Dept. of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies/Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Judaic 390D/Spanish 397A
Professor: Dr. Aviva Ben-Ur
Tuesday and Thursday 11:15-12:30 p.m.
Classroom: Herter Hall 113
Office: Herter Hall 731
Office Telephone: (413) 577-0649
Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 9:00-11:00 and by appointment
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 Yiddish (Judeo-German) with an option to read texts in the original languages. We will also be viewing five videos depicting Judeo-Spanish culture, history and language. Among the issues to be explored are: what may we consider literature?; what is culture?; 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 non-Jewish Hispanics been influenced by Sephardic civilization?; 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 Hispanic studies?
Required textbooks and readings
The following book has been ordered from Food for Thought Bookstore and is required for all students:
Teresa Porzecanski, Sun Inventions and Perfumes of Carthage: Two Novellas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000.
Food for Thought bookstore:
106 N. Pleasant St., Amherst
Gini Alhadeff. The Sun at Midday: Tales of a Mediterranean Family. New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1997.
A course packet (CP)
These two books are available for students to purchase from Collective Copies:
71 S. Pleasant St., Amherst
Note: a copy of (CP) is is available on W. E. B. DuBois Library Reserve.
There will be regular readings from Jane Gerber, The Jews of Spain:
A History of the Sephardic Experience, New York: The Free Press, 1992.
(JG) This book is out of print. A copy is on W.E.B. DuBois
Library Reserve. Students are encouraged to purchase a copy on-line
from bookfinder.com or from a second-hand bookstore.
1. This class emphasizes both attendance and class participation. Each class will focus on the assigned readings/films and discussions of these readings/films. Students should bring the readings with them to class!, since we will be analyzing these texts in class.
2. While all students are expected to prepare for each class, each student will be assigned one text on which to give a 5-10 minute presentation. Depending on the size of this class, each student may be required to give two such presentations.
3. There will be three short essays written in response to the videos ("video reviews"). Please note: students need only write three out of five video reviews.
4. There will be an open-book, open-note mid-term exam.
5. There will be an open-book, open-note final exam.
6. This is a reading-intensive course. Readings average 60 pages per week. Some readings are lighter or "easier" than others. Keep in mind that some pages need not be read since they include only footnotes.
7. Think of this class as a job (you love). Just as missing work days and neglecting to complete office work efficiently will harm your chances of promotion, so too will missing classes and not completing the assignments adversely affect your grade for this class. Likewise, regular attendance and high quality performance on assignments, presentations and exams will bring you the results you have earned.
8. Lectures and discussions are as important as readings. Lectures/discussions
reinforce the readings, and also add new material for which students are
9. Students are expected to attend all class meetings. Students with lab exams or students involved in University-sanctioned activities (such as athletics and field trips) that may require them to miss class, must submit notes from their professors. Students arriving late to class, after attendance is taken, are required to alert me to their presence at the end of class. Otherwise, they will be marked absent. Students are responsible for the classes they miss. In case of absence, a student should request the notes from another student. Due dates are listed in the syllabus; it is the students' responsibility to keep track of them. If a student falls ill or has a personal emergency that requires him/her to ask for an extension, h/she must submit to me a letter from his/her doctor or from the Dean of Students Office. In the case that a student cannot avoid missing a class, that student is still responsible for the material covered and for changes in the class schedule announced during that class. If an exam is given or a presentation expected during a student's unexcused absence, the student will receive a "0" for that exam or presentation. Written assignments (i.e. video reviews) handed in late without a prior extension will be marked down half a grade for every day late. Please note: there will be only one sitting for students with excused absences who wish to make up an exam.
10. Students with learning disabilities should contact:
Learning Disabilities Support Services
321 Berkshire House
Tutor Coordinator: Kathy Weilersterin
323 Middlesex House
LDSS will evaluate and diagnose students, and then contact the professor. The professor will not accept claims about learning disabilities unless they are documented by LDSS.
Attendance, participation in class discussions and oral presentations-1/3
Short essays (video reviews)-1/3
Mid-term and final exam-1/3
Class Schedule With Assigned Readings
Note: readings listed under a date are due on that date!
Tuesday, January 30: Introduction to Sephardic Jews and Hispanics
Introduction to the class and distribution of class presentation assignments.
