Prof. Aviva Ben-Ur
Hebrew 155 (2658)/
"Encounters Between Civilizations: Literatures and Cultures of the
World Studies 103 (2659)
Department of Classical, Middle Eastern and Ancient Languages
This course will explore
the literatures and cultures of
Judeo-Spanish peoples from "Golden Age" Spain to contemporary America.
For the purpose of this course, "Sephardic" is defined as all Jewish or
secret-Jewish communities who either dwelled in the Iberian peninsula
(Spain and Portugal) or who self-consciously trace(d) their origins to
that peninsula. All readings will be in English or in
English-translation from the Hebrew, Spanish, Ladino (Judeo-Spanish,)
Portuguese and German with an option to read texts in the original
languages. We will also be viewing three videos depicting Judeo-Spanish
culture, history and language. Among the issues to be explored are: is
there such thing as Sephardic literature?; what is the relation of
Sephardic literature to Sephardic history?; what, if any, relation does
Mizrahi (non-Sephardic Levantine) literature have to the body of
Judeo-Spanish literature?; how have Ashkenazim viewed the Sephardic
culture and legacy?; and what is the relevance of the study of Sephardic
literature to other disciplines, including general Jewish studies and
Required textbooks and readings
The following book has been
ordered from the college bookstore
and is required for all students:
Yehoshua, Abraham B. Mr. Mani. Translated from the Hebrew
Halkin. San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992.
A course packet available for students to purchase from Your Copy Shop
Around the Corner (59-08 Kissena Blvd). (CP)
Recommended Background Readings:
Ammiel Alcalay. After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture.
Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. (on reserve)
Gerber, Jane S. The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic
Experience. New York: The Free Press, 1992. (on reserve)
This class emphasizes both attendance and class participation.
Each class will focus on the assigned readings and discussions of these
readings. Students should bring the readings with them to class!, since
we will be analyzing these texts in class.
While all students are expected to prepare for each class, each
student will be assigned one text on which to give a 5-minute
presentation. There will be short essays written in response to the
videos ("video reviews"), a short mid-term take-home exam, and a final exam.
Attendance, participation in class discussion and oral presentations-1/3
Mid-term take-home and final exam-1/3
Week 1: Overview
Thursday, January 28
Jane Gerber, "Volatile Origins: The Early History of Jewish Life in
Spain," Chapter 1 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.1-26.
Ammiel Alcalay, "Introduction" in, After Jews and Arabs, pp.1-34.
Week 2: Jewish Poetry of Muslim Spain
Tuesday, February 2
Class canceled (to be rescheduled)
Jane Gerber, "The Birth of Sepharad: From the Muslim Conquest to the
Caliphate of Crdoba," Chapter 2 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.27-57 and "The
Golden Era: The Emergence of Sephardic Civilization," chapter 3, pp.59-89.
Thursday, February 4
Poems of Samuel Hanagid (11th century): "Short Prayer in Time of Battle;"
"The Master;" "Wine;" "Invitation;" "The Beautiful Boy;" "The Fear of
Death." From T. Carmi, editor and translator, The Penguin Book of Hebrew
Verse, New York: Penguin Books, 1981, pp.288; 292; 297; 298-301. (CP)
Benjamin R. Gampel. "Jews, Christians and Muslims in Medieval
Convivencia Through the Eyes of Sephardic Jews," in Convivencia: Jews,
Muslims, and Christians in Medieval Spain, Vivian B. Mann, Thomas T.
