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B'siyata d'shmaya - With the help of Heaven

'A Sephardic Lament'

An Original Poem by Shelomo Alfassá

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Selected and Published in Poetica Magazine / Summer 2010

A Sephardic Lament

Banished from our homes they impounded our possessions,
Destroying our lives, we were noble Castilians;

Nothing in our hands, our backs and carts empty;
They legislated our possessions into the purse of the principality;

On monarchical authority they cast out a golden gem;
The population of Judíos, the most respected of gentlemen;

Commencing with Spain then Portugal we ran for our lives,
As the Church pursued us in their desire to proselytize;

We were of the aristocracy, but this did not matter,
We were banished en masse in an Iberian Diaspora;

Our lot was scattered, a people pushed by the breeze,
Eastward we ventured, across the sea and Pyrenees;

Over the mountains we trekked with great difficulty,
Finding liberation from tyranny in countries of the East;

To the sea we went as refugees, to the breast of the Sultan,
Clinging for life, driven and homeless;

Battered and weakened, our journey was harsh,
It cost countless lives, many were lost;

Our fathers settled in the land of the Crescent,
It was there among the Muslims we made our residence;

Never returning, we kept our native tongue,
Speaking Castilian under the warm Ottoman sun;

For all we had to pass on was the language of our native soil,
A vernacular which was cherished, in our new Turkish abode;

They say tolerance existed within the Sublime Porte,
But as Dhimmis we existed, second class, with no recourse;

We suffered it out, a bit battered but alive,
500 years afterward we still struggle to survive;

In the 20th century we fled from the Sultan,
Scattering ourselves into worldwide oblivion;

Although it was not on purpose, we made a tragic mistake,
We seperated ourselves from the community, our people, and our ways;

Jumbled among the world cultures and religions we tested our fate,
Until we lost our Torah, our languague, and now, it's too late.

This lament is about the 25,000 Spanish Sephardim that came from Ottoman Turkey, Greece and the Balkans to the United States in the early 20th century, only to have soon after assimilated away. This poem was written while the author was in Toledo, Spain in 1997. It was published in 2010.


'A Sephardic Lament'
by Shelomo Alfassá

This Poem May Not be
Reprinted Without Permission

Shelomo Alfassá, Toledo, 1997


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