March 21, 2007 Scenes from "Golgotha" To Be Performed on April 20

Playwright Shmuel Refael to Introduce His Work About Holocaust Remembrance

Press Contact: Audrey Fischer (202) 707-0022
Public Contact: Gail Shirazi (202) 707-9897

Greek and Ladino-speaking Sephardic Jews (Spanish/Middle Eastern descent) were among the 6 million who died in the Holocaust during World War II. However, their plight has often been overshadowed by that of Ashkenazi Jews (German/East European descent).

Israeli actor Victor Attar, playing the role of Greek Holocaust survivor Albert Salvado, will read selectively from a one-man play by Shmuel Refael titled “Golgotha” at noon on Friday, April 20, in the Mary Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the Library’s James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The program, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Hebraic Section of the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division and the Hebrew Language Table, in cooperation with the Embassy of Israel.

Golgotha is an old Ladino (Judeo-Spanish) term for suffering and has traditionally been applied as the name for the site where Jesus Christ was crucified. The suffering many Ladino-speaking Jews experienced is captured in the play through the inner turmoil experienced by Albert in the isolation of his dark apartment, where he has nothing but a photograph to remind him of the family he lost during the war. The honor of being chosen to light the torch at the annual Holocaust commemoration in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem is overshadowed by his guilt at being the sole survivor of his family and his identity as a Sephardic Jew.

Shmuel Refael is director of the Naime and Yehoshua Salti Center for Ladino Studies at Bar Ilan University in Israel. The play was inspired by the experiences of his father, a Greek Holocaust survivor, and by research he conducted for a book on the Holocaust experiences of Ladino-speaking Jews, which was commissioned in 2001 by the foreign ministry of Spain. With the help of director Geula Jeffet Attar and actor Victor Attar, Refael adapted his findings into an electrifying multimedia experience of spoken word, music and video. They will take part in a panel discussion following the presentation.

Also known as Judezmo or Judeo-Spanish, Ladino is the vernacular language of Ottoman Sephardic Jews, themselves the descendants of Sephardi exiles from the Iberian Peninsula. These Jews lived primarily in the Balkan Peninsula under Ottoman Turkish rule until the beginning of the 20th century. The Library’s Hebraic Section has custody of approximately 400 Hebrew-script Ladino books, plus more than 200 titles from the Harvard College Library that are available on microfiche. The Library’s General Collections house more than 200 Ladino-language books in Latin characters. Other Ladino materials at the Library of Congress include sound recordings and newspapers. A project is under way to make a complete listing of Ladino titles held by the Library accessible online at


PR 07-055
ISSN 0731-3527