People

Founding Director:

Sarah Bunin Benor

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Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor is Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (Los Angeles campus) and Adjunct Professor (by courtesy) in the University of Southern California Linguistics Department. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Linguistics in 2004. She has published and lectured widely about Jewish languages, linguistics, Yiddish, American Jews, and Orthodox Jews. Her books include Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism (Rutgers, 2012) and Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps (Rutgers, 2020). Dr. Benor is founding co-editor of the Journal of Jewish Languages (Brill) and co-editor of Languages in Jewish Communities, Past and Present (De Gruyter Mouton, 2018).

Director of Education and Engagement:

Hannah S. Pressman

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Dr. Hannah S. Pressman is a scholar of Jewish languages and literatures. She received her Ph.D. in modern Hebrew literature from New York University, where she focused on translation studies, Jewish philosophies of language, and the genre of self-writing. Dr. Pressman is affiliated faculty with the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington. She is co-editor of Choosing Yiddish: New Frontiers of Language and Culture (Wayne State, 2013). Her writing has appeared in several academic and popular venues such as Tablet, Lilith, eSefarad, and JTA. Dr. Pressman is currently working on a memoir entitled Galante’s Daughter: A Sephardic Family Journey, studying Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), and practicing her solitreo script.

Documentation Coordinator:

Jacob Aaron Kodner

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Jacob Aaron Kodner is an undergraduate student of Language Science at the University of California, Irvine. His research interests range from theoretical syntax to language documentation and revitalization, with emphases in Tungusic, Austronesian, and Jewish languages. He has experience in documenting Sibe, a critically endangered Tungusic language spoken in Northwestern China, and is developing digital and pedagogical resources for the language. Growing up in a Jewish-American family, he is excited to apply his knowledge of linguistics and documentation to Jewish languages.

 Artist/Researcher in Residence:

 Asher Shasho Levy

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Oudist, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist Asher Shasho Levy is a Syrian Jewish musician and scholar of Sephardic heritage and culture, who seeks to spread the beauty of the Sephardic tradition through his writing, recording, research, and concerts. He performs and teaches internationally and is the founder and leader of the Aram Soba Ensemble, a group dedicated to the musical heritage of Syrian Jewry. Studying with elders and scholars in the Sephardic community of Los Angeles, Asher has amassed a large repertoire of liturgical music, secular song in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic, as well as piyyutim, pizmonim and baqashot, the religious poetry and song of the Jewish Middle East.

Filmmaker: Alan Niku

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Alan Niku is a filmmaker, writer, and scholar of Mizrahi culture from San Luis Obispo, California. A native speaker of Persian, he spends his time learning related Jewish languages, including Jewish Neo-Aramaic, deciphering Judeo-Persian manuscripts, and interviewing community members about their stories. He dabbles in traditional music, cooking, and liturgy, teaches history and Jewish heritage at various levels, and seeks to teach the world about the underrepresented cultures of the Middle East through his writing and films.

Linguistic Researcher:

Rachel Steindel Burdin

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Dr. Rachel Steindel Burdin is Assistant Professor of Linguistics in the English Department of the University of New Hampshire. She received her PhD in Linguistics from The Ohio State University. Her dissertation research focused on the influence of Yiddish intonation on Jewish English, and her work since then has continued to explore how language is used in the creation of Jewish identity, particularly its relationship to place. 

Managing Director of the Jewish English Lexicon: Hannah Kober

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Hannah Kober is a Ph.D. student in Educational Linguistics with a concentration in Jewish Studies at Stanford Graduate School of Education. She is interested in the language ideologies and attitudes that ground Hebrew teaching, learning, and advocacy in North America. For her B.A. thesis at Brandeis University, she studied the learning motivations of Jewish Israeli university students pursuing Arabic studies. She previously served as a Research Assistant on the Hebrew Infusion project at the Mandel Center for Studies in Jewish Education and as Program Associate at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Hannah is a Jim Joseph Fellow and a Wexner Graduate Fellow-Davidson Scholar.

Research Assistant and Editor: 

Elaine Miller

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Dr. Elaine Miller received her Ph.D. in Hispanic Linguistics from the University of California Santa Barbara. Her dissertation examined multiglossia among the Jews of medieval Spain. In addition to her work with the Jewish Language Project, she is a copy editor for the Journal of Jewish Languages. She was formerly an assistant professor at Georgia State University.

