees who have affiliated with the synagogue are not the sons and daughters of Jewish Ecuadorians, but rather are new converts to Judaism. Yet many of them do not feel themselves to be newly converted. Instead, they see themselves as returning to their own religious tradition, lost hundreds of years ago when the Sephardic Jews were expelled from Spain in the eventful year of 1492. [Read more…]

NMAJH Celebrates 5 Years on Independence Mall

The National Museum of American Jewish History marks the fifth anniversary of its iconic building on Independence Mall by taking a fresh look at its core exhibition, which tells the story of more than 360 years of Jewish life. This includes new objects, as well as new insights into existing displays: [Read more…]

Salti Center for Ladino Studies Celebrates 10th Anniversary


Naime and Yeoshua Salti

— by Selim Amado

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Naime and Yeoshua Salti Center for Ladino Studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel. Founded by the Turkish-born couple whose name it bears, the Center has made its mark in the world for its dedication to the diffusion, teaching, and advancement of scientific research in the field of the Judeo-Spanish language and Sephardic culture. Since its foundation in 2003, the Center has been headed by Professor Shmuel Refael, who ably directs the processes of instruction, orientation, and training of the students. Ester Metzger and Liora Hagüel are in charge of the administration and logistical direction of the Center.

More after the jump.
The Center operates in several ways:

  • It promotes the participation of students in academic courses and in extracurricular activities aimed at Ladino speakers in the community, such as the bimonthly meetings of the series La Biblia en ladino (The Bible in Ladino);
  • It sponsors national seminars such as the popular Maraton de Ladino (Ladino Marathon) as well as international conferences such as the 17th Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies held last summer in the campus of Bar Ilan University.
  • It Center fosters the participation of students and researchers in seminars and academic exchange activities, and contributes to academic publications in Israel and abroad.
  • It is an institution that opens its doors to students and researchers from around the world, offering to them its expertise and its facilities.

The Center has already granted twelve Masters (MA) degrees and eight doctorates (PhDs), and in this school year has seven doctoral students and eight others pursuing advanced degrees.

Thanks to its ten years of work, the Center is recognized worldwide for its faculty and students, for its rich library and the high quality of its research published in the best journals and in the Center’s own publication, the magazine Ladinar. In a few months volume number seven of Ladinar will come to light, summarizing presentations made in London in the 16th British Conference on Judeo-Spanish Studies, a conference organized and sponsored by Queen Mary University in conjunction with the Salti Center.

The faculty is involved in the following academic areas of research:

  • Dr. Nina Pinto — folklore, humor, and Haquetía;
  • Dr. Nivi Gomel — teaching the language, rhetoric, and translation of texts;
  • Dr. Susy Gruss — modern literature;
  • Dr. Dov Cohen — traditional and religious literature.
  • Ms. Sandra Katz teaches Spanish to students in advanced studies.

The Center currently houses numerous research projects, among which is that of Dr. Cohen and Mr. Nisim Caridi who have recently completed digitizing the records of the library’s holdings. The reference library has about 2500 titles, among which are six hundred rare old books, Judeo-Spanish newspaper collections, journals, monographs, dissertations and theses.

The Center has supported the publication of the following titles, all dealing with the investigation of Sephardic culture:

  • Ora (Rodrigue) Schawarzwald, Sidur para mujeres en Ladino (Prayer book for Women in Ladino);
  • Elena Romero, Estudios sefardíes dedicados a la memoria de Iacob M. Hassán (Sephardic Studies dedicated to the Memory of Iacob M. Hassan);
  • Michal Held, Ven te kontare (Come, Let Me Tell You);
  • Shmuel Refael, Un grito en el silencio (A Scream in the Silence.)

The Center’s website, which is regularly updated, offers news about the Center’s activities, invitations to events, information for students, and a registration form for an online mailing list.

The Center is highly regarded in academic circles in Israel and the world for its important function in the preservation and understanding of Sephardic Culture through research and the teaching of Ladino (or Judeo Spanish) as a heritage for future generations.  

The Last Sephardic Jew

— by Ronit Treatman

Just as there is a Yiddish revival, there is a Ladino renaissance occurring. Eliezer Papo, a rabbi, attorney, and novelist who is originally from Sarajevo is spearheading this movement. He teaches Ladino at the Ben Gurion University in Israel. He is featured in a documentary called “El Ultimo Sefardi” or “The Last Sephardic Jew.” In it he retraces the steps of the Sephardic diaspora from Toledo during the time of the expulsion to Jerusalem in the present. This award-winning film, made for Spanish television, is in Spanish and Ladino. You can see it with english subtitles here.

 

Itzik Ashkenazi: An Israeli Wounded Warrior Chef

Itzik Ashkenazi— by Ronit Treatman

“Take one cup of unbleached flour and two eggs. Heap the flour onto a clean surface. Make a hole at the top, so it looks like a volcano.  Pour your eggs into the hole. Start mixing the eggs and flour with one hand. You will need the other hand to prevent the eggs from oozing onto the counter. Once you have incorporated the eggs into the flour, start kneading the dough….”

