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Over several thousand years, Jews have lived all around the world, and have spoken and written in languages distinct from their non-Jewish neighbors. However, because of migrations language prestige, and other historical events, many of these languages are on the verge of extinction, and most Jews today are unaware of their existence. This exhibit, coordinated by the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, highlights and honors these endangered Jewish languages from across the Jewish Diaspora.


Many Jewish language varieties are critically endangered, as nearly all of their speakers are elderly. Within the next twenty to thirty years, the last speakers will die, and these languages and their cultural nuances will be lost to history. It is imperative that we 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. These videos and recordings serve as a bridge connecting younger Jews to their elders and to Jewish communities from around the world.


The video and audio recordings featured in this exhibit span 60 years in more than 20 different languages. Navigate the materials by clicking on dots on the map or on the timeline to learn more about a recording. You can select a tag to filter entries, like #Judeo_Arabic or #Folk_Songs; you can also adjust your search by zooming in or out on the map and timeline. We hope you enjoy listening to different speakers sharing stories, jokes, and songs in their languages as you browse.


The materials presented here are only a selection of the diversity of Jewish languages. These works stem from lesser-known, underrepresented, or endangered languages, such as Yemeni Judeo-Arabic, Jewish Malayalam, and Ḥaketia. Languages like Yiddish and Modern Hebrew have not been highlighted in this exhibit because they are already substantially documented and present in modern scholarship.

Documenting Endangered Jewish Languages
More information

Read more about preserving endangered Jewish languages at The Forward, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, TabletMag, and Oriente Medio.

How to browse the exhibit

This tutorial video demonstrates how to browse the exhibit. The dots on the timeline and map, color-coded by era, represent texts and songs in the collection. Click on a dot and expand the box on the right to read about an item and access images and audio and video recordings.

You can also read an accessible version of the exhibit's item descriptions in the spreadsheet below. You can search by keyword in the search box at the top, scroll through the rows using the bars on the right and bottom, and sort the columns using the arrows in the top row.


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.

May-August 2021

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

A concert/lecture series by Asher Shasho Levy

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.

Exhibit tags

Click the buttons below to jump to a specific tag, such as a particular language or genre, each with multiple events in the exhibit showcasing the voices of Jewish women.



Some items in the exhibit

Moshe Rabbeinu and the People of Israel Crossing the Red SeaShlomo Ziafti
00:00 / 03:20

The oldest item in the exhibit is a recording from 1963, of a man from Mashhad, Iran, singing a song about Moshe and the people of Israel crossing the Red Sea.

Songs in Aramaic about the Persian LemonRivka Cohen Kalimi
00:00 / 00:52

This is a recording from 1964, where Peri Kalimi was recorded singing a song about Persian Lemons by Rivka Cohen (Kalimi).

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The most recent item in the exhibit is this Judeo-Shirazi (Jidi) love song, sung by Abbas Montajam Shirazi.

This video highlights much of our documentation work on Iranian languages. Check out more about this on our Judeo-Iranian page.

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Documenting Endangered Jewish Languages: A YouTube Playlist
Documentation Exhibit Playlist

This exhibit would not have been possible without the contributions of many people. Jacob Kodner curated the videos used in this collection. Isabel Olazar wrote descriptions for each video and audio recording, and she created this map. The videos were recorded by organizations in the Jewish Language Consortium: Endangered Language Alliance, the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, Mother Tongue: The Preservation of Jewish Languages and Cultures in memory of Hayyim (Marani) Trabelsy, and Wikitongues. You can learn more about the Jewish Language Consortium at The Jewish Cultures Mapped platform is run by the Jewish Music Research Centre. Special thanks to Josef Sprinzak for his help.


Funding for this exhibit was generously donated by Rabbi Amy and Gary Perlin and טייבל בת רחל לאה ושלמה יהושוע ואברהם דוד בן פעסיע יהודת וישראל משה.

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for items to add to this collection, you can contact the Jewish Language Project here.

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