Religion

Sarah Bunin Benor

While working in the library as a college student, Sarah Bunin Benor stumbled upon references to Judeo-Italian and other Jewish languages she’d never heard of before. This discovery inspired her to become a sociolinguist and study Jewish languages around the world and close to home. Her book, “Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism,” which was published late last year, shows how newly Orthodox Jews in America express their religious identity in part by adopting linguistic usages that characterize the communities they have joined.

In “Becoming Frum,” which was awarded second place in the Jewish Book Council’s prestigious Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature, Benor illustrates the unique way in which American Jewish speech exists on a continuum — the more one wants to stress one’s Jewish ritual observance, the more one’s speech tends to deviate from standard American English. This is why a BT (Ba’al Teshuvah, a Jew who becomes Orthodox) will employ different speech patterns from someone who grew up Orthodox, or in the common parlance of some Orthodox communities, as FFB (Frum From Birth).

Benor founded the Jewish English Lexicon as an “Urban Dictionary of Jewish language” to track words derived from various Jewish languages that Jews use even when they are speaking English.

An associate professor of contemporary Jewish studies at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion’s Los Angeles campus, Benor, 38, was also an active member of the advisory panel for the Pew Research Center’s survey of American Jews. As she notes, “Language is a fascinating lens through which we can learn about a community.”

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.