BD luncheon speaker to discuss Judeo-Spanish in the 20th century on Jan. 13

Beth David’s Saturday, January 13, luncheon speaker will be Bryan Kirschen, assistant professor of Spanish and linguistics in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures and the Linguistics Program at Binghamton University. In 2017, the New York Jewish Week named him as one of its “36 under 36” for his work on Judeo-Spanish. With his recognized expertise in Judeo-Spanish (often referred to as Ladino), Kirschen will explore the role of language in the assimilation of Sephardic Jews in the United States over the past century. 
At the start of the 20th century Kirschen says, as many as 60,000 Judeo-Spanish-speaking Sephardim immigrated to the United States. Not only did they find themselves in a country where English was the majority language, but also in cities where other varieties of Spanish were spoken. In addition, Sephardic Jews found themselves situated against a backdrop of more than two million Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazim, and many often questioned the utility of their mother tongue. Kirschen has conducted field research and has gathered oral histories of Judeo-Spanish speakers, many in their 70s and 80s. “They represent such rich lives and histories,” Kirschen says. “They have much to share.”
Kirschen’s 2007 undergraduate degree in Spanish from Binghamton University included courses in Hebrew and Arabic. Through his later studies as a graduate student in California, Kirschen said he became particularly interested in Judeo-Spanish, a language that combines elements from Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic, and has a cultural connection to Sephardic Jews who lived in Spain until 1492. While pursuing doctoral studies, Kirschen co-founded a group called ucLADINO where students interested in Judeo-Spanish could meet and share their interest in the language. The group holds a yearly symposium, with participants coming from around the world. Kirschen was recently invited to be a keynote speaker at the event. Kirschen received his Ph.D. in 2015 from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he specialized in Spanish, Judeo-Spanish and sociolinguistics. 
Speaking about his scholarly research, Kirschen says, “I thought it would be a great way to learn about my own religious background but from a different stance – continue my studies in Spanish and my interest in language, and really learn about something that I thought was so linguistically, culturally and historically rich.” 
“We are thrilled to have Bryan return to Beth David,” organizers say, “and to share with us his latest findings about such a rich topic. He is one of the leaders in the field of Judeo-Spanish and, as attendees will see, he is also a gifted speaker.”
Beth David’s luncheon speaker series takes place the second Saturday of the month after Shabbat morning services and is open to the community. There is no charge for the luncheon, but Beth David welcomes donations to the Luncheon Fund in order to keep the program going. Donations can be made in honor of or in memory of someone, or to mark a special occasion. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Beth David Synagogue, 39 Riverside Dr., Binghamton, NY 13905, Attention: Luncheon Fund.