Moderator of the Jewish English Lexicon: 

Matan Kruskal

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Matan Kruskal is a graduate of Newton South High School. He is attending the Hevruta gap year program at the Hartman Institute in Jerusalem before going on to attend the University of Maryland, where he plans to major in linguistics. Within linguistics, he is primarily interested in computational linguistics and language documentation, preservation, and revitalization. 

Programmer: Josh Vogel

Interns and Volunteers:

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Annika Erickson is an undergraduate student at Barnard College of Columbia University and List College of the Jewish Theological Seminary studying linguistics and Talmud. She speaks Modern Hebrew and is a beginning Yiddish learner, and hopes to go on to help improve linguistic accessibility for Yiddish speakers in America.

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Abby Graham is a linguist, teacher, and beginning Yiddish learner focusing on heritage, Indigenous, and minoritized language revitalization. She works on language accessibility for families and learning resources. Abby is born and raised in Lenapehoking in Philadelphia and currently lives on Serrano ancestral territory in San Bernardino. She is of mixed Irish, Ashkenazi, and Western European heritage.

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Haideh Herbert-Aynehchi taught languages at Tehran University Language Center, LAUSD, and Santa Monica College and worked as a supervisor and vocational rehabilitation evaluator for JVS and a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the California State Department of Rehabilitation. In retirement, she is writing her memoirs and volunteering for the Emergency Fund Committee of the Iranian American Jewish Federation. A legacy learner of Judeo-Hamedani, she has conducted many interviews with speakers of endangered Iranian Jewish languages.

Dr. Evgeniya Gutova is a scholar of Berber languages. She received her Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Sorbonne. Her dissertation is a descriptive multidialectal grammar of Senhaja Berber varieties spoken in Northern Morocco, and she is currently working on a dictionary of these varieties. Her writing has appeared in several academic and popular venues. She is excited to apply her knowledge of linguistics (and Berber in particular) to the Judeo-Berber recordings that are part of the Jewish Language Project.

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Noah Kahloo is a recent graduate from the University of California, Irvine. Currently, he is pursuing a post-baccalaureate certificate from Chapman University for speech and communication disorders. He comes from a family of Jewish-Neo-Aramaic speakers from Iran and Russia, and he is very interested in the sociolinguistic and sociocultural aspects of Jewish history.

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Samuel Miller is an undergraduate student at the University of Maryland studying Computer Science with focuses in Computational Linguistics, Machine Learning, & Cybersecurity. He is half Nash Didan, half Ashkenazi, and is a speaker of Lishan Didan. He is looking forward to one day using novel computational techniques to help document and revitalize dialects of Jewish Neo-Aramaic.

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Michael Zargari is a fourth-year Statistics & Data Science and Economics double major and Iranian Studies + Translation Studies double minor at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has a background in Iranian Jewish languages and looks forward to learning even more about the Jewish languages of Iran.

Advisory Board
 

Our Advisory Board is drawn from the fields of linguistics, education, technology, the arts, and community leadership. These individuals bring their expertise to discussions of the Jewish Language Project's strategic and programmatic development.

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Amy Amiel is a life-long professional in the Jewish community. She loves all things language, especially reading, editing, word games and etymologies. Amy has an MA, Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a BA, linguistics, Barnard College.

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Rachel Amado Bortnick, a retired ESL teacher residing in Dallas, Texas, was born and raised in Izmir, Turkey.  In 1999 she founded Ladinokomunita, an online Ladino correspondence group which she today has about 1500 members from all over the world.

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Mark David is a computing professional, host/producer of Yiddish Voice Radio (Boston, MA), and moderator of the UYIP (Understanding Yiddish Information Processing) mailing list.

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Ordained by the Hebrew Union College-Institute of Religion, Rabbi Rebecca Einstein Schorr is the editor of Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate, winner of the National Jewish Book Award in Women's Studies and is currently working on her second book on Proverbs 31. She is also the former Jewish Chaplain at Lafayette College (Easton, PA) as well as a Rabbi Without Borders Fellow. 

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Benjamin Hary is Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University and the current Director of NYU Tel Aviv. He has published widely in his area of research on Jewish language varieties, especially Judeo-Arabic; Jews in the Islamic world; the politics of Arabic in Israeli society; corpus linguistics; Language and Religion; dialectology; and sociolinguistics. Among his books: Multiglossia in Judeo-Arabic (1992) and Translating Religion (2009); and among his edited books: Esoteric and Exoteric Aspects in Judeo-Arabic Culture (2006) and Languages in Jewish Communities, Past and Present (2018, with Sarah Benor), as well as many articles and book reviews.

