Dr. Abraham Chaim

Lucky La Crosse for having higher learning institutions to be able to share benefits of international research. Jesús Jambrina, one of my former Viterbo University’s World Languages and Cultures Department colleagues’s research of the Jews of Zamora, Spain led to being awarded the Medal of the Four Synagogues 3 years ago and Dr. Abraham Haim, President of the Council of Jewish Sephardi Community of Jerusalem returned recently with a Diploma of Recognition for the inclusion of the topic of Sephardic Jews in courses, research and campus activities at Viterbo.

During Dr. Haim’s weeklong visit he gave numerous presentations throughout our area regarding the Sephardi ( Spanish Jews) and their Ladino language. The Thursday of his visit he had a meeting breakfast followed by a road trip to talk on Decorah’s Luther College campus before speaking to our La Crosse Congregation Sons of Abraham that evening where he received a warm welcome and dinner.

Prof. Jesús Jambrina and Dr. Abraham Haim

During that visit Dr. Haim gave a brief talk of Ladino history accompanied with examples of Ladino music. He sang some songs acapela and others accompanied on guitar by spiritual leader Brian Serle along with some group singing.

Below is a bit of the translation of La Mujer de Terah, a well known Ladino song with its lyrics and melody…

In order of appearance in the video Dr. Haim, Prof. Jambrina ( scarf), Rabbi Prombaum ( powder blue sweater) and Spiritual Leader Brian Serle (burgundy sweater)

The following morning courtesy of our public library, I attended a more extensive overview of the Sefardi, Spanish and Portuguese Jews who in 1496-7 had to go into exile with their culture of music, foods and Ladino language.

Using the basic “W” question words Dr. Haim answered the questions regarding the Sephardí, the Jewish Spaniards:

Where did they live? They lived on the Iberian peninsula but not limited to the Andaluz geographical location although it was the center of Jewish life in the Middle Ages close to Granada, the sea, in the capitals, towns and cities, Majorca, the Canary Isles, etc..

When did the Sephardí exist? Differing opinions as to whether it 586 BCE after the destruction of the first synagogue or the same date the 9th of Av in 70 AD after the destruction of the second Temple.

Who were the Sephardí? After the 15th century these Spanish Jews were numerous proud, cultural and creative ~600,000 of the world’s 1.5 million world Jews integrated Spain. They were culturally moderate without losing their identity.

During the muslamic 7 years of rule after invading and conquering Spain (except for Las Asturias in the north) Muslims, Jews and Christians coexisted. The Jews’s position was affected (711-719) but treated better than living under the visigoths and even African jews also immigrated to the Iberian peninsula like Western European Jews who would eventually move where they could practice their Judaism in Spain.

During the Golden Age the Sephardí were accepted in society and flourished religiously, culturally, and economically.

It wasn’t until the end of the Golden Age and new Berber rule that Jewish persecution and a massacre occurred in Granada and both Muslims and Jews fled to Toledo which had been reconquered by Christian forces (1085)

After the reconquest, the Jews translated arabic texts into the romance languages and “also contributed to botany, geography, medicine, mathematics, poetry and philosophy.” A synagogue was built in Toledo ~ 1205 .

The Ottoman Empire controlled most of southeastern Europe from the 15th- early 20th Century… The Jews continued to begin new lives elsewhere.

“The anti-Jewish riots of 1391 and the Alhambra Decree of 1492, as a result of which the majority of Jews in Spain (around 300,000) converted to Catholicism and those who continued to practice Judaism (between 40,000 and 80,000) were forced into exile, although many thousands including Moroccan jews returned in the years following the expulsion.”

Ferdinand and Isabel united with nobility for the 1492 Inquisition forced the Jews to either convert to Catholicism, be killed (buried alive)/ be expelled. 1/3 of the Jewish population left Spain.

The Sephardi who went to neighboring France and Germany were eventually expelled in 1920. They lost their property, careers and but their culture was left in tact. The same thing happened in Portugal after 5 years …

What language did they speak? They spoke dialects of Catalan but moved so much that their ladino language which is a mixture of Spanish and Yiddish served as a common thread. Language changes include j-ch, the change of the r and d sounds, u vs o. Those who speak Spanish can understand it due to its Spanish roots.

Some converts returned to Judaism. Other Sephardi who survived, immigrated to Israel at the end of the 19th Century. Many people of Spanish descent are still discovering their Sefardí roots. In 2014, the descendants of Sephardi Jews who were exiled in 1492 were offered Spanish citizenship, without being required to move to Spain and/or renounce any other citizenship which they currently may have.”

Like yiddish the future of the ladino language is in danger of disappearing. Dr. Haim reminded us the written word will live on forever…

Thank you for returning to La Crosse Dr. Haim and sharing your Sephardic heritage.


There’s one common question that’s part of many our greetings that I admittedly have also used in error. It’s tagged on a hello asking about one’s health. “Hi, how are you doing?” I, like you, probably were taught it was polite to inquire about someone’s health.

