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.

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