Skip to main content

First modern textbook on rare Jewish language Juhuri published in Russian-Israeli partnership

Source: Meduza

On March 11, the STMEGI Foundation announced that the first ever Russian-language textbook for learners of the Judeo-Persian language Juhuri has been published by the Sholumi Center for the preservation of Mountain Jewish culture. The textbook’s publication was much anticipated in the Juhuro community and reflects a growing international interest in Russia’s minority languages.

Juhuro, known as gorskie yevrei (Mountain Jews) in Russian, have long kept a unique set of cultural traditions alive in times of change. After being forced to settle in Persia during the initial Jewish diaspora as early as the 8th century B.C.E., the ancestors of today’s Juhuro are thought to have migrated to the Caucasus Mountains in the 5th - 7th centuries C.E., if not earlier. In recent decades, another wave of migration has swept through the community, and active centers of Juhuro life are now based on multiple continents in Azerbaijan, Russia’s Northern Caucasian regions, the United States, and Israel. Recent efforts to preserve the community’s traditions and its language, Juhuri, have brought those cultural centers together, resulting in new publications like the Sholumi Center’s textbook.

The textbook’s author, Gennady Bogdanov, noted that his publication might be of interest to those who hope to learn about Juhuro culture as well as the Juhuri language. To that end, the book includes sample texts on cultural themes alongside grammatical explanations and exercises in the Derbent dialect of Juhuri. Bogdanov began his intensive study of the language as a university student and soon prepared his notes for publication with help from a number of experts, including Irina Mikhailova, Mikhail Agarunov, and Dvora Masandilova. Because fewer than 100,000 speakers of Juhuri have been counted in international surveys over the past 30 years, the textbook’s publication signals an important development in current efforts to preserve the language.