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A POETIC MIRROR REFLECTING 20th CENTURY MULTI-CULTURAL SALONIKA

Issue 2018 N 3

Renée Levine Melammed
The Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem

Abstract: Bouena Sarfatty was born in Salonika in 1916 to a Sephardi family. After World War II, she memorialized her birthplace by composing hundreds of Ladino verses (coplas) about Jewish life in the twentieth century. Her phenomenal memory and personal insights provide a poetic mirror that reflects the multi-cultural environment which she experienced personally. The poems appearing below reflect her thoughts about the process of modernization, whether of language, education, dress or mentalité. European influences created a cosmopolitan city that clearly affected Jewish life. The changes that transpired following the devastating fire of 1917 often harmed the development of this community that had been so vibrant and essential for centuries. Be that as it may, the poems written by this native Salonikan present a unique glimpse into the mindset and experiences of multilingual Jews attempting to adapt to the twentieth century and life in a multi-cultural city.

Keywords: Salonika, Poetry, Ladino, Multiculturalism, Modernization