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On this page you will find information about upcoming events and videos of past eventsIf you want to be notified of future events, you can join our email list. If you appreciate this content, we encourage you to make a donation to the Jewish Language Project.

Upcoming events

Upcoming Events

February 5 - April 30, 2023

12-Week Course in Endangered Jewish Languages

Presented with Judaism Unbound / The Un-Yeshiva

Time: Sundays, 10-11:30am Pacific / 1-2:30pm Eastern / 6-7:30pm UK / 8-9:30pm Israel (but note differences for daylight savings; schedule will follow US time)

This 12-part course introduces students to the history, linguistic features, and current status of 10 endangered Jewish languages from around the world. Led by Sarah Bunin Benor, Director, HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, this is a rare opportunity to learn from experts on particular languages, including both senior and up-and-coming scholars. Each session will offer a general overview of a language, including migration patterns, regional dialects, Hebrew/Aramaic words and other features that distinguish the language of Jews, writing systems, how different community members speak differently, and current uses by native and non-native speakers. These engaging lectures will include maps, images, and videos, and there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

  1. February 5: Sarah Bunin Benor: What are Jewish languages?

  2. February 12: Sarah Bunin Benor: How endangered are Jewish languages?

  3. February 19: Bryan Kirschen: Ladino / Judeo-Spanish

  4. February 26: Alan Niku: Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Median, and other Iranian Jewish languages

  5. March 5: Ophira Gamliel: Jewish Malayalam

  6. March 12: Ofra Tirosh-Becker: Judeo-Arabic

  7. March 19: Julia Krivoruchko: Judeo-Greek

  8. March 26: Hilah Kohen: Juhuri

  9. April 2: Ruben Shimonov: Bukharian

  10. April 16: Geoffrey Khan: Jewish Neo-Aramaic

  11. April 23: Aaron Rubin: Judeo-Italian

  12. April 30: Evgeniya Gutova: Judeo-Berber

This course has a sliding-scale fee: $299-$499.

Register here

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March 27-29, 2023

In-person conference in London, UK

Yiddish in the 21st Century

At University College London

Sponsored by University College London and HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project

This in-person conference will include a walk through Hasidic Stamford Hill, a Yiddish Cabaret with Mendy Cahan (YUNG YiDiSH, Tel Aviv), keynote addresses by Isaac L. Bleaman (UC Berkeley) and Lea Schäfer (Philipps Universität Marburg), a panel on Hasidic Yiddish today, and a talk by Sarah Bunin Benor: “Jewbellish and YidLife Crisis: Contemporary Engagement with Yiddish.” Talks will be presented in English and Yiddish with simultaneous translation.

Registration coming soon

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March 30, 2023, 5-7pm

In-person event in Los Angeles, USA

Knowledge of a Literary Language in the Middle Ages: The Case of Hebrew and Aramaic

At Hebrew Union College, 3077 University Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90007

Sponsored by the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project and the USC Casden Institute

Speaker: Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal, Hebrew University

Respondent: Reuven Firestone, Hebrew Union College


After the Q&A, a kosher Israeli dinner will be served, catered by Bibi’s

Suggested donation: $18; RSVP required by March 27; Free parking


How did Jews in the Middle Ages write in Hebrew and Aramaic, languages they didn't speak? In this lecture, linguist Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal will explain how their written language was shaped by their everyday spoken languages, including Arabic, Spanish, and German. Bringing insights from sociolinguistics and second-language acquisition, he will discuss the mutual influence between Jews' spoken and written languages and the special features of literary languages. Then historian Reuven Firestone will offer historical context, drawing from scholarship on medieval Jewish and Islamic texts.

RSVP here

Make your donation here


June 4, 2023 
10-11:30am Pacific / 1-2:30pm Eastern / 8-9:30pm Israel

Online Event

Hebrew and Orthodox Jewish English in "Chanshi"


Sponsored by the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project

The Israeli show Chanshi features a young Orthodox woman from Brooklyn who makes aliyah. In Jerusalem, she encounters a whole new world: the Mizrahi Jews and tough Israeli soldiers she fantasizes about, her religious friend struggling with her sexual orientation, and a gaggle of English-speaking women. Although the show deals with intense issues - such as Israeli politics, religiosity, sexuality, mental illness, and assault - it offers a delightful viewing experience. It also provides an insider’s look into the language of American immigrants to Israel, especially their seamless mixing of Hebrew and Orthodox Jewish English. This event analyzes that language use, bringing two of the show’s creators and stars in conversation with two scholars who analyze language.



