David Bunis, Ladino expert

Prof. David Bunis of the Hebrew University is an expert in Ladino (Judeo-Spanish). He will be a visiting scholar at the UW for 2013-14.

Over the millennia, the Jewish people have had a dynamic relationship with language. On one hand, they have borrowed language elements from the various countries they inhabited in order to create Jewish versions of local languages; yet on the other hand, Jews have always maintained their connection to Hebrew and Aramaic, the holy tongues of the sacred scriptural canon. Understanding the Jewish relationship with language is a window onto Jewish identity, continuity, and creativity.

Luckily for the UW and the Seattle community, Prof. David Bunis, one of the world’s leading experts on Jewish languages, will be a visiting scholar this year to help illuminate the many fascinating aspects of Jewish languages, in particular Ladino. For the second year in a row, the Stroum Jewish Studies Program at UW is welcoming a Schusterman Visiting Israeli Professor onto campus to teach courses and serve as a community resource for 2013-2014. This academic exchange program is supported by the Stroum Jewish Studies Program, the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE), the Samis Foundation, and the Division of Spanish and Portuguese Studies at UW. As a specialist in Ladino (also known as Judeo-Spanish or Judezmo), Prof. Bunis is particularly well-matched with Seattle, which boasts one of the largest communities of Sephardic Jews in the country and, under the leadership of Prof. Devin Naar, is rapidly becoming a major center for Sephardic Studies.

Prof. David Bunis will teach Introduction to Ladino during Winter Quarter 2014, making UW the only place in the country to study Ladino on a college campus.

Prof. Bunis was born in Brooklyn, New York. He completed his doctorate in the Department of Linguistics, Columbia University, in 1980, focusing on the Languages and Literatures of Sephardic and Oriental JewsHebrew-Aramaic component of Modern Judezmo. Thereafter, he joined the Faculty of Humanities of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as its Judezmo Studies specialist. In 2006 Bunis was appointed full professor in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Languages. He has served as an advisor to the Israel National Authority for Ladino Language and Culture, the Israel Ministry of Education (Ladino programs), and academic institutes in Israel, the United States, and Europe. He is co-editor of Massorot: Studies in Jewish Languages and Language Traditions and a member of the editorial boards of several journals devoted to linguistics and Jewish languages. In 2006 Prof. Bunis was awarded the prestigious Ben-Zvi Life’s Work Prize for his pioneering contributions to Judezmo Studies.

Bunis’ recent publications include Voices from Jewish Salonika (1999) and Judezmo: An Introduction to the Language of the Ottoman Sephardim (1999).  He also edited the volume, Languages and Literatures of Sephardic and Oriental Jews (2009). Click here to view his full list of publications.

On October 9th, the community had the chance to welcome Prof. Bunis to Seattle at a special reception and sold-out lecture, “Ladino / Judezmo as a Jewish Language.” Click here to read “Speaking Jewish,” an article about Jewish languages written in response to Bunis’ fascinating history of Judeo-Spanish.


Bunis’ courses for 2013-14 offer a unique opportunity to consider Jewish languages up close and as they affect communities around the world. With Bunis as a visiting scholar, the UW will be the only university in the country where students will be able to take an Introduction to Ladino course and learn how to read and write the language in Hebrew script. Don’t miss out on:

—Fall 2013: JSIS C 489 Language and Ethnicity in Israel Today

[Click here to register!]

—Winter 2014:  JSIS C 489 / SPAN 394 Special Topics: Ladino for Beginners and JSIS C 489 Special Topics: Sephardim on Jerusalem [Registration opens Nov. 8th]

—Spring 2014: JSIS C 489B/SPAN 394 A History of the Ladino Language and Its Literature 

Check back with jewishstudies.washington.edu/newsite for the latest information about other upcoming events featuring Prof. David Bunis. We are excited for him to join our community for the year, and we look forward to learning more about Ladino and the world of Jewish languages with him.

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⇒ Learn more about the Stroum Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Washington, our Sephardic Studies Program, or our Israel Studies Program.
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