My Account Sign up for eNews

Folktales of Joha, Jewish Trickster

By Matilda Koen-Sarano (editor), Tamar Alexander (foreword), Ezra Masch (illustrator)

Thanks to Maurice Amado Foundation for making publication of this book possible.


Translated from the Judeo-Spanish (Ladino) by David Herman

"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 asembled by folklorist Matilda Koen-Sarano and felicitously translated by David Herman... Read Matilda Koen-Sarano's laugh-out-loud collection..."
- Congress Monthly


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 Kon-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 Kon-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.


About 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.

About Ezra Masch

Ezra Masch is a student at the Rhode Island School of Design. This is his first book.