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Jewish Languages Today: Endangered, Surviving, and Thriving

Presented by Sarah Bunin Benor

Click here to register for this free virtual event, co-presented by KlezCalifornia.

Over the past two centuries, migrations and other historical events have led to major changes in the linguistic profile of Jewish communities around the world. Yiddish is thriving in Hasidic communities, even as its use is diminishing elsewhere. Several longstanding Jewish language varieties have become endangered, as they are spoken primarily by older people, including Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, Jewish Neo-Aramaic (Iraq-Iran), and Judeo-Malayalam (Southern India). At the same time, Jews are engaging with these languages in postvernacular ways, such as through song and food, and new Jewish language varieties are developing, including Jewish English, Jewish Latin American Spanish, and Jewish Russian. This talk explains these developments and makes the case for the urgent need for documentation and reclamation.

Sarah Bunin Benor is Vice Provost and Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion and Adjunct Professor in the University of Southern California Linguistics Department. She received her B.A. from Columbia University in Comparative Literature in 1997 and her Ph.D. from Stanford University in Linguistics in 2004. She is the author of Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism (Rutgers University Press, 2012) and Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps (Rutgers University Press, 2020), as well as many articles about Jewish languages, Yiddish, and American Jews. Dr. Benor has received several fellowships and prizes, including the Dorot Fellowship in Israel, the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, the Sami Rohr Choice Award for Jewish Literature, and the National Jewish Book Award in Education and Jewish Identity. She is founding co-editor of the Journal of Jewish Languages and co-editor of Languages in Jewish Communities, Past and Present (De Gruyter Mouton, 2018) and We the Resilient: Wisdom for America from Women Born Before Suffrage (Luminare Press, 2017). She founded and directs the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, which runs the Jewish Language Website and the Jewish English Lexicon. She is currently working on a project analyzing the names Jews give their children and their pets.

Program made possible, in part, by Bonnie Burt and Mark Liss.


Wednesday, January 10, 2024


Pacific Time
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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Virtual via Zoom