Aleeza Chanowitz - creator, star

Marnina Schon - co-star

Sarah Bunin Benor, Hebrew Union College - linguist, Jewish English

Sharon Avni, CUNY - linguist, Hebrew-English language contact

Register here

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Past events

Past events

Click on the images below to watch videos of each event.

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November 13, 2022

Living Traditions: Women’s Songs in Endangered Jewish Languages

Panelists and performers: Vanessa Paloma Elbaz, Judith Cohen, Ruth Davis, Laura Elkeslassy, Miléna Kartowski-Aïach, Sara Manasseh. To celebrate its groundbreaking online exhibit, "A Millennium of Jewish Women's Voices," the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project presents the second event in its fall series highlighting women’s literature, songs, prayers, and letters across the Jewish Diaspora. This event features archival and contemporary performances of women's songs in Judeo-Arabic (Iraq and Tunisia), Judeo-Amazigh (Morocco), Ladino, and more. See YouTube video description for cosponsor list.

October 30, 2022

Women’s Voices: Introducing an Online Exhibit of Jewish Languages

Panelists: Sarah Bunin Benor, Abby Graham, Federica Francesconi, Hilah Kohen, Laura Arnold Leibman, Renée Levine Melammed. This event introduces the exhibit, "A Milennium of Jewish Women's Voices." Where can women’s voices be found in historical records? In which languages? What is the process of researching women’s texts? What is the role of the Cairo Geniza in preserving the words of women? What socioeconomic factors and educational practices encouraged or discouraged women’s writing in various periods? In what other ways did women record their words for posterity? See YouTube video description for cosponsor list.

September 11, 2022

From Rachel and David to Maya and Ezra: Trends in American Jewish Personal Names

This panel explores the results of a new survey of American Jewish Personal Names. Which names do Jews and non-Jews associate most with Jews? How do Jews of different ages, ancestries, and religious orientations vary in the names they select for their children and their pets? How have American Jews’ names changed over time? Who names their children after living relatives, and who has a “Starbucks name”? Presenters: Sarah Bunin Benor, Alicia B. Chandler. Respondents: Rachel B. Gross, Aaron Demsky, Laura Wattenberg. Event Co-sponsors: Judaism Unbound, Kveller, Sholem Aleichem Institute, ASSJ.

July 17, 2022

Jeffrey Shandler, author of Yiddish: Biography of a Language

The most widely spoken Jewish language on the eve of the Holocaust, Yiddish continues to play a significant role in Jewish life today, from Hasidim for whom it is a language of daily life to avant-garde performers, political activists, and LGBTQ writers turning to Yiddish for inspiration. Yiddish: Biography of a Language (Oxford Universitiy Press) presents the story of this centuries-old language, the defining vernacular of Ashkenazi Jews, from its origins to the present. In this event, Sarah Bunin Benor interviews Jeffrey Shandler about the book, focusing on language ideologies.

May 25, 2022

Multilingual Jewish Prayer Throughout History: Performance and Analysis 

Panel discussion featuring scholars and musicians exploring Jewish prayer in many languages. Which communities and which individuals recited prayers and other sacred music in languages other than Hebrew? What is the historical process for vernacular prayers becoming sacralized? What do the rabbis have to say about prayers in the vernacular? Speakers included: ​Asher Shasho Levy - Contemporary Ladino & Judeo-Arabic; Galeet Dardashti - Modern Persian & Moroccan Arabic; Ruth Langer - Ancient Judeo-Aramaic; Michael Ryzhik - Renaissance Judeo-Italian; Ora Schwarzwald: Early Modern & Modern Judeo-Spanish. Moderated by Sarah Bunin Benor and Mark Kligman.​ Co-presented with the UCLA Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience and the Open Siddur Project. 

May 15, 2022

Queer Jewish Languages

Panel discussion about how each presenter is "queering" their respective language, moderated by Carmel Tanaka, Founder & Executive Director of JQT Vancouver. Speakers included: Eyal Rivlin - co-creator of Non Binary Hebrew in Boulder; Nesi Altaras - an editor of Turkish Avlaremoz and Ladino revivificationist in Montreal; Faith Jones - a librarian, translator, and researcher of Yiddish culture in Vancouver; Grace Elizabeth Dy and Ellen Perleberg - co-principal investigators of “Yallah Y’all: The Development and Acceptance of Queer Jewish Language in Seattle”; Yosef Jay Nemanpour - a Persian-Iranian research intern at JQ International in Los Angeles.

