In the long history of the Diaspora, Jews have preserved Hebrew as a ritual language almost wherever they have gone; they have also developed their own vernaculars (of which Yiddish is the best known), usually based on local tongues and written in the Hebrew alphabet. Drawing on Bernard Spolsky’s The Languages of the Jews, Sarah Bunin Benor gives some examples of the Jewish linguistic panoply:
The Greek-speaking Jewish community in early-modern Corfu [then under Venetian rule], for example, was absorbed by speakers of Apulian (an Italian dialect), but they preserved some Greek words and customs, such as reading Greek poems on the fast of Tisha b’Av. In early 20th-century Cairo, Egypt, Jewish groups from several regions converged, yielding a meeting place of Egyptian Arabic, Arabic from other North African countries, Ladino, Yiddish, and Russian—in addition to Italian, French, and English, international languages adopted by middle- and upper-class Jews. At one point, Cairo even had two newspapers and a theater troupe in Yiddish. And even before the revival of Hebrew as a spoken language, Jews in the Holy Land used Hebrew as a lingua franca; Spolsky gives the example of a Jew from Kabul and a Jew from California speaking Hebrew in mid-19th-century Palestine.