An Ode to Salonika
The Ladino Verses of Bouena Sarfatty
Publication Year: 2013
Through the poetry of Bouena Sarfatty (1916-1997), An Ode to Salonika sketches the life and demise of the Sephardi Jewish community that once flourished in this Greek crossroads city. A resident of Salonika who survived the Holocaust as a partisan and later settled in Canada, Sarfatty preserved the traditions and memories of this diverse and thriving Sephardi community in some 500 Ladino poems known as coplas. The coplas also describe the traumas the community faced under German occupation before the Nazis deported its Jewish residents to Auschwitz. The coplas in Ladino and in Renée Levine Melammed's English translation are framed by chapters that trace the history of the Sephardi community in Salonika and provide context for the poems. This unique and moving source provides a rare entrée into a once vibrant world now lost.
Published by: Indiana University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
It was purely due to chance that I happened to gain access to the writings of Bouena Sarfatty Garfinkle. In the 1970s, while researching the de Botons—an eminent family of rabbinic scholars, I corresponded with Sephardi communities worldwide. Bouena Sarfatty of Montreal wrote me a letter in French informing me that she knew many de Botons who had perished in Auschwitz. In the fall of 1989 I flew to Montreal to meet her. After recording her memories of this family, ...
Salonika provided Jewish exiles from Spain and Portugal with a beloved home for four and a half centuries.1 The Ottoman rule that began only fourteen years prior to the Expulsion from Spain in 1492 proved conducive to the flowering of a strong, healthy, and productive Jewish community. The reputation of the community was so impressive that by 1553, Samuel Usque coined a biblical term of endearment for the city in his...
In order to appreciate the vast array of coplas written by Bouena, one needs to consider the themes that recur in each collection and to attempt to view the verses in a historical context. This poet displayed an uncanny awareness of the intricacies of her community and its history and integrated her perceptions into her poetry. She was also extremely cognizant of the changes that society was undergoing at the time, especially because its younger members were being ...
Bouena had a natural affinity for traditions and for the traditional, partly due to her upbringing as a proud Sephardi, and partly due to her deep roots and vast acquaintance with Ladino folksongs and refrains along with her artistic ties to the world of embroidery. Tradition is an essential element that serves to bind any society—and, consequently, serves to keep families together. Tradition elicits respect and honor and is the antithesis of change. Therefore, if one is to ...
The Nazi invasion of Salonika on April 9, 1941, would determine the fate of the twenty-five-year-old Bouena and her family as well as all of Salonikan Jewry. Bouena survived by fleeing and joining the partisans, at first the EDES Royalists1 and later the ELAS Communists.2 She eventually reached Palestine, accompanying a group of children she had smuggled out of Greece. She later returned to work as a dietitian in the displaced persons’ camp in Siderokastro,...