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August 11, 2016 12:28 pm

A New York Times ‘Correction’ Needs Its Own Correction

avatar by Ira Stoll

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A coin with a reference to the Ladino language. Photo: Wikipedia/Pintrest.

A coin with a reference to the Ladino language. Photo: Wikipedia/Pintrest.

How woefully uninformed and inaccurate is the New York Times when it comes to basic Jewish culture and tradition?

The newspaper can’t even get its corrections right.

Today’s Times carries the following correction:

An opera review on July 30 about “The Exterminating Angel” by Thomas Adès, at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, misidentified the source of a set of variations Mr. Adès wrote in the work. It is a song from the Landino tradition of Sephardic Jews, not a song by the 14th-century composer Landini.

The “Landino tradition of Sephardic Jews”??

No entry on that topic in my Encyclopedia Judaica. Nothing in Google, either. The Times almost certainly means Ladino, which is a language of Sephardic Jews. But Ladino is, well, Ladino, not “Landino,” as the Times misspells it in the correction.

In an interview published elsewhere, Mr. Adès explains, “The variations that Blanca performs on the piano in Act One are of course not really by Paradisi but my own variations on the Ladino song ‘Lavaba la blanca niña,’ which has an unassuageable harmonic structure very typical of Jewish music of longing and bereavement.”

Ladino, not “Landino,” got it?

You might think that, having gotten this wrong once already, the Times would be extra careful to get it right the second time around. But no. Maybe all the competent editors over there are on summer vacation?

This one is right up there with previous Times Jewish illiteracy classics such as mistranslating “mitzvah” as blessing (still not corrected). Or the New York Times article from earlier this year headlined, “For Juicy Beef for Your Seder Table, Look Beyond Brisket,” that generated the classic Times correction, suitable for framing in any kosher kitchen: “An earlier version of this article incorrectly implied that beef tenderloin is kosher and appropriate for Passover. It is not kosher, but other cuts of beef that are kosher may be used in the recipe in its place.” It’s as inaccurate as another story requiring another recent Times correction, the one in which the newspaper miscounted the number of pages in the Talmud.

Look forward to the correction of the correction in some future edition of the New York Times. And look forward to more embarrassing corrections from the Times on basic Jewish related matters for as long as the newspaper keeps getting rid of experienced editors through round after round of buyouts, or fails to run articles concerning Jewish matters by an editor with deep Jewish knowledge, or at least one with basic Jewish literacy.

If the Times is looking for a classical music critic who is Jewishly literate, it could try to pick up Jeremy Eichler from the Boston Globe, who is terrific. But alas, it seems like a pretty low priority to the Times.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.  

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  • Judith Cohen

    Actually, first of all there are no 14th century Ladino songs. For that matter, there isn’t a 14th century Ladino. And no, the Moroccan Jews do not call their spoken Judeo-Spanish Ladino; they call it haketía. Ladino technically refers only to the literal translation from Hebrew, as in “ha-laila ha-zeh” – “la noche la esta”, mostly for religious texts. The spoken language is refrred to as haketía in Morocco, and in the former Ottoman lands as Dzhudezmo, Dzidio, Spaniol, sometimes even zhargón…. Today, popularly, the term “Ladino” has come to be used for any aspect of Judeo-Spanish, including all the above, though less among Moroccan Sephardim. But perhaps Mr Stoll ought to begin by asking himself why he uncritically accepts the notion of a 14th-century Ladino song (“Lavaba la blanca niña” uses a much later melody for an old narrative ballad text which does indeed go back to early Spain days but not in that form and certainly not in that melody – and not as early as the 14th century; the first narrative ballads, romances, in this form show up in the 1420s.) Finally, there is no such thing as “an unassuageable harmonic structure very typical of Jewish music of longing and bereavement.” First, there is no harmonic structure. Second, there is no GENERAL “Jewish music of longing and bereavement.” And in any case, these ballads are typically sung in a pretty matter-of-fact manner…. Before scoffing at the NYT’s ignorance, Mr Stoll might consider checking his own.

  • ‘Ami Artsi

    I am a sepharadic Jew, and I want to tell here that the ladino is NOT the language of every sepharadic Jews, but only the Morrocan ones.

    The ladino is a mix of hebrew and spanish languages.

    In Tunisia and In Algeria, our language was the jew-arabic one (a mix of hebrew and arabic + specific phrases like “Shkouna da ?” (meaning “Who’s that ?” or “Who’s there ?”), “Shnou’a da ?” (“Where ?”), and many many many more…

    • ‘Ami Artsi

      We call sepharadic jews the Jews who lived in Spain… and their children and grand children who lived in North Africa.

      In Maroco, Jews kept on talking Ladino, but everywhere else in North Africa, Jews talked the jew-arabic language.

      • ‘Ami Artsi

        My grand-mother, my grand-father, my grand-aunt, my mother and my aunt wre born in Tunis (in Tunisia).

      • Jose tolerao

        Well Ladino was spoken among the Jews of the Ottoman Empire and the Jews of
        Salonica in Greece . All exiled from the Iberic peninsula . A form of Ladino was spoken in Northern Morocco and called Haketia. All North African Jews did not come from the exiled of two Inquisitions and some were there at Roman times . Some came between the 7th and 12th Century from parts of Muslim Spain as from time to time Muslim rulers varied their “tolerance levels”.

    • Sarah Schaffer

      Um, Ami, Ladino was spoken all over the Sepharadi world – wherever Sepaharadim settled, they continued their language, traditions and foods – all over the Meditteranean, Ottoman Empire (including what is now Israel), Syria, even the Netherlands. And the traditions have lasted for 5 centuries. Most Moroccans are not Sepharadi, although the ones that were, did continue the traditions.

    • Sarah

      “I am a sepharadic Jew, and I want to tell here that the ladino is NOT the language of every sepharadic Jews, but only the Morrocan ones.

      My best friend is from Turkey where the every-day language in her home and community was Ladino. She attends Ladino group meetings in Israel where we both live, and there is a wide range of Jews from various countries (many from the Balkans) who spoke Ladino on a daily basis. She tells me that Ladino is an early Spanish dialect which is written in Hebrew, not mixture of the two languages.

  • The New York Times has NOT got anything wrong as their mandate is antisemitism, anti Israel, pro Islam and pro Clinton and Obama. Please do not buy this rag unless you, of course, agree with their false reports.

  • richard sherwin

    the only jewishness the NYT fails to uncorrect is its own…

  • Ephraim

    The days of competent editors at the times is long since past, especially regarding anything to do with Jews.

  • Lia

    Mr Stoll, you render the public a wonderdul service. It’s not enough that the NYT is incompetent, but readers/prospective readers should also know that the journalists know virtually nothing and are not expected to learn.

  • Martin Bookspan

    The proper use for the New York Times these days is as a wrapping for smelly fish……

  • Martin Bookspan

    The only thing the New York Times is good for these days is as a wrapping for smelly fish…….