New Dictionary of Jewish-Moroccan Language

A new dictionary contains some ten thousand words, idioms, phrases, and turns of speech from the Jewish Arabic of Moroccan Jews.

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Malkah Fleisher, | updated: 23:09

Jews of Fez, circa 1900
Jews of Fez, circa 1900
Jewish Encyclopedia

After toiling for two years, Mordechai Hanuna has published the first Jewish-Moroccan dictionary. It contains some 10,000 words, idioms, phrases and turns of speech from the Jewish Arabic of Moroccan Jews. The translations are into Hebrew.

Hanuna says he finds special value in eternalizing the language that reflects the uniqueness of this Jewish community, expressing itself through its needs, its separateness from its neighbors and its unique culture. He says Jewish-Moroccan contains Italian, French, Hebrew, and English, as well as ancient Akkadian and Ugaritic languages.

In the years since the Jewish community came to Morocco, from the end of the First Temple Period until today, the language transformed and adopted different languages according to the distinctive needs of the Jewish community in regard to holidays, dates and customs.

"This is literary work created over the years, work which preserved ancient Hebrew," Hanuna said, as he demonstrated the Mishnaic relationship between a word and its practical usage.

"It is an injustice to the language that people referred to it as vulgar, rather than the poetic language that it is," Hanuna lamented. "As a boy I denied it, and today I understand its beauty. The time has come to know [the language]. This was a creation of the people, a creation that the nation produced."