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  • Naime Salti, surrounded by (left to right) Yehoshua Salti, Bar-Ilan University President Prof. Moshe Kaveh, and Greek Ambassador to Israel Kyriakos Loukakis, cuts the ribbon to officially open the new home of the Salti Ladino Center

    Salti Center for Ladino Studies Celebrates the Opening of its New Home

    Date: 2011-06-15 Hour: 20:30

    A festive ribbon-cutting ceremony and symposium marked the opening of a new home for Bar-Ilan University's Naime and Yehoshua Salti Center for Ladino Studies.

    "After much anticipation, we now have a comfortable place to work, a respectable library in which to conduct research in Ladino as a language and as a culture, and a place where students can meet and exchange ideas while preserving the language and its spirit," said Salti Center Director Prof. Shmuel Refael at the festive ceremony. The new quarters are located in the Faculty of Jewish Studies Building.

    The ceremony was held in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Salti, Ladino Center patrons Mrs. Nelly Sefiha, of Thessaloniki, Greece, and Mr. Andre Levy, of Lisbon, Portugal, and the Ambassador of Greece to Israel Mr. Kyriakos Loukakis.

    Bar-Ilan University President Prof. Moshe Kaveh thanked the Salti couple for fulfilling the dream of having a proper home for the prestigious Ladino Center, and for its committed and dedicated director, Prof. Refael. "Just as I appreciate and admire Yiddish speakers, I appreciate and admire Ladino speakers," said Prof. Kaveh. "It is vital to preserve these languages, which are testimony to the cultural diversity of the people of Israel, and common in exile all over the world. The Bar-Ilan Ladino Center is the best of its kind in Israel, and we hope to turn it into one of the leading centers in the world for Ladino research," added Prof. Kaveh, who, together with the Saltis, unveiled the dedicatory plaque at the entrance to the Ladino Center's new quarters.

    The ceremony was followed by a symposium featuring lectures by two prominent Bar-Ilan University faculty members: Prof. Miriam Shlesinger, of the Department of Translation and Interpreting Studies, whose lecture was entitled "In defense of heritage languages in a 'Global' age", and Prof. Ora Schwartzwald, of the Department of Hebrew and Semitic Languages.

    Speaking at the opening of the symposium, University Rector Prof. Haim Taitelbaum, a physicist, compared the Salti Ladino Center to diffusion-limited aggregation (DLA), a process whereby particles cluster together to form aggregates of such particles. "At Bar-Ilan University, we have diffusion-Ladino aggregation. One by one people have clustered together to form a lovely group which perpetuates Ladino heritage language and culture, and the Saltis enable this cluster to grow and to nurture," said Prof. Taitelbaum.

    Mr. Yehoshua Salti praised the work being done at the Ladino Center. "I am convinced that the work done by the Ladino Center is extremely important. In a very short period seven Ph.D. students have completed their study at the Center and another six are working hard on their thesis," he said.

    Mrs. Nelly Sefiha, widow of the late Andreas Sefiha, who served as president of the Jewish community of Thessaloniki, and Mr. Andre Levy, of Lisbon, Portugal, were recognized at the symposium for their contributions to the Salti Center.

    "Thank you for honoring the memory of my father, whose vision was to restore the Jewish community after it was decimated by the Holocaust," said Larry Sefiha, Vice President of the Jewish community in Thessaloniki. "He realized that Ladino was an important element in this preservation of our heritage, and Bar-Ilan University is an important center for the language of Sephardic Jews."

    Mr. Andre Levy, who donated a rare Ladino book collection to the Salti Center, called upon members of the audience to show their support for the State of Isael and said he was touched by the presence of the Greek ambassador. "This shows that relations between Greece and Israel are improving," said Levy.