Help Preserve Iranian Jewish Languages

By Sarah Benor

$6,121
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51% of $12,000 goal
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230Days
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This campaign ends on March 31 at 02:59AM EDT
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Problem

Historically, Jews in Iran spoke a wide variety of languages beyond Persian/Farsi. Depending where they lived, they spoke Judeo-Hamadani, Judeo-Isfahani (Jidi), Judeo-Kashani (Kashi), Judeo-Shirazi, Judeo-Yazdi, Jewish Neo-Aramaic in the Kurdish region, and more. These languages developed differently from the Muslim, Zoroastrian, and Christian languages nearby because of Jews’ residential patterns and cultural practices. Over the past several decades, the speakers of these languages have acquired fluency in Farsi (in Iran), English (in North America), and Hebrew (in Israel), and they have generally not passed their ancestral languages on to their children. Because the speakers of these beloved mother-tongue languages are mostly in their 80s or older, these languages are endangered. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this process, as many elderly Iranian Jews have passed away. If we do not record these speakers soon, their rich languages and the cultural nuances of the Jewish Iranian experience that language preserves will be lost to history.

Solution

Tens of thousands of Jewish Iranian immigrants live in the Los Angeles and New York areas, and many are speakers or semi-speakers of these endangered languages. We have begun to document their languages by conducting in-depth videotaped interviews, some in person and some over Zoom. However, our funding has run out.

We would like to record at least 20 more speakers, transcribe and translate all of the interviews, and make excerpts accessible to the public online. In addition, we would like to raise awareness about these languages by producing a series of short documentaries and song recordings and presenting a series of online events (see details and register for the events here). Finally, we have the opportunity to create online dictionaries for at least two of the languages.

When you donate, you can help us prioritize our efforts by specifying which language is most important to you. You can also indicate whether you'd like your donation to support recording speakers, an online dictionary, a song, a short documentary, or the project in general.

A joint initiative of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Jewish Language Project, Endangered Language Alliance, Wikitongues, Living Tongues Institute, and Y&S Nazarian Iranian Young Leadership Initiative of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.

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