Hebrew Aljamiado at UCLA

Welcome to our site!

This research group was born about a year ago, when a group of curious minds embarked on the journey of studying texts written in Hebrew Aljamiado. We did so without knowing much of the path ahead of us nor where it would lead, and without any materials explicitly designed for learning the writing system. Our workshop is the result of our collaborative process of self-education, which however, could not have happened without the excellent work done thus far by pioneering scholars in the field, and the availability of rigorous transcriptions and digitized manuscripts. Our journey has been anything but easy, oftentimes perplexing, but always fascinating. We have developed a detective-like instinct, yearning to solve the mystery that each text poses. We have questioned, challenged, tracked down books and manuscripts, stared at texts and at each other, read and re-read.

So first things first, what is "Aljamiado"?

“Aljamiado” is the word used to describe texts in an Ibero-Romance language written using either the Arabic or Hebrew writing systems. During the Middle Ages, Jews in the Iberian Peninsula spoke Romance languages, but sometimes turned to the Hebrew alef-bet when it came to writing that language. Hebrew Aljamiado is much more than a writing system: it is material testimony to the complex reality lived by the Jewish community, both in the Iberian Peninsula and in the Sephardic diaspora — after the expulsion of the Jews from Castile in 1492. This writing system is not only relevant to people who study “old things,” it is still very much alive and kicking, the manifestation of a culture that has survived until this day. Post-expulsion, Sephardic Jews continued using the Hebrew alef-bet to write and read in Judeo-Spanish.

Listen to our own Nitzaira on Radio Sefarad, talking about the upcoming UCLadino symposium!