I often hear Ashkenazim pronouncing (or at least trying) Hebrew words in Tefila/Keriat HaTorah like Sephardim. It probably isn't only Religious Zionists but it seems to be only them. Where did the this minhag come from? I heard live from either Rav Schechter or Rav Gedalya Shwartz that even the Rav (Soloveitchik) and Rav Kook would pronounce the Ashkenazi style. Maybe this came from Rav Nosson Adler (the Rav of the Chasam Sofer) who used to pronounce in the Sefardisha style? This is quite interesting also for some more info. http://www.dailyhalacha.com/displayRead.asp?readID=1778&txtSearch=pronunciation

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    hmm, I do this. For me, when I was learning the alef-beis at age 20, I hit ayin, and felt like, "what gives? this letter has a pronunciation, right?" I added ches and kuf later. That's about the extend of my sefardization. I pronounce dagesh chazak also, though that's not sefardi per se, just correct.
    – yitznewton
    Jan 1, 2012 at 1:45
  • See Aruch HaShulchan OC 62:2
    – Double AA
    Jan 1, 2012 at 3:07
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    In my limited experience, most Ashk'nazim who pronounce things somewhat Sephardically do so only to the extent of fronting and/or lowering their kamatz and making their sav a stop (so, for example, they pronounce ches, ayin, and tzadi Ashkenazically).
    – msh210
    Jan 1, 2012 at 6:29
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    @DoubleAA thanks for that reference. For anyone who wants to see it hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=7705&st=&pgnum=125 Feb 24, 2012 at 16:26

4 Answers 4


From personal experience:

My father pronounced Hebrew like a European, and my mother's father like his Gerer roots. But then we were sent to local day schools, many of which came into being during a widespread Zionist fervor (religious and not religious) in the middle of 20th century. There was a big push by the founders of these schools to institute a Sefardic pronunciation. While I ended up following my father, just about all of my classmates (and my brother as well) still use a Sefardic pronunciation to this day.


My Hebrew teachers came from Israel, so they taught me how to read and write Hebrew as Israelis do.

I imagine those schools which do not hire Israelis to teach Hebrew, are also less likely to end up with students who feel a connection to religious Zionism.

However, I was also always taught that the Temani way of pronouncing Hebrew is actually the "most correct", and Israeli Hebrew is a mixture of all three, while also simplified to make teaching Ulpan easiest to the most people from the most amount of countries.

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    I'd be surprised if Israeli Hebrew has anything that remotely resembles Teimani Hebrew specifically - it seems it's mainly a mixture of various Sephardi pronunications and Lithuanian.
    – ezra
    May 8, 2018 at 12:35

From what I know, it's not a Minhag, but a halachic opinion. Let me explain:

Put frankly, most Ashkenazic pronunciations of Hebrew have many important problems: Ayin and alef are usually neglected, soft taf is pronounced like samech and sin, chet and soft chaf are the same, the vowels are just messed up, and much more.
Mizraħi pronunciation--i.e. professional Mizraħi pronunciation, not modern Hebrew--is simply more accurate, differentiating between all the letters except for sin and samech. (A Yeminite dialect whose name I have not been able to find does differentiate between the two letters. Any further information would be appreciated.)

Many parts of the Torah and Tephillah can be twisted in meaning due to mispronunciation. For example, in Shema, the word "ואהבת" has emphasis on the last syllable, meaning "And you shall love." However, many Ashkenazim emphasize the second-to-last syllable, which changes the meaning to "And you loved".
Additionally, in Alenu, there's the phrase "לתקן עולם", meaning to fix the world. However many Ashkenazim say "Lessaken Olam", which means to endanger the world by the correct pronunciation! This is one example among many, many others.

Due to these problems, many Rabbis throughout the past millennium have decided to personally adopt some major aspects of Sephardic or Yemenite pronunciation, to avoid implying what they don't mean. A significant percentage of the Rabbis who have dealt with this question have ruled that it is even obligatory to attempt to do so (Obviously that ruling isn't widely accepted, but it is quite telling of the issue's validity). See Rabbi Avraham Kook's responsum, Rabbi Ovadiah in Yaskil Avdi and the introduction to the Siddur Beth Ya’aqobh.

It could also be that the Rabbis you referenced are attempting to differentiate the letters based on what we know of the Tiberian Hebrew pronunciation, which is the common basis for the way most Jews speak Hebrew today. Professional Sephardic Hebrew closely resembles the old Tiberian dialect, except in vowels, where a proto-Palestinian system is used instead.

Note: || Yes, we do know exactly how Tiberian Hebrew sounded. Read Dikdukei Hate'amim by Ben Asher, the last Masorite who officially redacted our system of Hebrew vowels, where he describes exactly how to pronounce Hebrew. Also read Hidāyat al-Qāriʾ, another Masoretic treatise on pronunciation. Also take a look at the first chapter of Sefer Yetzira, various parts of the Talmud (Meghillah 24b is a funny one), and the Ya`vetz regarding his own community's pronunciation. This is your chance to do your research before downvoting with no explanation. (Edit: I have been downvoted with no explanation. Don’t be like them.)

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    "Ashkenazic pronunciation of Hebrew - largely incorrect" You speak of the letters and vowels. The stress is often on the wrong syllable too, Mar 31 at 16:50
  • Thank you, great point. I'll add an example of that. Mar 31 at 16:52

For the most part, the Sephardic pronunciation (with a few exceptions) is commonly accepted as the correct one.
For example, properly pronouncing ayin is not simply a matter of culture, it's the correct way to say it.

That is to say, and I hope I'm not insulting anyone, much of what is known as Ashkenazic pronunciation (though not all of it) is actually a mispronunciation.

I say "commonly accepted", outside of the hardcore, ashkenoizis yeshivot (and except for non-bi-lingual Americans ;-)).

Then again, most Israelis speak broken Hebrew, anyway...

I will relate that I know someone, very learned and studied this specifically for a long time – in his tfilla, kriat hatorah, etc, he is very careful both to pronounce the ayin, chet, and other Sephardic elements, and also the saf, kamatz, and other Ashkenazic elements.
The first because he came to the conclusion that it is the correct one, the second because that was his minhag growing up and his parents' minhag....
Although it does come off sounding very.... unique.

  • AviD, Much of Sefardic pronunciation is "mispronounced" as well. The language has been adulterated on both sides by the dialects of the countries we have been in. For example, do you know anyone who pronounces a reish properly (it is a "tooth letter")?How do you know that you are pronouncing the ayin "properly"? Also, true Sefardic pronunciation is not commonly accepted. What is commonly accepted is a Sefardic based pronunciation partially instituted by European Ashkenazim.
    – YDK
    Jan 1, 2012 at 15:55
  • @YDK the way I pronounce, I believe is the correct way. My way is 90% like Yemenite. Jan 1, 2012 at 15:58
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    Also, please bring a source that one should leave the tradition of one's parents (or the Rebbi one's parents sent him/her to) because it makes more sense.
    – YDK
    Jan 1, 2012 at 15:59
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    @AviD, perhaps, but what source do you have that it is, in fact, the correct pronunciation? Because it answers how to pronounce an ayin (as well as other pronunciations)? European's also had a pronunciation for the ayin- as in Yankiv for Yaakov. You might say that wasn't the appropriate pronunciation, but I believe that you should bring a proof/source that your pronunciation, which is not even your tradition, is correct.
    – YDK
    Jan 1, 2012 at 16:34
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    Well, of course he would say that ;-)
    – AviD
    Aug 15, 2013 at 8:02

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