An Ode to Salonika

An Ode to Salonika

The Ladino Verses of Bouena Sarfatty
Renée Levine Melammed
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 04/30/2013
Format: Hardback 16 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00681-3
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Winner, 2014 Canadian Jewish Book Awards, biography/memoir category

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.

Author Bio

Renée Levine Melammed is Dean of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem and author of Heretics or Daughters of Israel: The Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile and A Question of Identity: Iberian Conversos in Historical Perspective. She is academic editor of Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women's Studies & Gender Issues, published by IUP, and a columnist for the Jerusalem Post.


“An important contribution to Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) studies as well as to the history of Greek Jews during Holocaust. Melammed has done her best to present Bouena's impressive text.”
 — Shmuel Refael, Bar-Ilan University

“These verses provide an amazing entrée into the history and fate of a community [Salonika] destroyed during the Holocaust.1/28/14”
 — Jerusalem Post

“This fine volume provides indispensable insights into the lives of the Jews of Salonika in the years before and during the Holocaust, both in the words of Bouena Sarfatty herself and in the author's presentation.”
 — Sephardic Horizons

“In small doses of verse, Sarfatty thoroughly, yet succinctly, explains, describes and preserves Salonikan and Sephardic life. In each section, Melammed provides a thorough historical background and perspective for the coplas. This is an excellent book for the student of Sephardic Jewry.”
 — AJL Reviews

“Melammed’s meticulous translation of Sarfatty’s coplas, which express both the tonality and cultural distinctiveness of Sephardi Jewish life, is a genuine contribution to scholarship and deserves praise.September 2013”
 — H-Judaic

“What a pleasure and joy for us, the Ladino speakers, to have gained another marvelous book where we read memories written in Ladino about Salonika . . . It is also a joy for those who know English and are interested in Sephardi culture and history . . . In whatever language, this is a book that will make you smile and cry, reminisce and think and learn a great deal.”
 — eSefarad

“[T]hose wanting insight into the world of Greek Jews before, during, and after the Holocaust are likely to find this unique work well worth their time.”
 — Jewish Book Council

“The appeal of Levine Melammed’s work is not limited to a small group of specialists. The book is accessible to a much wider public, including laypersons and student readers who may not be familiar with the history of the period or its pertinent poetic genres. . . . Melammed’s new book will certainly become a classic reference handbook to be cited by historians, philologists and social anthropologists. ”
 — Nashim

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Table of Contents

Introduction: 20th Century Salonika and Bouena’s Ladino Coplas
1. Bouena’s Ode to Salonika
2. Tradition versus Modernity and Historical Developments
3. Coplas Written by Bouena Sarfatty Garfinkle about Life in Salonika
4. "The Miseries the Germans Inflicted on Salonika"
5. Coplas about the Miseries that the Germans Inflicted upon Salonika from 1941-1943
Index of Community Members’ Names That Appear in the Coplas

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