More on Juhuri.

We discussed the Mountain Jews and their language, Juhuri (Judeo-Tat), back in 2010; now you can see glorious photos of the place where they speak it and read an account of meeting its speakers at Poemas del río Wang:

I met Mountain Jews for for the first time seven years ago, in a café of the Tabriz bazaar, where I was listening to the conversation of the waiters. The language was particularly familiar, some Iranian language, but not Persian, and not even Kurdish. “In what language do you speak?” I asked. “Be Juhuri, in Jewish”, they answered. “Come on”, I said, “I know two Jewish languages, but neither of them sounds like this.” “Well, this is then the third one. We, Mountain Jews speak in this language.” And they said that thousands of them live in the mountains of the “other”, northern, Azerbaijan, and farther north, in Dagestan, many more still.

Take the stuff about the Babylonian captivity with several spoonfuls of salt; as Etienne says in that 2010 post, “the notion that Judeo-Tat goes back to Persian acquired by Jews in the days of King Nebuchadnezzar is utter nonsense. From what little I know of Tat, it is clearly so similar to Modern Persian that it cannot have broken off from Persian at such an early date.” Otherwise, it’s an amazing account:

The most unusual fact about this shtetl is that it works. Anyone who has seen the deserted houses of the Galician shtetls and the Jewish streets of the Eastern European villages, the closed down synagogues or their empty places, and brought them to life again in the imagination with the characters of Sholem Aleichem, can see here how that world would look, had its inhabitants not disappeared. The traditional Jewish world of the Red Shtetl has only gradually modernized. The town center has been renovated, but they have also built a new mikve, a kosher butcher’s shop, and a community house called “The House of Happiness”, and the facades of the ostentatious palaces built in the places of the old wooden houses are still decorated with the motifs of traditional Jewish iconography.

And don’t miss this recent río Wang post on the same topic, with equally glorious photos of Lahıc (or Lahij).

Comments

  1. Athel Cornish-Bowden says:

    I know two Jewish languages, but neither of them sounds like this. Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino: I wonder which one he was omitting. Surely not Ladino, as the title “Poemas del río Wang” suggests a knowledge of Spanish? The only time I ever heard Ladino I was very struck by how similar it is to modern Castilian, despite several centuries of separation. When written in Roman characters it is perfectly intelligible to anyone who can read Spanish (once they get over the weird spelling). Of course, “several centuries” is much less than the time since the Babylonian captivity…

  2. He didn’t say “I know of two Jewish languages,” he said “I know two Jewish languages.” I’m quite sure he knows Ladino exists, but that doesn’t mean he knows it.

  3. In the last year or so I read an online article about this village but it appears to have gone into hiding. In a sort of parallel, there are two Circassian villages in Israel.

  4. Trond Engen says:

    Also the two posts on Xinaliq.

  5. > He didn’t say “I know of two Jewish languages,” he said “I know two Jewish languages.” I’m quite sure he knows Ladino exists, but that doesn’t mean he knows it.

    But I think the sentence only really makes sense — especially the “come on” at the beginning — if by “I know two Jewish languages” is meant “I know both Jewish languages”.

  6. Well, English is not his native language — I don’t think it’s even his second language — so I wouldn’t set too much store by the precise wording.

  7. I don’t think “both” would have made sense for anybody who knows for a fact that there are more. And I think the true intent of the phrase was to serve as a pickup line of sorts, to make sure these people become interested in further conservation with a person who isn’t just a curious foreign interloper but someone who clearly has relevant and intriguing knowledge. In other installments of his blog, Studiolum often writes how a knowledge of some language other than the titular language of the nation opened doors for him – like once, in Iran as well, Russian *literally* opened doors of locked churches for him.

    (and yes, I think Italian was #2, if I still remember our conversations well)

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