yiddish history

Yiddish-speakers themselves, including some of the most prominent Yiddish writers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, routinely referred to their language as Zhargon – Jargon. It was a bastard tongue, bad German, a linguistic mishmash, hardly a language at all. Jews intent on assimilation found it particularly odious. In Germany for example, Jews tried to reduce Jewishness to a Konfession, a religion divorced from culture, insisting they weren’t Jews at all, but rather “Germans of the Mosaic persuasion” Go make the case in Yiddish, where every word, every linguistic tic, is a reminder of peoplehood. Consider, for example, Max Weinreich’s example of a more or less random Yiddish sentence: Di bobe est tsholent af Shabes – The grandmother eats warmed-over bean stew on the Sabbath. Bobe, “grandmother” is a Slavic word that entered Yiddish in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. Est was adopted a thousand years ago, from Middle High German. Tsholent, bean stew, came from Old French more than a thousand years ago, probably from chaud, “hot”, and lent, “slow” – a fitting name for a dish that Jews keep warm on the Sabbath, when cooking is not allowed. And Shabes, “Sabbath,” is a Hebrew word that dates back several thousand years. Quite literally, Yiddish is a living chronicle of Jews’ historical experience, proof of their peoplehood, and therefore spills the beans on assimilationist aspirations. No wonder Bourgeois Jews hated it; no wonder scholars ignored it. In 1873, for example, the German Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz afforded Yiddish just two paragraphs in his magisterial six-volume History of the Jews. Never mind that Yiddish was then the first or only language of 80% of the world’s Jews; for Graetz, it was “eine halbtierische Sprache,” a half-bestial tongue.

- Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books by Aaron Lansky

this was such an entertaining read!!! ​all I do is complain and it’s great to have a cultural excuse that goes back for centuries. this book made me love the tribe even more and realize that the jewish culture and experience is so eerily similar despite regional differences.

The lyrics are taken from a poem by Morris Rosenfeld commemorating the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It’s a few months yet until the anniversary, but the song came on while I was working (it also struck me for it’s similarity to Simon & Garfunkel’s El Condor Pasa (If I Could)).

These are the lyrics in English and Yiddish:

Mayn Rue Platz

Nit zukh mikh, vu die mirten grinen,
Gefinst mikh dortn nit, mayn shats.
Vu lebns velkn bay mashinen,
Dortn iz mayn rue plats.

Nit zukh mikh, vu die feygl zingn,
Gefinst mikh dortn nit, mayn shats.
A shklaf bin ikh, vu keytn klingn,
Dortn iz mayn rue plats.

Nit zukh mikh, vu fontanen shpritsn,
Gefinst mikh dortn nit, may shats.
Vu trern rinen, tseyner kritsn,
Dortn iz mayn rue plats.

Un libst du mikh mit varer libe,
To kum tsu mir, mayn guter shats.
Un hayter oyf mayn harts, dos tribe,
Un makh mir zis mayn rue plats.

Don’t look for me where myrtles are green.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
Where lives wither at the machines,
There is my resting place.

Don’t look for me where birds sing.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
I am a slave where chains ring,
There is my resting place.

Don’t look for me where fountains spray.
You will not find me there, my beloved.
Where tears flow and teeth gnash,
There is my resting place.

And if you love me with true love,
So come to me, my good beloved,
And cheer my gloomy heart
And make sweet my resting place.

Isaac Leib Peretz, depicted on a Yiddish postcard, c. 1910
Isaac Leib Peretz (also known as Yitskhok Leybush Peretz (יצחק־לייבוש פרץ) and Icchok Lejbusz Perec or Izaak Lejb Perec (in Polish)) (May 18, 1852 – 3 April 1915), best known as I.L. Peretz, was a Yiddish language author and playwright. Payson R. Stevens, Charles M. Levine, and Sol Steinmetz count him with Mendele Mokher Seforim and Sholem Aleichem as one of the three great classical Yiddish writers. Sol Liptzin wrote: “Yitzkhok Leibush Peretz was the great awakener of Yiddish-speaking Jewry, and Sholom Aleichem its comforter… Peretz aroused in his readers the will for self-emancipation, the will for resistance…”

Jews of the World

Let’s do to Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Arabic and all the other Jewish languages from the Diaspora what Eliezer Ben-Yehuda did with Hebrew. Let’s bring them back. Let them be spoken by our people again. 

Don’t let these languages die.

