Jewish Language Project

Promoting research and education on the many ways Jews have spoken and written

Wherever Jews have lived around the world, they have spoken and written in language distinct from their non-Jewish neighbors – from Yiddish and Ladino to Judeo-Italian and Judeo-Malayalam. 

 

Because of migrations and other historical events, many of these languages are on the verge of extinction, and most Jews today are unaware of their existence. It is imperative that we document and raise awareness about these languages in the next decade – for the sake of the elderly Jews who are their last speakers and for the sake of Jewish children who would benefit from knowing about their multifaceted heritage.

The HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project addresses these problems through our many initiatives. Since we launched in 2020, over 1.3 million people have visited our websites, and we have reached thousands of others through online events, videos, and educational social media posts. We have also convened organizations and scholars to document endangered Jewish languages and created collaborative dictionaries for emerging Jewish languages. The Jewish Language Project was launched in 2020, building on and encompassing several projects led by Professor Sarah Bunin Benor.

 

Mission

To promote research on, awareness about, and engagement surrounding the many languages spoken and written by Jews throughout history and around the world.

 

Vision

  • Every known Jewish language variety will be well documented

  • Resources regarding Jewish languages will be publicly available on the internet, thereby increasing comparative research, postvernacular activities, resources for Jewish educational institutions, and knowledge about the linguistic diversity of Jewish communities around the world

  • Jews will feel a stronger connection to far-flung Jewish communities, past and present

 
 

Current Initiatives

Past Initiatives

Future Initiatives

Logo

Daria Lesnik Hoffman designed the logo in 2022 with input from the Jewish Language Project staff and volunteers. The round watercolor painting, suggestive of a globe, emphasizes the diversity of Jewish communities around the world, and the alef highlights what Jewish languages have in common, including influences from Hebrew.

 

Sponsor

The Jewish Language Project is an initiative of the Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR). Founded in 1875, HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR’s scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications.

Funding

In addition to HUC-JIR, funding has come from the Dorot Foundation, Maurice Amado Foundation, Association for Jewish Studies Arts and Culture Grant, partnerships with many organizations, and hundreds of individual contributors. If you appreciate the work we do, we encourage you to make a tax-deductible donation.

 

Press

Over the years, initiatives of the Jewish Language Project have been featured in several publications:

2021-22: Documenting Endangered Jewish Languages

2022: Survey of American Jewish Personal Names

2020: Passover Around the World

2021: Jewish Names of Pets

2020: Hebrew Infusion at Jewish Summer Camps

2013: Jewish English Lexicon

2009: Survey of American Jewish Language and Identity