Glick, Jerrilynn D. Dodds, eds., New York: George Braziller in
Association with The Jewish Museum, 1992, pp.11-37. (Class handout)
Week 3: Jewish Poetry and Philosophy of Muslim/Christian Spain
Tuesday, February 9 and Thursday, February 11
Poems of Yehuda Halevi: "Zion Complains to God;" "To Israel, In Exile;"
"My Heart is in the East;" Ode To Zion," pp.334-5; 347-349. (CP)
Selections from Yehuda Halevi's The Kuzari, from Three Jewish
Philosophers: Philo, Saadya Gaon, Jehuda Halevi, New York: Atheneum,
1969, pp.5-37; 41-49; 72-75. (CP)
Anonymous. The Poem of the Cid: A New Critical Edition of the
Text. With a new prose translation by Rita Hamilton and Janet Terry
(11th century). Edited by Ian Michael. Manchester University Press,
1975. (Class handout)
Jane Gerber, "The Reconquista: Jews and the New Realities of Christian
Spain," Chapter 4 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.91-114.
Week 4: A Christian/Jewish Disputation in Spain
Tuesday, February 16
Make-up class? (today is supposed to be a Friday schedule)
Thursday, February 18
Movie and discussion: "The Disputation"
Jane Gerber, "Path to Expulsion: The Decline and Destruction of Spanish
Jewry," Chapter 5 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.115-144.
Week 5: A Christian/Jewish Disputation in Spain
Tuesday, February 23 and Thursday, February 25
Chavel, Rabbi Dr. Charles, translator and annotator. Ramban: The
Disputation at Barcelona. New York: Shilo Publishing House, 1983. (42
Week 6: The Literature of the "Marranos"
Tuesday, March 2 (Purim!) and Thursday, March 4
Poems of Joao Pinto Delgado on Queen Esther, Mordecai and Haman. From
Timothy Oelman, editor and translator, Marrano Poets of the Seventeenth
Century: An Anthology of the Poetry of Joao Pinto Delgado, Antonio
Enrquez Gmez, and Miguel de Barrios. Rutherford*Madison*Teaneck:
Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and London and Toronto: Associated
University Presses, 1982, pp.82-97. (CP)
"History of the World, Part l." Scene of the Spanish Inquisition.
Brooks film. (For discussion: misconceptions of the Inquisition and the
controversy over humorous depictions of tragedy/ artistic freedom.)
March 4: first video review due!
Week 7: A Pogrom in Portugal
Tuesday, March 9 and Thursday, March 11
Yerushalmi, Yosef Hayim. The Lisbon Massacre of 1506 and the Royal Image
in the Shebet Yehudah. Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute
of Religion, 1976, pp.1-34. (CP)
Isaac Bashevis Singer. "Sabbath in Portugal." In Passions
Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975, pp.77-87. (CP)
Thursday: short midterm take-home exam
Week 8: Expulsion Chronicles: 1492
Tuesday, March 16 (with Prof. Llorens only) and
Thursday, March 18
Selections from David Raphael, editor, The Expulsion 1492 Chronicles: An
Anthology of Medieval Chronicles Relating to the Expulsion of the Jews
from Spain and Portugal. California: Carmi House Press, 1992, pp.1-20
(Elijah Capsali;) pp.51-54 (Don Isaac Abravanel;) pp.189-193 (The Edict
of Expulsion.) (CP)
Thursday: short midterm take-home exam due!
Week 9: Sephardim and Ladino in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey)
Tuesday, March 23 and Thursday, March 25
Movie and discussion: "From Toledo to Jerusalem: A Musical Journey
through 500 Years of Sephardic Life." With Yehoram Gaon. Ergo Media,
Inc., 1990. 60 minutes.
Jane Gerber, "Return to the Islamic World: The Sephardic Diaspora in
Muslim Lands," Chapter 6 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.145-175.
Week 10: The Passover Hagada in Ladino
Tuesday, March 30
Selections from The Livorno Haggadah, 1825, With Judeo-Spanish
Translation, pp.11-12. Leghorn: Nahman Sa'adun, 1825. Reprinted in
Brooklyn, New York: The Diskin Orphan Home of Israel, 1992. (CP)
Selections from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, translator, Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez:
Torah Anthology: Passover Haggadah-Sephardic. New York: Moznaim
Publishing Corporation, 1989, pp.15-16. (CP)
Selections from his Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez: The Torah Anthology: Exodus
ll-Redemption, 1979, pp.92-102; 166-212. (CP)
March 30: second video review due!
