On 15 September 2014, UNESCO and the B'nai B’rith Representation to UNESCO are co-organizing a symposium entitled "Judeo-Spanish Paths and Mediterranean Heritage" on the occasion of European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage.
Following the symposium organized in 2012 at UNESCO by the B'nai B'rith Representation to UNESCO, this event aims to shed light on a language that UNESCO included in the “Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger”, first published in 1996.
The presence of the Sephardim in the Mediterranean can be traced through ports of call but mostly through networks. Their journeys began in the Iberian Peninsula, from which they were expelled in 1492. Their migrations led them to settle in different parts of America, Western Europe and the Mediterranean.
The resulting intermingling of cultures and languages had wide-reaching consequences for the development of folklore and music in the Judaeo-Spanish cultural area, thereby bearing witness to the great potential of exchange and dialogue for the mutual enrichment of cultures.The creation of a distinct cultural area within the former Ottoman Empire was particularly propitious to the emergence of a new vernacular language: Eastern Judaeo-Spanish.
Places of settlement in the Mediterranean, especially in the Balkans, will be showcased: from Majorca to Bulgaria and Istanbul – where the language is still alive and taught – via Thessaloniki known as “the Mother of Israel” and Venice, situated at the crossroads of Christian Europe and the Ottoman Empire.
In a series of presentations and round tables, experts from the Universities of Picardie, Paris-7 Diderot, Bordeaux and Venice, the School for Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations (INALCO), the Hellenic Open University, and the Institute for the History of Jews in Germany (Hamburg) will debate the diaspora’s diversity and exchange views on its inherent unity and creativity, particularly from a linguistic perspective.
This symposium will conclude with a concert of Sephardic songs sung by two of the most prestigious artists of this art, Françoise Atlan and Sandra Bessis.
This symposium has received the support of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Mr Pierre Bergé.