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For Turkey's youngest Jews, ancestral tongue fading away

Turkey’s Sephardic Jewish community has mobilized efforts to save the Ladino language from extinction, but after decades of repression, the swell of interest in their heritage language sounds more like a swan song.
Istanbul Jewish community members Eftali Pinto (L) and Aviel Kohen (9), use shofars, musical instruments made from the horn of a ram or other kosher animal, during the re-opening ceremony of the Great Synagogue in Edirne, western Turkey March 26, 2015. A five-year, $2.5 million government project has restored the Great Synagogue in the border city of Edirne, the first temple to open in Turkey in two generations. The opening is part of a relaxation of curbs on religious minorities during President Tayyip Erd

For the young generation of Sephardic Jews in Turkey, their ancestral tongue, Ladino, is just a few words for Grandma's cuisine, a line or two from old songs and some snappy insults.

UNESCO considers Ladino, also known as Judeo-Spanish or Judezmo, a severely endangered language. In Turkey, it is spoken by only about 10,000 people, mostly around Istanbul and Izmir. Other Ladino-speaking communities in Greece and North Africa have also diminished, according to the Unesco Atlas. Israel has declared Ladino endangered as well, and has established a National Authority for the Ladino language and culture.

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