Thursday, April 1
no class-Spring break and first day of Pesah
Tuesday, April 6
Thursday, April 8
Spring break and last day of Pesah
Week 11: Epitaphs: Reading Life Through Death and
Tuesday, April 13
Selections of tombstone inscriptions from the jungle cemetery of
Jodensavanne (Jewish Savannah,) a 17th-19th century Sephardic community
in Suriname, South America. Epitaphs are translated from the Portuguese,
Hebrew, Spanish, Aramaic, and Dutch. (Class handouts)
Thursday, April 15
Canetti, Elias. The Torch in My Ear. Translated from the German by
Joachim Neugroschel. New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1982. (Out of
print: you may order from www.amazon.com or, by request, purchase in a
Jane Gerber, "The Westward Journey: Europe and the New World," Chapter
in, The Jews of Spain, pp.177-211.
Week 12: Sephardic Autobiography
Tuesday, April 20 and Thursday, April 22
Canetti, Elias. The Torch in My Ear.
Victor Perera. "Kindergarten," in Tropical Synagogues: Short Stories
Jewish-Latin American Writers, Ilan Stavans, ed., New York: Holmes &
Meier Publishers, 1994, pp.153-158. (Class handout)
Victor Perera. "The IQ and I: My Adventures Near the Bottom of
Curve," in Diane Matza, ed., Sephardic-American Voices: Two Hundred Years
of a Literary Legacy, Hanover and London: Brandeis University
Press/University Press of New England, 1997, pp.106-116. (Class handout)
Jane Gerber, "Encounter With Modernity," Chapter 8 in, The Jews of Spain,
Week 13: Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust
Tuesday, April 27 and Thursday, April 29
Selections from Isaac Jack Levy, translator and commentator. And the
World Stood Silent: Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust. Urbana and
Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989, pp.115; 126-137; 156-165
(Yehuda Haim Aaron HaCohen Perahia;) 167-171 (Avner Perez;) 173; 178-181
(Chelomo Reuven;) 205;-207 (Jennie Adatto Tarabulus;) 209; 212-213 (Grupo
de los Reskatados de los Kampos de Alemania, or Koro Salonika ("Group of
Liberated Inmates from the German Camps," or "The Choir of Salonika.") (CP)
Week 14: Sephardic Life in Israel
Tuesday, May 4 and Thursday, May 6
Movie and discussion: "Every Time We Say Goodbye." Starring Tom Hanks,
Cristina Marsillach, and Gila Almagor. A film by Moshe Mizrahi.
Tri-Star Pictures, 1986. 97 minutes. (The story of an American Gentile
soldier who falls in love with a Ladino-speaking Sephardic woman in
Jerusalem at the end of World War ll.)
Week 15: Sephardic Fiction in Israel
Tuesday, May 11 and Thursday, May 13
A.B. Yehoshua. Translated from the Hebrew by Hillel Halkin. Mr. Mani.
Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992.
Jane Gerber, "Revival and Return: Sephardic Jews in the Post-War Era,"
Chapter 9 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.253-283.
May 13: third video review due!
Week 16: Sephardim in New York: The American Ladino Press and
A Medieval Tradition Modernized: 20th Century Ladino Music
Tuesday, May 18 and Thursday, May 20
"Palavras de Mujer" ("Words of a Woman,") installments of a Ladino advice
column directed at immigrant women. El Progreso and La Vara, New York,
1915-1934. (CP and class handout)
Modernized Ladino music (the romance and beyond):
1. Soledad Bravo. "Cantos Sefardes" ["Sephardic Songs"]. She is from
Venezuela. Recorded in Spain in 1979.
2. Flory Jagoda. "Memories of Sarajevo: Judeo-Spanish Songs From
Yugoslavia." Global Village, 1991.
3. Los Pasharos Sefarads. ["The Sephardic Birds."] Ladino music from
(Class handouts and audio tapes to be listened to in class)
May 21, 1:45-3:45