Ladino is the language of Jews of Spanish origin who after the expulsion from Spain in 1492 became scattered over the Ottoman Empire, Central Europe, the Balkans, and North Africa. Based on 14th and 15th Castilian Spanish, over the centuries words were added from Hebrew, Arabic, Greek, Turkish, French, Portuguese, and Italian. With the influx of immigrants to Israel, several words from Yiddish were adopted by Ladino speakers. Until the 20th Century Ladino was written in Hebrew letters or in Rashi script, but in recent years the Latin alphabet has been used. The Ladino literature is rich in Biblical commentary, liturgy, poetry, stories, proverbs, and folk songs. Many of the Ladino-speaking communities of Europe perished in the Holocaust. In 1996 Israel established a National Authority for Ladino Culture, headed by Yitzhak Navon, the Fifth President of the State, with the aim of encouraging and supporting Ladino heritage and language.
The medal was issued with the consultation and assistance of Yitzhak Navon and Mordechai Arbel.
On the face, the word “Ladino” and a line from a famous Ladino poem expressing yearning for Jerusalem written in Rashi script; in the background decorative scrollwork from the synagogue in Toledo. Around the edge the words “The Language of the Sefardi Jews” in Hebrew and English.
On the back, windows typical of the Toledo Synagogue and verses from Psalms “Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself” and “Happy are they who dwell in thy house: they are ever praising thee”.
Artist and Illustrator Ben-Zion Nachmias.