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Different parts of Eastern Europe had different dialects.

For example, Ukrainian, Polish and Hungarian Jews pronounce a "Shuruk" as a EE, or a Komatz as an oo (so Boruch becomes Burich).

From where did this pronunciation come? Most Ashkenazim have a (somewhat) similar pronunciation to Sefardim (For example, Sefardim would say "Baruch" while Ashkenazim would say "Boruch"). Moreover, Poland had a closer connection to Lithuania (they were under a joint Monarchy before both being swallowed up by the Russian Empire) than to Ukraine.

Moreover, there are videos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe (who was from Dnepropetrovsk which is in the center of Ukraine), and he speaks with a "conventional" pronunciation.

In Short,

Where and why did the different pronunciations start?

  • 2
    Despite the different pronunciations of Hebrew, I think you meant to transliterate the word הברה (syllable or pronunciation) and not העברה (passing or transference). I edited the title accordingly.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 8, 2012 at 22:23
  • 1
    Why do people in central london speak differently from people in eastern london?
    – avi
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 1:08
  • @avi the difference is that people in one neighborhood tend to have similar pronunciations. On the other hand, Poland and Ukraine (which were under Polish and then Russian rule) speak differently than Lithuanian Jews (who were also under Polish/Russian rule and speak similar to Hungary (who have no connection to Poland/Russia). Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 2:32
  • @ShmuelBrill In England, accent is defined by wealth and social class, not geography (or it was)
    – avi
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 11:08

1 Answer 1


Not really a complete answer, but the Jews in these countries arrived from different places and at different times. For example, most Polish Jews came from Germany, while early Ukrainian Jewry seems to have come from the Byzantine empire and/or from the Khazar kingdom. So it is not too surprising that they had different accents.

[We tend to lump all of the Jews of Christian Europe together as "Ashkenazim," but strictly speaking, originally there were several cultural areas, each with their own customs; for example, Knaan (Bohemia and nearby areas) and Hagar (Hungary) were distinct from Ashkenaz (western Germany). Ashkenazic Jewry simply came to dominate all of them, probably by a combination of sheer numbers and a higher level of Torah knowledge. Much the same happened with the older communities of the Ottoman Empire that were swamped by the Sephardim expelled from Spain, and so mostly lost their old minhagim.]

Some of these differences did develop only later - for example, Polish/Hungarian "ee" vs. other Ashkenazic "oo" for shuruk (see my answer here). It's also possible that this had to do with what sounds existed in the local non-Jewish languages; this is similar to the way that general Ashkenazic pronunciation has lost all of the Hebrew guttural and emphatic consonants, because they don't exist in the European languages.

  • @ShmuelBrill, no, I don't. But R. Levi Yitzchak's family had roots in White Russia, as did probably a lot of the Lubavitcher chassidim in Ukraine, so they may well have preserved the northern pronunciation.
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 9, 2012 at 20:08

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