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 1.5 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.


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


  • Every known Jewish language variety will be well documented
  • Resources regarding Jewish languages will be publicly available on the internet, thereby increasing comparative research, post-vernacular 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

  1. Jewish Language Website: An online repository of information and resources, including descriptions of 28 languages, samples of texts and audiovisual materials, maps, lists of translators and researchers, syllabi, and bibliographies.
  2. Free Jewish Language and Names Consultation Service: Responding to queries about Jewish languages and names from journalists, filmmakers, educators, organizations, website visitors, etc.
  3. Jewish Lexicon Project: A collection of interactive online dictionaries of words used by Jews within English, Latin American Spanish, Swedish, French, Russian, Portuguese, and German.
  4. Iranian Languages: Recording speakers of endangered Iranian Jewish languages.
  5. Captioning: Improving auto-captions on online videos in Jewish English.
  6. Jewish Pronunciations: Adding pronunciation recordings to the Jewish English Lexicon.
  7. Events: Lectures, panels, concerts, and other events about Jewish languages, past and preset.
  8. Fun Facts: Regular social media posts with interesting facts about Jewish languages.
  9. Curriculum: Educational materials for schools, camps, and other institutions interested in raising awareness about Jewish linguistic diversity.
  10. Jewish Language Consortium: Convening several organizations that document, educate about, and revitalize Jewish languages.

Past Initiatives

  1. Survey of American Jewish Language and Identity, a quantitative study investigating to what extent American Jews and non-Jews use certain words and other linguistic features from Yiddish, Hebrew, and New York English.
  2. Hebrew Infusion: Language and Community at American Jewish Summer Camps, a mostly qualitative study of how Jewish summer camps have used Hebrew, including in songs, signs, and Camp Hebraized English. The book won the 2021 National Jewish Book Award in Education and Jewish Identity.
  3. Hebrew Education in Part-Time Jewish Schools, a mixed-methods study investigating why and how supplementary schools teach Hebrew and how students, parents, and others perceive this education.
  4. Survey of American Jewish First Names, a quantitative study investigating to what extent American Jews and non-Jews associate certain names with Jews and which types of Jews use Hebrew and other names.
  5. Passover Around the World, including a multimedia concert featuring Chad Gadya, Who Knows One, and other Passover songs in multiple languages, a downloadable haggadah supplement featuring phrases and songs in many languages, and audiovisual materials from Passover celebrations in many countries.


Please contact Dr. Sarah Bunin Benor, Director of the Jewish Language Project, at

The Jewish Language Project is an initiative of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

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