​Co-presented with JQT Vancouver.

Languages of the Jews of Iran:

A Series of Online Conversations and Performances

January-March 2022

Jews in Iran historically spoke many languages - from Semitic, Median, and Persian language families. The languages/dialects of Jews in different cities and towns were so different that their speakers often could not understand each other. Now these longstanding Jewish languages are endangered, as most Jews shifted to standard Persian in Iran or to Modern Hebrew, English, and other languages after emigrating.

The HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project presents a series of conversations and performances highlighting this rich linguistic heritage. By attending these events, you will learn how Jewish languages compare to each other and to local Muslim, Zoroastrian, and Christian languages. You will be inspired by the elderly speakers and young activists who are working hard to preserve them for future generations. And you will be entertained by new songs in Judeo-Isfahani, Judeo-Hamadani, and Jewish Neo-Aramaic.

This series of four events was sponsored by the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, Iranian American Jewish Federation, Nessah Synagogue, and USC Casden Institute. Co-sponsored by 30 Years After, American Jewish Committee, American Sephardi Federation, ASF Institute for Jewish Experience, Be’chol Lashon, Endangered Language Alliance, Iranian Jewish Women's Organization, JIMENA, SHAI: Sephardic Heritage Alliance, Inc., UCLA Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Studies, and Y&S Nazarian Iranian Young Leadership Initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

March 13, 2022

Judeo-Persian in the 20th Century: New Research

The concluding event for the Jewish Language Project's groundbreaking series on "Languages of the Jews of Iran." Dr. Daniella Farah explains why Jews in Iran shifted from Judeo-Isfahani, Judeo-Shirazi, etc., to standard Persian. Alan Niku discusses the distinctive Tehran Jewish dialect of Persian based on recordings and fieldwork. Cantor Jacqueline Rafii presents Passover psalms translated into Judeo-Persian and recorded by her grandfather in Tehran in 1971. This event also included presentations about Judeo-Persian letters from the 20th century, but those sections are not included in the video.

February 20, 2022

Lishán Didán and Hulaulá: Jewish Neo-Aramaic in the Kurdish region of Iran

In each town of the Kurdish region, Jews and Christians spoke different dialects of Jewish Neo-Aramaic. Dr. Geoffrey Khan gives a historical and linguistic overview and showcases his NENA database. Shahnaz Yousefnejadian shares her long-term dictionary project of the Hulaulá dialect of Sanandaj. Ariel Nosrat describes current language revitalization activities in Israel. Alan Niku gives the perspective of a heritage learner/speaker. And musicians Alon Azizi and Adi Kadussi explain why it’s important to record songs in these languages.

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January 30, 2022

Judeo-Hamadani, Judeo-Isfahani, Judeo-Yazdi, and other Median languages

How do the Iranian languages/dialects of various cities and towns differ from each other and from Persian? What work is currently being done to record them and share them with the public? Why is this work so important? Linguist Haideh Sahim gives a historical and linguistic overview of Jewish Median languages, and Haideh Herbert-Aynehchi tells about her work to document these languages by interviewing native speakers. Saba Soomekh moderates this panel, and video clips of interviews and songs are shared.

January 9, 2022

Historical and linguistic overview of Jewish languages in Iran

Some of the world experts on Jewish Iranian languages - Dr. Nahid Pirnazar, Dr. Habib Borjian, and Dr. Thamar E. Gindin - explain the rich history of Jewish languages in Iran, from medieval Judeo-Persian documents to diverse spoken languages and dialects today. The event ends with new songs in Judeo-Hamedani and Judeo-Isfahani by Dr. Galeet Dardashti. Event video is not available, but visit our YouTube channel for other videos of songs by Dardashti and others.

March 6, 2022

Jewish WordleA conversation with the creators of LadinoYiddish, and Jewish English versions

Wordle, the international word game sensation, now has multiple Jewish versions. This event is a fun, enlightening conversation with some of their developers: Nesi Altaras, Jamie Conway, and Abra Kaplan. Why and how did they create them? How did they make decisions about which alphabets, spellings, and words to use? How have these games raised awareness about Jewish languages, and what educational applications are possible? Jodi Rudoren, Editor-in-Chief of the Forward, moderates the conversation, and Sarah Bunin Benor, Director of the Jewish Language Project, provides commentary. Sponsored by the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project (Los Angeles), Forward (New York), and Shalom (Sydney).

