The question of the hour: can a Sephardi-Ashkenazi romance survive?
The following letters originally appeared in a Ladino newspaper, La Bos del Pueblo. They were translated into English by Aviva Ben-Ur and are excerpted below from Sephardi Lives: A Documentary History 1700-1950:
In early-twentieth-century New York City, as elsewhere in the United States, immigrant communities of Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi Jews and Ladino-speaking Sephardi Jews settled in the same neighborhoods. Many Yiddish-speaking immigrants had their first chance to meet Sephardim under these circumstances. Although young Sephardi and Ashkenazi immigrants often met on the street, in schools, and in the workplace, they spoke different languages, had different cultural mores and religious rites, and even pronounced Hebrew differently. As a result many Ashkenazim, who formed the vast majority of Jews in the country, had difficulties believing that their Sephardi neighbors were in fact Jews. Frustrated by their Ashkenazi coreligionists’ refusal to recognize them as Jewish, more than one Sephardi man reported being driven to desperation and contemplating offering proof of his Jewishness to incredulous peers by demonstrating that he was circumcised. The following source, written in the form of an advice-seeking letter, a genre that first appeared in New York in the Yiddish-language newspaper Forverts of Abraham Cahan (1860–1951) during this period, describes the various tactics Sephardi immigrants employed to try to gain the recognition and acceptance of their coreligionists.
To the editor of La Bos del Pueblo:
I am a Jewish girl born in Russia who came to America eight years ago. Although I am not remarkably well-educated, I have always wanted to marry a well-educated boy of the Jewish faith.
One of my girlfriends took me to the Oriental ball organized by La Bos del Pueblo, where I met a boy named Jack. . . .