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Haideh Herbert-Aynehchi taught languages at Tehran University Language Center, LAUSD, and Santa Monica College and worked as a supervisor and vocational rehabilitation evaluator for JVS and a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the California State Department of Rehabilitation. In retirement, she is writing her memoirs and volunteering for the Emergency Fund Committee of the Iranian American Jewish Federation. A legacy learner of Judeo-Hamedani, she has conducted many interviews with speakers of endangered Iranian Jewish languages.

Rabbi Yechiel Hoffman, EdD empowers individuals to embark on personal journeys through meaningful collective learning experiences. As a community activist, he serves as a rabbinic adviser, activist and outreach expert for issues related to LGBTQIA+ inclusion, women's issues, and education. Yechiel’s educational leadership has enriched the Jewish journeys of children and adults in as diverse settings as Jewish Day Schools, community organizations, synagogues and Jewish edtech. Yechiel received the prestigious Pomegranate Prize from the Covenant Foundation, and earned a Doctorate in Education from Northeastern University, and is the co-founder of JedLAB.

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Aviya Kushner grew up in a Hebrew-speaking home in New York. She is The Forward’s language columnist and the author of WOLF LAMB BOMB (Orison Books), a New & Noteworthy Poetry selection of The New York Times and winner of The Chicago Review of Books Award in Poetry, and The Grammar of God (Spiegel & Grau) a National Jewish Book Award Finalist and Sami Rohr Prize Finalist. A 2022 National Endowment for the Arts Fellow in Translation, she is an associate professor at Columbia College Chicago where she directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing. 

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Yifat Mukades is an American, Israeli, Mizrachi, and Iraqi Jew navigating her identities every day. She earned an MA.Ed. degree with a focus on Experiential Education from American Jewish University (AJU). Currently, she spends her summers at Camp JCA Shalom as Jewish Program Director and Rosh Mishlachat. In summer 2022 she will be joining the 21st Maccabiah Games with Maccabi USA as the first ever Maccabi Educator Fellow. Yifat is excited about speaking and preserving the Judeo-Arabic (Jewish Iraqi) language in both the US and in Israel.

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Dr. Daniel Nussbaum grew up in a multilingual home and neighborhood, thus he was always interested in languages. Part of the reason he chose to go into Developmental Pediatrics was that it is concerned with language development. Jewishness has always been a large part of his life, and learning about Jewish languages combines many of his interests.

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Having retired from Bar-Ilan University as professor emeritus in 2000, Bernard Spolsky has continued to publish books and articles on language policy (Language Management, Cambridge UP 2009 and Rethinking Language Policy, Edinburgh UP) and Jewish languages (The Languages of the Jews 2014, Cambridge UP).

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Ofra Tirosh-Becker is a Professor of Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic and the Head of The Center of Jewish Languages at the Hebrew University, a member of the executive committee of The Academy of the Hebrew Language, and a founding co-editor of the Journal of Jewish Languages (JJL). Her research focuses on the contacts between Arabic and Hebrew, North-African Judeo-Arabic dialectology, Neo-Judeo-Arabic translations of the Bible and post-biblical texts, Karaite Hebrew, and the application of Natural Language Processing (NPL) tools to Judeo-Arabic.

Past Interns and Volunteers

Thank you to the many people whose efforts have helped us to develop this website and related resources over the years, including:

 

Communications and Web Design:

Shawn Fields-Meyer

Sofia Rubio

Tsvi Sadan (Tsuguya Sasaki)

Jewish English Lexicon Moderation:

Isaac Bleaman

Alexandra Casser

Noam Fields-Meyer

Eliran Sobel

Interested in getting involved with the Jewish Language Project as a volunteer or intern? We're looking for help in the following areas:

  • Design

  • Fundraising

  • Social media

  • TikTok specialist

  • Content development

  • Curriculum development

  • Interviewing speakers of endangered Jewish languages

  • Creating Living Dictionaries for endangered Jewish languages

  • Recording entries for the Jewish English Lexicon

  • Creating or working on a Jewish lexicon for another language

Please let us know you're interested in helping out by filling out this form. Thank you for your interest!