In the centuries between Hebrew’s extinction and revival, Jewish communities wove their language into local vernaculars, creating dozens of new, uniquely Jewish languages in the process — languages like Yiddish and Ladino. These Jewish diaspora languages express the vast geography of Jewish history, as well as the rich history of Hebrew’s use in Jewish daily life. But genocides, ethnic cleansing, and forced migrations in the 19th and 20th centuries drove Jewish diaspora languages into decline. Today, many are endangered and poorly documented. If we fail to protect these languages, we will lose them forever. Now is the time to act.
At least two dozen Jewish diaspora languages have been attested over the past 2,000 years, including Yiddish, Ladino, Haquetía, Juhuri, Bukhari, Qwara, Kayla, Judeo-Malayalam, Jewish Algerian Sign Language, Judeo-Italian, Judeo-Iranian, Yevanic (or Judeo-Greek), Judeo-Occitan, and the Judeo-Arabic languages. The majority of these languages are at-risk or critically endangered. With the exception of Yiddish and Ladino, they also lack resources for the next generation to study.
As a member of the Jewish Language Consortium, Wikitongues is working with the Living Tongues Institute for Endangered Languages, the HUC-JIR Jewish Language Project, and other organizations to safeguard the potential of Jewish linguistic diversity. We’re helping the last living speakers and their descendants create oral histories and dictionaries for the next generation.
Since 2021, we have archived approximately 55 hours of recordings in over 15 Jewish languages/dialects/language groups. We have also transcribed, translated, and disseminated at least 15 YouTube videos — some of which can be found below. In 2022, we applied for and were accepted to receive $54,000USD in funding from the Wikimedia Foundation to film more videos — specifically Judeo-Iranian and Jewish Neo-Aramaic — and improve the Wikipedia articles for these languages. We have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time, and your contribution can make a huge difference for this crucial and time-sensitive work.
How can I help?
If you or a relative speaks a Jewish language, or you’re a researcher with existing materials that you’d like to archive with us, please write to email@example.com.
If you want to support this work, please donate here. Your contribution goes to the research, outreach, and archival work necessary to safeguard Jewish languages for the next generation.