February 28, 2022

Jewish Languages Today: Endangered, Surviving, and Thriving

Throughout history Jews have spoken many languages, such as Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Tat/Juhuri (Azerbaijan, Dagestan), Judeo-Median (Iran), Jewish Neo-Aramaic (Kurdish region of Iraq-Iran-Turkey), and Jewish Malayalam (Southern India). Over the past two centuries, migrations and other historical events have led to many of these languages becoming endangered. At the same time, Jews are now engaging with these languages in postvernacular ways, such as through song and food. This multimedia talk explains these developments and makes the case for the urgent need for documentation and reclamation.

November 14, 2021

Documenting Endangered Jewish Languages:

Practical, Ethical, and Cultural Issues

​Panel discussion featuring Daniel Bögre Udell, Executive Director, Wikitongues; Yehudit Henshke, Director, Mother Tongue; Tamari Lomtadze, Linguist, Akaki Tsereteli State University, Georgia; Ross Perlin, Linguist, Co-Director, Endangered Language Alliance. Moderator: Sarah Bunin Benor, Director, HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project. These scholars and activists describe their many years of high-stakes work recording the remaining speakers of Judeo-Tat, Judeo-Arabic, Jewish Neo-Aramaic, Judeo-Georgian, and other endangered languages. Then they discuss key issues in the field, such as how researchers locate speakers, structure their interviews, document language variation, and ensure ethical treatment of speakers.

December 5, 2021

Ladino/Judeo-Spanish Documentation and Revitalization Efforts: Language, Music, and Folklore

A panel conversation featuring Derya Agis, Rachel Amado Bortnick, Judith Cohen, Bryan Kirschen, Devin Naar, Rey Romero, and Ora (Rodrigue) Schwarzwald. These scholars and activists introduce their recent work, which includes collecting artifacts of Sephardic history, teaching Ladino, and researching Ladino language and song. They discuss what additional documentation is necessary and how researchers, activists, and performers can work together to increase knowledge about and engagement with Ladino language and culture.

October 17, 2021

Gala Celebrating the Documentation of Endangered Jewish Languages

This celebratory gala, benefiting Wikitongues and the Living Tongues Institute, includes a panel of speakers of endangered Jewish languages (including Rachel Amado Bortnick and Alan Niku), a presentation of oral history videos compiled by Wikitongues, and a showcase of Living Dictionaries for endangered Jewish languages. Sarah Bunin Benor gives a brief introduction to Jewish languages, and attendees ask questions and share their own Jewish language stories. The theme of the night: intergenerational transmission of Jewish languages. Make a donation to the gala here.

October 10, 2021

An Introduction to Sephardic Jewish Papiamentu

Bart Jacobs, Neil Jacobs, Lucille Berry-Haseth, and Heske Zelermyer

A Jewish language on a Caribbean island? Linguists Neil Jacobs and Bart Jacobs introduce the role of Sephardic Jews in the history of the Papiamentu language in Curaçao and discuss its Jewish dialect. Papiamentu advocate Lucille Berry-Haseth and speaker Heske Zelermyer discuss the specific Jewish features and the contemporary status of Jewish Papiamentu.

July 11, 2021

Echoes of Judeo-Arabic in the Baghdadi Jewish Diaspora

Lecture by Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah

Response by Benjamin Hary

Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah speaks about linguistic aspects of her book Baghdadi Jewish Networks in the Age of Nationalism. She explains how migrants from the Baghdadi Jewish community established satellite communities in India, England, and elsewhere. They maintained elements of Baghdadi Judeo-Arabic, also known as Judeo-Baghdadi, along with other languages, in their education, correspondence, home life, and business dealings.