Jane Gerber, "Volatile Origins: The Early History of Jewish Life in Spain", chapter 1 in, The Jews of Spain: A History of the Sephardic Experience, New York: The Free Press, 1992, pp.1-26. (JG)
Ammiel Alcalay, "Introduction" in, After Jews and Arabs: Remaking Levantine Culture, Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1993, pp.1-34. (R)
Thursday February 1: Jewish Poetry of Muslim Spain
Jane Gerber, "The Golden Era: The Emergence of Sephardic Civilization," chapter 3, pp.59-89. (JG)
Poems of Samuel Hanagid (11th century): "Short Prayer in Time of Battle;" "The Master;" "Wine;" "Invitation;" "The Beautiful Boy;" and "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 Iberia: 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.11-20. (R)
Tuesday, February 6: Jewish Poetry of Muslim/Christian Spain
Poems of Judah Halevi: "Zion Complains to God;" "To Israel, In Exile;" "My Heart is in the East;" and "Ode To Zion," from T. Carmi, editor and translator, The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse,pp.334-5; 347-349. (CP)
Anonymous. The Poem of the Cid: A New Critical Edition of the Spanish Text. With a new prose translation by Rita Hamilton and Janet Terry (11th century). Edited by Ian Michael. Manchester University Press, 1975, pp.23-33; 99. Note: right-hand pages are in English. (CP)
Jane Gerber, "The Reconquista: Jews and the New Realities of Christian Spain," chapter 4 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.91-114. (JG)
Thursday, February 8: Jewish Philosophy of Muslim/Christian Spain
Selections from Judah Halevi's The Kuzari, from Three Jewish Philosophers:
Philo, Saadya Gaon, Jehuda Halevi, New York: Atheneum, 1969, pp.5-37; 41-49;
Tuesday, February 13: The Travelogue of Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela. The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Travel in the Middle Ages, n.p.: Joseph Simon Publisher, 1983, pp.59-92 (through "Tadmor"). (CP)
Thursday, February 15: The Travelogue of Benjamin of Tudela
Benjamin of Tudela. The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela: Travel in the Middle Ages, n.p.: Joseph Simon Publisher, 1983, pp.95-top of 102 ("Baghdad"). (CP)
Film and discussion: The Enchanted Travels of Benjamin of Tudela. Produced by Beth Hatefutsoth, Museum of the Jewish Diaspora, 1989. 9 minutes.
Tuesday, February 20
No class-Monday schedule
Thursday, February 22: A Christian/Jewish Disputation in Spain
First video review due! (Choose three out of five)
Chavel, Rabbi Dr. Charles, translator and annotator. Ramban: The Disputation at Barcelona. New York: Shilo Publishing House, 1983. (CP)
Jane Gerber, "The Reconquista: Jews and the New Realities of Christian Spain," chapter 4 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.91-114. (JG)
Tuesday, February 27: A Christian/Jewish Disputation in Spain
Film and discussion: The Disputation
Thursday, March 1: A Pogrom in Portugal
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)
Tuesday, March 6: The Literature of the "Marranos"
Second video review due! (Choose three out of five)
The Book of Esther. In The Jerusalem Bible, ed. Harold Fisch,
Jerusalem: Koren Publishers, 1989, pp.886-895. (CP)
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 Enr¡quez G¢mez, and Miguel de Barrios. Rutherford*Madison*Teaneck: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press and London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1982, pp.82-97. (CP)
Jane Gerber, end of chapter 4, pp.113-114, and chapter 5, "Path to Expulsion:
The Decline and Destruction of Spanish Jewry" in, The Jews of Spain, pp.115-132.
"History of the World, Part l." Scene of the Spanish Inquisition. A Mel Brooks film. (For discussion: misconceptions of the Inquisition and the controversy over humorous depictions of tragedy/ artistic freedom.)
Thursday, March 8: Complas de Purim
The Book of Esther. In The Jerusalem Bible, ed. Harold Fisch, Jerusalem: Koren Publishers, 1989, pp.886-895. Note: this is a repeat reading! (CP)
March 8 is the Jewish Fast of Esther; March 9 is the Jewish holiday of Purim
Tuesday, March 13: Expulsion Chronicles: 1492
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)
Jane Gerber, end of chapter 5, "Path to Expulsion: The Decline and Destruction of Spanish Jewry" in, The Jews of Spain, pp.132-144. (JG)
Thursday, March 15: Midterm Exam
In-class, open book, open note, midterm exam
March 17-25: Spring break
Tuesday, March 27: Epitaphs: Reading Life Through Death
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. (CP)
Jane Gerber, "The Westward Journey: Europe and the New World," Chapter 7 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.177-211. (JG)
Thursday, March 29: Sephardim and Ladino in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey)
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. (JG)
Tuesday, April 3: Sephardic Biography: Egypt, Italy, Japan
Gini Alhadeff. The Sun at Midday: Tales of a Mediterranean Family,
Hopewell, New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1997, pp.3-top of 114. (Collective
Copies or bookfinder.com)
Thursday, April 5: Sephardic Biography: Egypt, Italy, Japan
Gini Alhadeff. The Sun at Midday: Tales of a Mediterranean Family, Hopewell, New Jersey: The Ecco Press, 1997, pp.114-226. (Collective Copies or bookfinder.com)
Tuesday, April 10th: Passover Hagada
Third video review due!
Note: read in the order indicated!
