Judeo-Kashani belongs to the Central Plateau Iranic language group spoken around Kashan, having outlived the rapid process of Persianization. Judeo-Kashani shows striking similarities to the dialects of Jewish communities in other cities, such as Hamadan and Isfahan, where the non-Jewish population today is Persian-speaking. There are few if any native Jews left in Kashan. Mass emigration to Tehran began in the mid-20th century, with most leaving having left for Israel or North America after the Iranian Revolution of 1979. California, sometimes called “Kāšifornia” by the community, especially Los Angeles, has been a primary destination.
The Judeo-Median languages, including Judeo-Kashani, are classified by linguists as being among the Central Plateau Dialects of Iran, belonging to what is sometimes called the South Median group of the Northwestern Iranian languages. These varieties are distinct from standard Persian to the extent that there is little mutual intelligibility and almost all speakers of Judeo-Median languages today have shifted in their daily lives to today’s standard Persian or the other national languages of where they currently live. Further research, if possible, will be needed to illuminate the connections among the different Judeo-Median dialects themselves and with the other varieties of the Central Plateau Dialect region.
Judeo-Median languages, including Judeo-Kashani, appear to be largely moribund, and the extent to which there are still living native speakers and semi-speakers remains unclear. Already by 1970, according to researcher Habib Borjian, most Jews had left their traditional communities for Tehran and later overseas. Today, most Jews from the region now live in Israel and the United States, with only a fraction left in Tehran and major urban centers such as Isfahan and Shiraz. Many Persian Jews speak modern Persian, with language shift away from Judeo-Median varieties having already begun two or three generations ago with urbanization.
The earliest work on Judeo-Median was undertaken in the late 19th century by Russian linguist Valentin Zhukovskii, whose Materialy collected his research on Judeo-Kashani and on several related Central Plateau Dialects spoken by non-Jews. The work of Ehsan Yarshater, notably in his 1974 article “The Jewish Communities of Persia and their Dialects,” laid the groundwork for much modern research. The research of Ruben Abrahamian and Haideh Sahim has shed further light on Judeo-Hamadani, as has Habib Borjian’s work on Judeo-Kashani and Judeo-Isfahani. All varieties remain very much underdocumented.
Borjian, Habib. “Judeo-Iranian Languages,” in Lily Kahn and Aaron D. Rubin, eds., A Handbook of Jewish Languages, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015, pp. 234-295.
Borjian, Habib. “What is Judeo-Median—and How Does it Differ from Judeo-Persian?” Journal of Jewish Languages 2/2, 2014, pp. 117-142.
Borjian, Habib. “Judeo-Kashani: A Central Iranian Plateau Dialect,” Journal of the American Oriental Society (JAOS) 132/1, 2012, pp. 1-22.
Sahim, Haideh. 1994. “The Dialect of the Jews of Hamedan.” In Irano-Judaica iii: Studies Relating to the Jewish Contacts with Persian Culture throughout the Ages, eds. S. Shaked & A. Netzer. Jerusalem: Ben-Zvi Institute, 171–81.
Schwartz, Martin . 2012. “Loteraʾi.” In Encyclopaedia Iranica Online, https://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/loterai
Yarshater, Ehsan. 1974. “The Jewish Communities of Persia and Their Dialects.” In Mélanges Jean de Menasce, eds. P. Gignoux & A. Tafazzoli. Louvain, 453–66.
There is a small concentration of Kashani Jews in suburban Great Neck and its vicinity in Long Island, numbering in the hundreds, although Judeo-Kashani is essentially no longer spoken, with Persian (and increasingly English) now dominant. According to 2015-2019 American Community Survey data, there are roughly 6,693 Persian speakers in Great Neck and surrounding towns, the overwhelming majority of whom are probably Jewish, and a small number of whom are probably speakers of these quite different languages spoken by regional Jewish communities in Iran.