Emet Prize Laureates

Prof. David M. Bunis

Hebrew University of Jerusalem
2013 Laureates of Emet Prize

In Category: Humanities
In Field: Jewish history

Investigation of Ladino

Prof. David M. Bunis

Jury Statement

“For his contributions to the investigation of Ladino, one of the major languages of the Jewish people, in the contexts of culture and society, from the Middle Ages to the present.”


Was born in 1952.

He received his BA from City College of New York and MA from Columbia University, where he then received a doctorate for his dissertation on the Hebrew-Aramaic component in Modern Judezmo (Ladino). After completing his studies he was invited to join the Faculty of Humanities of the Hebrew University, where he established a program in Ladino Studies and teaches Ladino linguistics and literature. In 2006 he was appointed full professor in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Languages.

In his work he advocates an interdisciplinary approach to the study of Ladino, integrating the analysis of language, literature and culture. In his research he presents Ladino as a unique linguistic reflection of the Sephardic experience, incorporating features that have parallels in other Jewish languages as well.

In his earliest works he sought to document and help foster knowledge of Ladino. In his later writings he deals with more theoretical issues such as the use of the Hebrew-letter orthography as a national-
religious symbol and the theoretical implications of the language’s Hebrew-Aramaic component. His comparative studies of Ladino and Yiddish are seminal contributions to the field of Jewish intra-linguistics.

He has lectured widely at scientific conferences devoted to Ladino and Jewish languages, both in Israel and abroad. He has also been an advisor to the National Authority for Ladino and Its Culture, to the Ministry of Education (in the framework of Ladino studies at Amalia High School), and to research institutions in Israel, the United States, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

He served as academic chairman of the Misgav Yerushalayim Institute for Research on Sephardi and Oriental Jewish Heritage (2006-2009), chairman of the Samuel Toledano Prize Committee, and a member of the Israel Prize in Jewish Languages Committee. He is co-editor of the journal Massorot and a member of editorial boards of journals devoted to the study of Ladino and Jewish languages. He is also a member of the Public Council on Eastern Music and Dance of Jerusalem and a member of the Academic Committee of the Moshe David Gaon Center for Ladino Culture of Ben-Gurion University. In 2006 he received the Yad Ben Zvi Life’s Work Award