Folktales of Joha Jewish Trickster

Categories: ,
  • Matilda Koen-Sarano (editor)
  • David Herman (translator)
  • Tamar Alexander (foreword)
  • Ezra Masch (illustrator)
Read More and Buy

About the Book

Joha has Janus’s double face: On the one hand, he is innocent and stupid; on the other, a trickster. He is a cheater and is cheated. He sets traps for others and falls into traps himself; he is simpleton and liar, victimizer and victim. But as a literary figure he never dies. The nearly 300 stories in this lovely volume are from Sephardic oral literature and ethnic culture. They were told to Matilda Koen-Sarano in their original language, Judeo-Spanish (Ladino), and documented over 21 years. From 17 countries, including the United States, they come together in this first-ever collection of Joha stories to appear in English. Known in some places as Ladino, Judeo-Spanish is a living remnant of the Spanish spoken by the Spanish Jews at the end of the 15th century. Matilda Koen-Sarano, born to a Sephardic family, has devoted her life to the conservation and revitalization of this language, culture, and heritage. Joha, according to Ladino tradition, is a popular folklore character, one who is conniving yet also beguiling. He plays many roles: He makes us laugh; liberates us from taboos; makes it possible to tell the whole, sometimes painful, truth in a humorous way; and helps us triumph over our enemies through laughter. These stories have entertained generations of Sephardic children and adults and will delight readers of any age.


This is a wonderful collection of folktales [that] educate by means of example and evoke laughter, reflecting a past rich in history, culture, and traditions.
Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
Marvelous and funny collection of hundreds of Joha stories assembled by folklorist Matilda Koen-Sarano and felicitously translated by David Herman. . . . Read Matilda Koen-Sarano’s laugh-out-loud collection.
Congress Monthly

Matilda Koen-Sarano

Matilda Kon-Sarano is a writer, scholar, poet, and storyteller. She has a B.A. in Italian literature, Judeo-Spanish, and folklore. She is a broadcaster for the Israeli radio Kol Israel, where she not only reports the news in Ladino but also hosts her own programs featuring Judeo-Spanish music, folktales, and poetry.


David Herman

Tamar Alexander

Ezra Masch

Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Subscribe to JPS News