Ashkenazi and Sephardic Hebrew

You say "Shabbes," and I say "Shabbat."

There are two different systems of Hebrew pronunciation encountered today: Ashkenazic and Sephardic. The Ashkenazic pronunciation was used by the Jews of Eastern and Central Europe, in countries such as Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Russia. The Sephardic pronunciation was used by the Jews of the Mediterranean regions, including Spain, Greece, and North Africa.

Until the middle of the 20th century, most American synagogues used the Ashkenazic Hebrew pronunciation, as the majority of American Jews were of Ashkenazi descent. After the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, however, there was a gradual shift in American congregations toward using Sephardic Hebrew, since that is the standard pronunciation used in Israel…. One can still hear both Ashkenazi and Sephardic pronunciations used when referring to certain holidays, prayers, or lifecycle events.

Reprinted with permission from Aleph Isn’t Tough: An Introduction to Hebrew for Adults by Linda Motzkin published by the UAHC press.

Discover More

Sephardic, Ashkenazic, Mizrahi and Ethiopian Jews

The Jewish world is more ethnically and racially diverse than many people realize.

Modern Israel at a Glance

An overview of the Jewish state and its many accomplishments and challenges.

Israel’s Vibrant Jewish Ethnic Mix

Just because Israel is a Jewish country doesn't mean all its Jews are the same.

Where To See Yiddish Theater Today

A guide to Yiddish performances and festivals around the world.

Similar Jewish Words You Don’t Want to Mix Up

From kibbitz/kibbutz to mitzvah/mikveh, we round up some easily confused Hebrew and Yiddish terms.

The 11 Best Ladino Expressions and Phrases To Know

Learn some choice phrases, including the most epic sneeze response ever, in this Sephardic language also known as Judeo-Spanish.

The Sephardic Experience During the Holocaust

The Nazis wiped out several major Sephardic population centers and caused the almost complete demise of Ladino culture.

9 Things to Know About Ladino

This Sephardic language, also known as Judeo-Spanish, has a rich history and is more accessible than you think.