Jewish Prayer in Many Languages: From Sephardic Seattle to Syrian Brooklyn

A concert/lecture series by Asher Shasho Levy

May-August 2021

In most Jewish communities throughout history, the dominant language of prayer has been Hebrew, the “holy tongue.” Yet since antiquity, there has been a rich parallel tradition of prayer in the “mother tongue” – the primary language spoken in a region or country. This series focuses on the varied traditions of liturgy in the languages of the Middle East, North Africa, former Ottoman Lands, and beyond, as they are currently practiced in the United States. These liturgies, composed in different Judeo-Arabic languages, several dialects of Judeo-Spanish/Ladino, various Judeo-Iranian languages, and Judeo-Portuguese, served different functions for different communities, ranging from translations of Biblical passages and traditional Hebrew liturgy, to completely new texts composed to meet particular communal needs. We will move through the cycle of the year with sessions devoted to Shavuot, Shabbat, and the High Holidays, exploring these texts, the context of their development, the process of their proliferation, and a variety of musical settings.


Presented by the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project and the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music; co-sponsored by the Cantors Assembly, the Sephardic Educational Center and Sephardic Studies – UW Stroum Center for Jewish Studies.

August 24, 2021

Ladino High Holiday Liturgy

July 13, 2021

Pizmonim for Havdalah in Ladino and Judeo-Arabic

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June 15, 2021

Shabbat Liturgy in Ladino


May 11, 2021

Ketubba de la Ley: Sephardic Vernacular Liturgy for Shabuot from Former Ottoman Lands and Beyond

December 17, 2020

Diversity in Jewish English Writing Jewish English writing uses multiple combinations of alphabets, such as English words written in Hebrew letters and letters that combine visual elements of Hebrew and English letters. This engaging lecture by Professor Sarah Bunin Benor demonstrates those uses, giving examples from Yiddish and Ladino newspapers, pedagogical materials, organizations’ and restaurants’ logos, and regalia advertising sports teams, universities, and political candidates. The analysis demonstrates that hybrid combinations of Hebrew and English writing serve four functions:
1) Translanguaging; 2) Symbolism; 3) Code; and
4) Pedagogy. Co-sponsored by Judaism Unbound.

December 6, 2020

Jewish Languages from A to Z: Celebrating a New Book

Aaron Rubin and Lily Kahn present information and images from their book. Sarah Bunin Benor interviews them and leads a question-and-answer session.

May 29, 2020

Pastrami, Verklempt, and Tshoot-spa: Non-Jews’ Use of Jewish Language in the United States

Sarah Bunin Benor Jews in the United States use many Hebrew and Yiddish words in their English conversation. To what extent do non-Jews pick up these linguistic markers? This multimedia talk explains how words like klutz, shpiel, and kibbitz have become part of the broader American lexicon, sometimes popularized by comedians. Politicians use Hebrew and Yiddish words in diverse ways, from Bill Clinton’s “Shalom, chaver” to Michele Bachmann’s mispronunciation of chutzpah. A much more sinister use of Jewish language is white nationalists mocking Jews with words like Goyim and Shoah. Several video clips are shown, from James Cagney as a Yiddish-speaking Irish taxi driver to Barack Obama “getting all verklempt” while honoring Barbra Streisand. Co-sponsored by JewishLive, part of Shavuot lineup.

May 21, 2020

Jewish Personal Names Around the World: Tradition and Creativity

Sarah Bunin Benor

From ancient to present times, Jews have given their babies Hebrew and/or local names, demonstrating both their Jewish distinctiveness and their integration into local societies. This lecture offers a glimpse into this history, from the ancient Middle East to medieval Cairo, from Renaissance Rome to modern Poland. Then participants will learn how these trends continue among contemporary American Jews. When Jews today select names for their babies, they are sending a message about their specific type of Jewish American identity. The lecture ends with an (adorable) foray into American Jewish pets’ names. When Jews give their dogs and cats names like Babka, Rashi, Ketzele, and Golda Meow, they highlight some aspects of Jewishness that are important to them. Co-sponsored by JewishLive.

May 14, 2020

Jewish Surnames and Name Changing Around the World: Diversity and Unity

Sarah Bunin Benor

What makes a family name Jewish? Did immigrants change their names at Ellis Island? This session answers these and many more questions about Jewish family names. Participants will learn the origins and meanings of patronymic (father-based) surnames like Abramovitch, Isaacs, and Yaghobian; geographic names like Ashkenazi, Dardashti, and Shapiro; and profession names like Hakim, Melamed, and Fingerhut. They will learn about Jews changing their family names in the 20th century, especially in the United States. They will come away with an understanding of the cultural diversity and unity of the Jewish Diaspora. Co-sponsored by JewishLive.

