Marc Sacks msacks at WORLD.STD.COM
Wed May 8 14:09:22 UTC 2002

Duane Campbell wrote:

>Listening to the Sharon news conference, which is being conducted partly
>in Hebrew. I have no knowledge of the language. But what he is speaking
>sounds quite different from the Hebrew I have heard in several Orthodox
>services I have attended.  Is there a significant difference between
>liturgical Hebrew and colloquial Hebrew?
What you heard is probably the difference between so-called "Sephardic"
and "Ashkenazic" pronunciations. The "Sephardic" pronunciation
supposedly stems from the Jewish communites in North Africa and the
Middle East. It is the pronunciation generally used for Israeli (Modern)
Hebrew. It is also the pronunciation used for liturgical Hebrew except
in the more traditional Orthodox synagogues and communites whose members
originated in Eastern Europe (known in Hebrew as "Ashkenaz"). Most
modern Hebrew schools, at least in the US, teach the Sephardic
pronunciation, but you may hear the Ashkenazic occasionally even in less
Orthodox synagogues, generally used by people old enough to have been
taught Hebrew before the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.

I put "Sephardic" in quotation marks above because the pronunciation
used in Israel is not really identical to that of traditional Sephardic
communities either. It was adopted by the early 20th-century Zionists
because its pattern of strongly accented final syllables made it seem
more "masculine" and therefore useful to the new Jewish pioneers than
the somewhat "gentler" Ashkenazic pronunciation. Also, the Ashkenazic
pronunciation is very close to that of Yiddish, which the Zionists
rejected as a language for Israel because of its long association with
the ghettos of Europe.

Marc Sacks
msacks at world.std.com

More information about the Ads-l mailing list