Chronicling his heritage through a newsletter and a book.
Joe Modiano, a Cincinnati native, grew up in a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual household. His father, despite his Italian surname, was raised in Greece, while his mother was from Istanbul. Both were from Jewish families and spoke various languages, but both spoke Ladino, a Judeo-Spanish dialect. They bonded over their shared language. Joe grew up speaking English and Ladino while practicing Judaism. His connection to language and culture has shaped much of his life.
While in school, he was often teased about his Italian name. “Being a foreigner was not a good thing back then,” he says. “You hid your origins, but you couldn’t hide your religion.”
While he served as a bazooka man in WWII, his platoon leader, a Jewish man, would tease Joe about his last name, but when he learned that Joe was Jewish, he began to treat him with more respect and, “that made all the difference,” Joe says.
After being injured in the war, Joe returned home and married one of his sister’s best friends. The couple had two children together, and though his wife has passed and he has remarried, his children and other family have kept the family heritage going strong. They contribute to the Modiano Newsletter, which is sent to family members all over the country.
Today Joe lives at Carmel Senior Living. He recently turned 95 and is writing his memoirs to chronicle his unique history.