The Book of Exodus. (The story of the enslavement of the Israelites in Egypt and their subsequent escape). In The Jerusalem Bible, ed. Harold Fisch, Jerusalem: Koren Publishers, 1989, pp.63-80. (CP)
Selections from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, translator, Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez: The Torah Anthology: Passover Haggadah-Sephardic. New York: Moznaim Publishing Corporation, 1989, pp.15-16. (CP)
Selections from The Livorno Haggadah, 1825, With Judeo-Spanish Translation, pp.11-13. Leghorn: Nahman Sa'adun, 1825. Reprinted in Brooklyn, New York: The Diskin Orphan Home of Israel, 1992. Also: Aviva Ben-Ur's transliteration from Hebrew to Roman script. (CP)
Selections from Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's Yalkut Me'am Lo'ez: The Torah Anthology: Exodus ll-Redemption, 1979, pp.184-212. (CP)
The Jewish holiday of Passover is April 7-15
Thursday, April 12: Sephardic Autobiography: Guatemala and Brooklyn
Victor Perera. "Kindergarten," in Tropical Synagogues: Short Stories by Jewish-Latin American Writers, Ilan Stavans, ed., New York: Holmes & Meier Publishers, 1994, pp.153-158. (CP)
Victor Perera. "The IQ and I: My Adventures Near the Bottom of the Bell 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. (CP)
Tuesday, April 17: Non-Sephardim Write on Sephardic Themes
Jorge Luis Borges. "Death and the Compass", in Tropical Synagogues: Short Stories by Jewish-Latin American Writers, ed. Ilan Stavans, New York and London: Holmes & Meier, 1994, pp.106-116. (CP)
Isaac Bashevis Singer. "Sabbath in Portugal." In Passions and Other Stories. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1975, pp.77-87. (CP)
Thursday, April 19: Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust
David Fintz Altab‚. "The Sephardim in the Holocaust", Spanish and Portuguese Jewry Before and After 1492, Brooklyn, N.Y.: Sepher-Hermon Press, 1993, pp.117-128. (CP)
Selections from Isaac Jack L‚vy, translator and commentator. And
the World Stood Silent: Sephardic Poetry of the Holocaust. Urbana
and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989, pp.167-169 (Avner Perez;)
pp.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)
Rebecca Camhi Fromer. "Erica" and "The Inquiry: A Play in One Act", 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.220-232. (CP)
Friday, April 20 is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Memorial Day
Tuesday, April 24: Sephardim in the land of Israel
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.)
Thursday, April 26: Sephardim in the land of Israel// Sephardic Fiction in the State Israel
Movie and discussion: Every Time We Say Goodbye.
A.B. Yehoshua. "Galia's Wedding", in A.B. Yehoshua, The Continuing Silence of a Poet: Collected Stories, New York: Penguin Books, 1991, pp.163-179. (CP)
April 26 is Yom Ha'Atzma'ut, or Israel Independence Day
Tuesday, May 1: Sephardim, Ashkenazim and non-Jews in Mexico
Film: Novia Que Te Vea. Mexico: Instituto Mexicano de Cinematogr fia, 1993. Produced and directed by Guita Schyfter. Plot by Guita Schyfter, Rosa Niss n, and Hugo Hiriart. Screenplay by Hugo Hiriart. Based on Rosa Niss n's 1992 novel of the same name. 114 minutes.
Thursday, May 3: Sephardim, Ashkenazim and non-Jews in Mexico
Fourth video review due! (Choose three out of five)
Film and discussion: Novia Que Te Vea.
Tuesday, May 8: Sephardim in Latin America
Teresa Porzecanski, Sun Inventions and Perfumes of Carthage: Two Novellas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2000, pp.132-189. (Food for Thought Bookstore)
Thursday, May 10: Hispanic/Sephardic Connections in New York
Fifth video review due! (Choose three out of five)
Film clip: The Birdcage. 1996. Starring: Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, Nathan Lane, Dianne Wiest and co-starring Hank Azaria.
Jane Gerber, "Revival and Return: Sephardic Jews in the Post-War Era," Chapter 9 in, The Jews of Spain, pp.253-283. (JG)
Aviva Ben-Ur. "'We Speak and Write This Language Against Our Will'"
Jews, Hispanics, and the Dilemma of Ladino-Speaking Sephardim in Early-Twentieth-Century
New York", American Jewish Archives 1&2 (1998): 131-142. (CP)
Tuesday, May 15: A Medieval Tradition Modernized: 20th Century Ladino Music
Modernized Ladino music (the romance and beyond):
1. Flory Jagoda. "Memories of Sarajevo: Judeo-Spanish Songs From Yugoslavia." Global Village, 1991.
2. Los Pasharos Sefarad¡s. ["The Sephardic Birds."] Ladino music from Turkey. 1980's.
(Class handouts and audio tapes to be listened to in class)
Final exam period: May 19-25
Final exam time and place: To be announced