May 11, 2021

Jewish Language Project: A Conversation Sarah Bunin Benor, interviewed by Rabbi Rebecca Rosenthal

How is the Jewish Language Project applying academic research to solve real-world problems? Learn about auto-captioning of Jewish English videos, resources for people learning how to pronounce Hebrew and Yiddish words, and efforts to document endangered Iranian Jewish languages. Sponsored by Central Synagogue, New York City.

May 7, 2020

Ruach in the Chadar Ochel: Language at American Jewish Summer Camps

Sarah Bunin Benor, Jonathan Krasner, and Sharon Avni

At most American Jewish summer camps, programs are conducted primarily in English, but the environment is infused with Hebrew signs, songs, and cheers. Hebrew-English sentences are common: “Madrichim [counselors], please bring your chanichim [campers] to the teatron [theater] immediately after the Birkat [Grace After Meals].” Why do some camps infuse Hebrew in these unusual ways? How are other languages used, including Russian, Yiddish, and Ladino? How do participants feel about this language mixing? This talk draws from Benor, Krasner, and Avni’s forthcoming book, Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps, based on over 200 interviews and visits to 36 camps.
Co-sponsored by JewishLive and the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education at Brandeis University.

May 6, 2021

Endangered Jewish Languages: Spotlight on Iranian and Bukharian Jews

Sarah Bunin Benor and Ruben Shimonov

Several long-standing Jewish languages have become endangered, as they are spoken primarily by older people, including Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, and Jewish Malayalam (Southern India). This talk explains these developments and makes the case for the urgent need for documentation and reclamation, focusing on the Jewish languages of Iranian origin (Judeo-Tajik/Bukharian, Judeo-Tat/Juhuri, Judeo-Isfahani, Judeo-Shirazi, etc.).

Sponsored by the Yiddish Book Center and 7000 Languages.

May 4, 2021

Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps - A Conversation Authors Sarah Bunin Benor, Jonathan Krasner, and Sharon Avni in conversation with scholars Shaul Kelner and Riv-Ellen Prell, moderated by Jon Levisohn. Sponsored by the Brandeis University Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education; co-sponsored by several organizations.

April 30, 2020

Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language & Culture of Orthodox Judaism

Sarah Bunin Benor

There is more to becoming Orthodox than observing religious laws. Newly Orthodox Jews, or ba’alei teshuva (lit. ‘those who return’), encounter a very different culture, including new ways of talking, dressing, and acting. Focusing on the Yiddish and Hebrew words used by English-speaking Orthodox Jews, this lecture explores how “BTs” integrate into the community partly by taking on these new practices. Based on Dr. Benor’s first book, this talk is appropriate for all audiences, regardless of prior exposure to Orthodox Judaism. Co-sponsored by JewishLive.

April 23, 2020

Mensch, Bentsh, and Balagan: Language as a Marker of Jewish Identity

Sarah Bunin Benor

Using quotes and images, this talk highlights the diversity of American Jews by focusing on the diverse uses of “Jewish American English” – enriched by Yiddish, Hebrew, Aramaic, Russian, Farsi, Arabic, and other influences. Jews use subtle variation in language to signal their textual knowledge, religious denomination, ancestral origin, and orientation toward Israel. Songs by Mickey Katz, Seymour Rechtzeit, Country Yossi, and Journeys demonstrate the similarities and differences of two types of Yiddish-influenced English: Yinglish and Yeshivish. “Jewish language” serves not only to distinguish Jews from non-Jews but also to distinguish Jews from Jews. Co-sponsored by JewishLive.

April 16, 2020

Do American Jews Speak a Jewish Language?

Sarah Bunin Benor

Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, and – Jewish English? Is it possible that Jews today continue the centuries-old tradition of speaking distinctly from their non-Jewish neighbors? This talk looks at several features common among Jewish languages of the past and discusses whether American Jews use them. From the tradition of translating biblical and rabbinic texts to the incorporation of Hebrew words, most of these features are common among religiously engaged American Jews. A major exception is the use of Hebrew letters to write the vernacular. Through analysis of language, we can gain a better understanding of contemporary American Jews and how they compare to Jewish communities of the past. Co-sponsored by JewishLive.

All of our events are free to attend. If you would like to express appreciation for the content on this site, we encourage you to make a donation to the Jewish Language Project.

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