Throughout the world, wherever Jews have lived, they have spoken and written differently from their non-Jewish neighbors. Some of their languages have differed by only a few embedded Hebrew words, but others have been so different in grammar and pronunciation that Jews and non-Jews could barely communicate. Most longstanding Jewish languages are now endangered, but new ones are emerging. Many people have heard of Aramaic, Yiddish, and Ladino, but knowledge of other Jewish languages is less common, such as Judeo-Greek, Jewish Malayalam, and contemporary Jewish French. On this site you will find resources on these and other languages, including dictionaries, maps, videos, and statistics. You can connect with researchers and translators and find answers to common questions, and you can view videos of lectures and of people speaking and singing the languages. Learning about Jewish languages leads to a better understanding of the diversity of the Jewish diaspora and what happens when languages come into contact.
What languages have Jews around the world spoken? Which are thriving, and which are endangered? Professor Sarah Bunin Benor answers these questions using three examples: Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Tat/Juhuri (spoken in Azerbaijan and Dagestan), and Judeo-Median (a group of non-Persian languages spoken in Iran). This lecture is part of an online exhibit about Passover, featuring a Zoom haggadah, videos of Passover songs in Jewish languages, and images of Passover tables around the world.
Jews around the world are using Zoom, YouTube, and other platforms for services and events. The auto-transcripts are generally filled with errors - rendering Hebrew words as completely unrelated English words. The Jewish Language Project is working to fix this problem. Learn more here.
You get an invitation to your friend's wedding, and it includes the word "chuppah." What is that? Do you pronounce it HOO-pah? TSHUP-ah? khoo-PAH? The Jewish Language Project will answer this and many more such questions by adding pronunciation recordings to the Jewish English Lexicon. Learn more here.
Many Jewish languages are endangered, including several from Iran. While most Iranian Jews today speak Persian/Farsi, there is still a small cohort of elderly Jews who speak Judeo-Shirazi, Judeo-Hamadani, Judeo-Yazdi, Judeo-Isfahani, Jewish Neo-Aramaic, and other Iranian languages that are quite different from Persian. Some of these languages have little or no documentation, and if we don't record the speakers soon, it will be too late. The Jewish Language Project is addressing this problem in collaboration with the Endangered Language Alliance, Wikitongues, and the Y&S Nazarian Iranian Young Leadership Initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Do you or someone you know speak one of these languages? If so, please complete this form. On this site, you can learn more about endangered Iranian Jewish languages, and you can contribute financially to this important initiative.
The Jewish Language Project is proud to present an exhibit of student work from undergraduate classes on Jewish languages. Check out the videos, podcasts, and papers on topics ranging from endangered Jewish languages to sociolinguistic analysis of contemporary comedic media involving Jewish English.