Home Breaking News Time running out in race to preserve endangered Jewish languages

Time running out in race to preserve endangered Jewish languages

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Time running out in race to preserve endangered Jewish languages

I will’t stop thinking about Flory Jagoda, Joseph Sassoon and Kitty Sassoon – three American Jews in their 90s who died remaining week. As an Ashkenazi Jew, I beget not part their family backgrounds. But their deaths hit dwelling for me, as they were amongst the remaining native speakers of endangered Jewish languages — languages I’m helping to doc before it’s too gradual.

Flory Jagoda devoted noteworthy of her existence to preserving certainly one of those languages. She grew up in Bosnia speaking Ladino, furthermore is neatly-known as Judeo-Spanish, which her ancestors had maintained since their expulsion from Spain in 1492. She survived the Holocaust in fragment thru her musical abilities, playing accordion and singing in Serbo-Croatian. For decades, she wrote and carried out Ladino songs, maintaining the Sephardic folk traditions of her Nona (grandmother), innovating on them and bringing them to a wider target audience.

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Jagoda’s tune introduced me to Ladino and ignited my interest in Jewish languages. In my fifth-grade class at Jewish day college, my classmates and I discovered her catchy tune “Ocho Kandelikas” (Eight Minute Candles) alongside with Hebrew and English Hanukkah songs. As a teen, I heard Jagoda affect at a Jewish Folk Life Competition — of which she became a founder — and acquired a cassette of hers, “La Nona Kanta” (The Grandmother Sings). I soundless hear to those songs and now part them — especially my current, “Laz Tiyas” (The Aunties) — with my students after I train about Jewish languages. My students be taught an article about Jagoda’s work to promote Sephardic language and culture valid a week before she died.

While Jagoda is amongst the remaining technology of native Ladino speakers, youth indulge in continued her language preservation work, as we look in Devin Naar’s archive of Ladino letters, books and diversified historical treasures; Bryan Kirschen’s Ladino analysis and classes; and Sarah Aroeste’s up to date Ladino tune and kids’s books. Due to these efforts, American Jews have a tendency to know about the language. After I ask audiences which Jewish languages they indulge in heard of, they fundamentally point out Hebrew, Yiddish and Ladino.

Of us are much less accustomed to diversified Jewish languages, including Judeo-Shirazi (from Iran), Judeo-Malayalam (from India) and Jewish Neo-Aramaic (from the Kurdish field) — all seriously endangered. The many endangered dialects of Judeo-Arabic indulge in been documented to varying extents, from Egypt to Morocco, from Syria to Yemen. And some youth are keeping the tune alive, such as Neta Elkayam, A-WA and Asher Shasho Levy for Moroccan, Yemenite and Syrian traditions. Even so, most American Jews indulge in by no approach heard of Judeo-Arabic. At any time when a speaker dies, we lose an opportunity to be taught and train more about the nuances of this rich language and culture.

Joseph and Kitty Sassoon died of COVID-19 within 12 hours of every diversified, months after their 76th anniversary. Each were kids of Baghdadi dad and mom who spoke Judeo-Arabic natively. Growing up in Rangoon, Burma and Calcutta, India, Joseph and Kitty spoke a few languages, however their dad and mom spoke Judeo-Arabic once they didn’t need the kids to understand. As many American-born kids of immigrants know, this implies they picked up snippets of the language.

As adults, living most currently in Los Angeles, Joseph and Kitty spoke Hindi and English together and didn’t indulge in noteworthy opportunity to exercise Judeo-Arabic, however their granddaughters gain in mind them using some phrases and phrases. Kitty extinct pet names for grandchildren, adore “abdalnuana” for boys and “abdalki” for ladies (every actually meaning “penance” adore the Hebrew “kapara”) and often said “mashallah” (what God has willed) when expressing pride and pleasure. Joseph called his mom Umm Shalom (mom of Shalom, her first son), in line with Judeo-Arabic convention, and hurled joking insults at grandchildren, such as “harami” (thief) and “mamzerim” (bastards — a Hebrew word extinct in rather a lot of Jewish languages).

The Sassoons are attribute of speakers of endangered languages. In contrast to Jagoda, they didn’t devote their lives to cultural preservation. And they also had varying levels of information of the language — Joseph grew up speaking more Judeo-Arabic than Kitty. While language documenters would beget fluent speakers, even semi-speakers can present crucial information, particularly when the language is severely endangered.

On daily basis, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, more speakers of endangered languages die. If we don’t interview them now, we can lose our opportunity forever. Fortuitously, rather a lot of organizations indulge in been doing this crucial work, including the Endangered Language Alliance, the Jewish Language Mission and Wikitongues in the United States and the Mother Tongue Mission in Israel.

Right here’s not valid a Jewish discipline. Of the 7,000 languages of the sector, about half are truly endangered. Organizations adore these are our remaining hope to chronicle them before the remaining speakers are long previous. We are able to all catch involved by donating funds, volunteering or connecting the initiatives with speakers of endangered languages.

Can also the memories of Flory Jagoda and Joseph and Kitty Sassoon be a blessing — and a wakeup name: We must act now to preserve their languages and cultures while we soundless can. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and beget not necessarily contemplate the views of JTA or its mother or father firm, 70 Faces Media.

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Time running out in race to preserve endangered Jewish languages