The Jewish Learning Centre North Bondi is a speech community with a strong sense of cohesion and purpose in language. This comes from the religious aspect of this landscape. As Spolsky explains the Jewish view of language is very particular and has changed over the years. It is evident, however, that JLC is typical of the type of community it is. As it is a Modern Orthodox community the rabbi and congregation favour Hebrew for religious services which is seen in Spolsky’s observations, if it was a Reform community there may be a higher use of English. However, it is for all intents and purposes an English speaking community and this is seen in the use of English in informative signs such as the no eating and drinking sign, it is also seen in the preference for the latin script even when as seen in the use of the words “Beit Midrash” on the sign. On the other hand, one can not deny the constant code-switching and borrowing found in the environment. I can not help but recall the exchange I heard in the first minutes of my time at the site, “We are going to have a shiur and then the tehillim.” Here the speaker is using Hebrew words which are religiously dense and meaning dense that they are specifically chosen rather than using the English approximations/translations. In this way the language of the speech community is very purpose driven. The words and language used highlight the cultural cohesion of the community.
It is difficult to truly differentiate between code switching and borrowing, especially with a limited period of observation. I would like to suggest however that the Yiddish words found on the signs of the synagogue are evidence of linguistic borrowing as they are written using English script and syntax. Also there is a limited amount of Yiddish known by community members beyond these culturally linked words. On the other hand the Hebrew words seen and heard are evidence of code switching, this is because there is a greater use of Hebrew syntax as seen in the word “Chaggim” on the sign, and there is Hebrew script found on signs and books throughout the area. As well many members of the congregation will have some knowledge of Hebrew as it is a language taught in schools, they also are required to read the Hebrew script if they want to follow the services. In this way the speech community will be maintained as having some knowledge of Hebrew and an understanding of culturally significant words is a necessity in order to access the culture and religion. Even though the JLC does not offer any Hebrew language classes there is a strong focus on basic Hebrew knowledge in Jewish education which allows the community the flourish.
Looking at the statements made by Spolsky and the evidence found in this particular location one could suggest that whilst this synagogue is not a bilingual community Judaism is a bilingual religion and that this bilingual aspect to the religion has been a key part of language planning and policy to centuries.
Gabriella Gluch z5017624