HUC-JIR, Los AngelesSarah Bunin Benor

Sarah Bunin Benor is Professor of Contemporary Jewish Studies at Hebrew Union College. She has written and lectured extensively about the social science of American Jews, sociolinguistics, Jewish languages, and Orthodox Jews. She is the author of Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism, and she edits the Journal of Jewish Languages, the Jewish Language Website, and the Jewish English Lexicon.

Lecture Topics:

  • Beyond Bagels and Burekas: American Jewish Language and Identity
    Using quotes and images, this talk highlights the diversity of American Jews by focusing on the diverse uses of “Jewish American English” – enriched by Yiddish, Hebrew, etc. Jews of various stripes use subtle variation in language to signal their religiosity, ancestral origin, and orientation toward Israel.
  • Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism
    Newly Orthodox Jews, or ba’alei teshuva (lit. ‘those who return’), encounter a very different culture, including new ways of talking, dressing, and acting. Focusing on the Yiddish and Hebrew words used by English-speaking Orthodox Jews, this lecture explores how “BTs” integrate into the community partly by taking on these new practices.
  • Cohen, Levi, Yisrael: Jewish Names Around the World
    This session analyzes Jewish personal and family names as a lens into broader Jewish historical and cultural trends. Topics include American celebrity name changes, diversity in Jewish communities around the world, and various types of surnames (e.g., based on parents’ names, place origin, and profession).
  • Jewish Languages Today: Endangered, Surviving, and Thriving
    A case for the urgent need for documentation and reclamation: while Hasidic Yiddish is thriving, most other longstanding Jewish languages are endangered, including Ladino, Judeo-Arabic, Jewish Neo-Aramaic (Iraq-Iran), and Judeo-Malayalam (Southern India). The talk includes information about the languages and videos of contemporary music.