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!
  • Israelis are taking up the #IceBucketChallenge — with hummus.
  • In WWI, Jews fought for Britain. So why were they treated as outsiders?
  • According to a new poll, 75% of Israeli Jews oppose intermarriage.
  • Will Lubavitcher Rabbi Moshe Wiener be the next Met Council CEO?
  • Angelina Jolie changed everything — but not just for the better:
  • Prime Suspect? Prime Minister.
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • 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.