This is a moment in Itzik Ashkenazi’s current life. He never intended to be a chef, he tells me, as he talks about how he makes fresh pasta.  An electrical engineer by training, he was on duty on a beautiful October day in 1990 on his base near Rosh Pina.  Suddenly, his left leg was shattered by friendly fire. Itzik was rushed to Rambam Hospital.  Fortunately for him, the skillful surgeons who operated on him saved his leg.  His recovery would not have been complete had it not been for the contributions of the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, and American non-profit organization dedicated to Israeli soldiers’ well-being.  Physical therapy and other amenities sponsored by the FIDF helped rehabilitate him. Only an orthopedist would know I was ever injured now,” he tells me.  An unexpected result of the process of healing from the pain and trauma of this injury was that Itzik transformed himself from an electrical engineer into one of Tel Aviv’s most passionate chefs.

More after the jump.  
Once he was honorably discharged from the IDF, Itzik needed time to finish healing. He couldn’t just accept the responsibility of working full time as an electrical engineer somewhere.  He decided to help out in his family’s restaurant, Il Pastaio (The Pasta Maker). His Italian-born mother started Il Pastaio in 1988 as a store selling freshly prepared pasta. Located in a Bauhaus building circa 1939, it was the only place in Israel where fresh pasta was made in the traditional Milanese way.  As the store became more and more successful, Itzik’s family decided to hire an Italian architect to design the the first floor interior to be an authentic, northern Italian restaurant.  

Initially, Itzik helped out with the business side of the enterprise. But he still had to heal from his injuries, both externally and emotionally.  Itzik reached deep inside himself for what he truly loved. He felt the call to be creative with food. Itzik learned how to prepare fresh pasta at the feet of the master: Enzo Dellea, a famous Northern Italian chef and cookbook author. The sensual experience of mixing flour and eggs, kneading the fresh dough, and inhaling its earthy aroma helped repair Itzik’s internal emotional trauma.  Nurturing hungry people with delicious, artisanal food filled him with joy. As part of his healing process, Itzik discovered his true passion.

As he became more accomplished in the kitchen, he reached into his family’s Jewish heritage from Rhodes.  Itzik’s aunt, Matilda Koen-Sarano, wrote a cookbook in Ladino called Gizar Kon Gozo or Cooking with Pleasure.  From this book, he shares with us a recipe that combines his love of preparing fresh pasta with a traditional Sephardic dish called travados, or as he calls them affectionately, travadikos.  The Ashkenazi family prepares travadikos to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.  “Travadikos are a mezza luna (half moon) of fresh dough, filled with a mixture of ground nuts.  The filled dough is baked, and then simmered in honey syrup.  Travadikos taste a lot like baklava,” he explains to me.  

Matilda Koen-Sarano’s Travadikos
Adapted from Gizar Kon Gozo

For the dough:

travados 084

Travados

Travados

travados 097

Photos: The Boreka Diary

  • 5 cups flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder

For the filling:

  • 1-½ cups ground almonds or walnuts
  • ¼ cups sugar

For the syrup:

  • ¾ cup honey
  • ½ cup sugar
  • zest from ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon water

Preparation:

  1. Mix all the ingredients for the dough together.
  2. Allow the dough to rest for two hours.
  3. Mix the ground nuts and sugar.
  4. Mix all the ingredients for the syrup in a pot over a low flame.  Stir until a golden syrup forms.  Keep warm.
  5. Preheat the oven to 356 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Roll out the dough.
  7. Using a wine glass, cut out circles of dough.
  8. Place one teaspoon of filling in each circle of dough.
  9. Fold the dough in half over the filling, and pinch shut to create a mezza luna (half moon).
  10. Bake the trovadikos for 30 minutes.
  11. Remove the trovadikos from the oven and simmer in the syrup for a few seconds.
  12. Remove the trovadikos with a slotted spoon and place them on a large serving platter.
  13. Garnish with a dusting of ground nuts mixed with sugar.

During his hospitalization at Rambam Hospital, Itzik discovered that one of the missions of the FIDF is to rehabilitate wounded soldiers.  They do this through their Strides Program.  “I am very, very fortunate,” Itzik tells me.  “My friends who were injured during combat carry invisible injuries,” he says.  “They can’t sleep at night.  I wish I could help them find something to move them away from what happened to them during their military service.”  As Rosh Hashanah, the time of “teshuvah, tefillah, and tzedakah,” arrives, please consider helping repair these soldiers’ lives with a contribution to FIDF.  Your gift may even help discover a new culinary genius!

I would like to extend my special thanks to Beit Halochem for connecting me with Itzik Ashkenazi.

Shanah Tovah!