Yet, most people don’t really want to know about your health and most of us usually don’t answer honestly and politely respond with a “Fine.” Yet, others might avoid answering the question by just repeating it back to the asker. Beware, there are those of us who will tell you like it is and we generally aren’t prepared/want that answer.

My Natureman used to shock my family with his answer of ” Great.” He truly felt blessed with his life – what he does, where he lives and how he felt physically and emotionally. Seriously, how many folks do you know would answer ‘great’?

Well, now his response might also take someone aback with his directness. He answers “I have cancer.” I suggested he might want to soften that a bit. He said it helps him to say it. Yep, it truly is ‘our’ reality. So asking someone who you know has a terminal illness/ has a loved one who does turns out to be a very loaded question.

There’s a possibility I could manage to say that today Natureman feels fine but knowing meds are coming in less than 2 weeks, we know he won’t feel so fine. Let me add being asked how I’m doing right now can bring a look of disbelief with no verbal response. Really, ask yourself how would you feel? Also this respondent may just end up in tears on certain days. Also pretty uncomfortable…

So I’ll tell you what I try to remember to do with my friends who have a terminal illness/it’s in their household, I try to remember to not ask how they are doing. I figure if they want to talk about health they will, but most likely they’d like to have a break not having to talk about it.

Just like it’s polite to wish people a Happy Holidays to be all inclusive let me wish you all “May you and yours be blessed to be in good health this holiday season…”


Some beings are just more touchy feely than others. I even know folks who do not like to be hugged. This is not the case in our household. We have a 4 legged resident alias Balto who gets attention even when he doesn’t demand it and he demands it a lot.

He’s can be pretty irresistible as the photo below attests.

A special bonding moment with one of our new daughter-in-laws…

Do you have any hug photos you’d like to share? Please do.

Jennifer sent me this hugging photo of her Dad , eldest son and first grandbaby. xoxo

Last week’s FOTO FRIDAY was The Bird at: https://lifeintheendoftherainbowvalley.blog/2019/12/02/foto-friday-the-bird/


I received more than a couple requests for the carrot soufflé recipe my daughter prepared on Turkey Day.

( original source: Iowa City friend Marge I have also seen it in Southern Living)

Here’s the recipe:


1 lb cooked carrots

3 eggs

1/3 c granulated sugar

3 T matzo cake meal

1 tsp vanilla

1 stick margarine melted

 1 T margarine melted

Dash nutmeg

¼-1/2 cup chopped pecans

3T brown sugar (packed)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine carrots & eggs in blender until smooth.

Add sugar, matzo meal, vanilla, 1 stick margarine & nutmeg-blend well.

Turn into 1 quart soufflé dish.

Combine 1 T margarine, pecans & brown sugar.

Sprinkle on top of carrot mixture.

Bake for 40 minutes.


It’s amazing how much life a 2 year old can add to a normally quiet End of the Rainbow Valley. Ms. H. definitely delivered levity to our Thanksgiving get together.

There were an extra 12 hands and 4 paws to help entertain her when her own weren’t already busy.

Whether it was wooden blocks from her uncles’s younger days/an even older Effanbee baby doll that was mine and then her mother’s and now Ms. H’s , she was as busy as a bee. Flitting here and there spreading her enthusiasm.

The cement floor was a great surface for zooming/ being pushed about on her loaned vehicle. I must admit I did remove the batteries with all the bells and whistles during her next nap. Ssssh , don’t tell!

Our two Amish rockers got extra mileage as Ms. H. would tell whoever was closest to “Sit ” ( and we all had to laugh as it sounded like she added an additional H sound). BUT who could refuse the Boss? Since the adult kids really took care of everything, we actually did have a lot of time to sit, rock and visit with her. She got to choose who would read her night time stories too.

Her lack of naps and time change did catch up with her with a couple of melt downs but on the whole she was a very happy girl. Most evenings she just konked out tired from her busy days. AND it should not come as a surprise to you, so did we!

Her sense of wonder whether it was the excitement using her new snow boots during her first real snowfalls, making a snowman and snow angel will always be special memories.

Natureman and I are really going to miss having her here in the End of the Rainbow Valley breaking that sound of silence…


It’s been more than a couple of years since a brined turkey has graced our Thanksgiving table…

Thanks to new daughter-in-law Leah whose employer gave their employees turkeys and a husband who is a great cook, we enjoyed a savory juicy turkey this past Turkey Day. 18 pounds of brined goodness.

Once carved its carcass went into the crock pot and became a terrific turkey broth to which I threw in carrots, celery, onion, a little extra seasoning with a bouquet of sage and thyme. We awoke to a house filled with the aroma of turkey. Matzoh balls were added which made for a great Friday night dinner soup.

This Balto wore his turkey well…

Last week’s FOTO FRIDAY was ROCKY ROAD, completed in time for a snow fall and a lot of company…

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