Community and Culture

Building an Exchange of Culture and Creativity in Israel and Europe.

Jewish Languages

In 2016, the National Library of Israel piloted a partnership with the European Days of Jewish Culture, a project of the European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ), celebrating Jewish culture in dozens of cities throughout Europe annually in early September.

 

The theme of the 2016 European Days of Jewish Culture focused on Jewish languages. The NLI drew on the vast materials in the Library's collections, providing participating cities with materials to create their own exhibits as part of their own local events.

 

The exhibition produced by the NLI consisted of seven panels, each displaying the history of a specific Jewish language, providing specific examples from the treasures in the Library archive and collections.

 

NLI Languages Exhibit in Slovenia

NLI Languages Exhibit in Slovenia

 

Understanding the relationship of the Jewish people with language is critical in recognizing the impact on the cultural and traditional norms that have come forth from Jewish communities both historically and in modern times. Over hundreds of years of migration and settlement, Jews have spoken dozens of different languages. Jews have historically spoken and written in a language differing from the native language of where their home country. In some cases their languages have differed by including embedded Hebrew words and in others, they spoke a completely different tongue than the local dialect. 

 

The NLI panels, produced originally in English, featured Modern Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic, Judeo- Arabic, Ladino and other Jewish languages, providing a historical background for the different dialects and showing samples of the use of that language in different communities as they appear in the NLI collections.

 

Displayed in 23 cities across 11 European countries, the panels, which feature more than 30 of the unique treasures housed in the NLI, were translated into six different languages, exposing the materials and information to thousands of participants in the European Day of Jewish Culture events across Europe.