Don’t let part of Jewish history, Jewish culture, Jewish identity die. These languages deserve to live, to flourish, to be spoken by eager tongues and felt in warm hearts. 

Yes, Hebrew is our unifying language. The language all of our people is connected by. But the languages of the Diaspora shaped us to who we are, as people and as Jews. 

Teacher, please: there’s more to learn
we few who’ve chosen not to spurn
the words our fathers’ fathers said
when they lived (now, they’re dead)

if I remember, will you return
will you awaken, the harder I yearn
the sound of an “s” instead of “t”
brings my grandmother back to me

your words will be the coat I’ll wear
through vinter–which is kalt;
so I’ll be like you in every way
when I reach the Age of Old

Watch on jewishhenna.tumblr.com

I’m working on a calligraphic commission for a client who wants me to include reference to his Lithuanian-Jewish heritage from Vilna (Vilnius). While researching imagery from Jewish Vilna, I found this charming film about Jewish Vilna from 1939 — in Yiddish with English subtitles. It shows various aspects of Jewish life in the city, the Jewish Quarter, synagogues, the marketplace, YIVO headquarters, and more. It ends with footage of Jewish children swimming and demonstrating athletics — an image of the flourishing Jewish future… Of course, Jewish Vilna was destined for horrendous destruction only a few years later. What a bittersweet treasure this film is!

anonymous asked:

hey :) i love everything you post, especially the historical stuff! do you think you could make a list of book recs? i'm into all the jewish politics, communism, and also yiddish theatre history

thanks! omg so you need to read the moscow state yiddish theater: jewish culture on the soviet stage by jeffrey veidlinger if you haven’t already, it’s great. other than that, since i don’t wanna bombard everybody w/ another obnoxiously long list of books, here’s one i made of what i read between january & august (i think), here’s one on the jewish left, here’s one on jewish banking families, here’s one on the armenian genocide, & here’s one on american imperialism in latin america. that’s probably like 150-200 books lol, enjoy


one, two, three, four
the unemployed are more and more
factories shut down last year
closed their doors and left us here
machines lie cold, covered with dust
months pass, they begin to rust
we march on along this road
unemployed out in the cold
unemployed out in the cold

one, two, three, four
the unemployed are more and more
without clothes and without home
make our bead of earth and loam
running out of food to eat
we’re out of bread and out of meat
water precious, tastes like wine
drink it down for now we’re fine
drink it down for now we’re fine

one, two, three, four
the unemployed are more and more
for many years we’ve slaved in vain
suffered for the bosses’ gain
we built cities and countries
but not for you and not for me
comrades, what did we get back
but hunger, eviction, and the sack
hunger, eviction, and the sack

one, two, three, four
this is what we’re fighting for
the unemployed march hand in hand
singing out across the land
that the working class will have its day
in a world that we fought to free
unemployment, shame, and greed:
we will all make history
and we will all make history

I’m a member of a group called “decolonizing judaism” in my college town, which was created as a response to the hillel being one of the only centers of jewish student life, and that being alienating to anti-zionist jews. we meet on shabbos and (sometimes) daven, discuss torah through a decolonial lens, plan direct action, etc. we’ve been planning ways to show up as a counter-presence to fascism that crops up on/near campus, that are visibly distinct and separate from hillel’s counter-presence which focuses on israel even when it is blatantly irrelevant and certainly inappropriate. we’re also planning a leftist focused seder for pesach in spring term.

recently something else we added to the meetings is learning yiddish! one of the members, xander, is a yiddishist and pretty much conversationally fluent. he teaches us new phrases, words, and grammar every week. he taught a lesson on the history of yiddish, the history of the jewish socialist labor bund, yiddishism & its ties to antizionism (centered around yiddish’s ties to radical jews, the idea that the “revival” of modern hebrew is too steeped in zionist intentions and context, and the fact that zionists have been classist and elitist towards speakers of yiddish), and the importance of revitalizing languages like yiddish, judeo-arabic, ladino, etcetera. I got a copy of college yiddish and started learning seriously, and hope to go to yiddish vokh at some point. 

Shakespeare in het Jiddisch: Sonnet XVIII

Zol ikh dikh tsu a zumer-tog farglaykhn?

Bist milder, liblikher in yedn zin;

Durkh Frilings blitn roye vintn shlaykhn,

Un kurts iz fun dem zumer der termin:

Oftmol tsu heys dos oyg fun himl laykht,

Oft iz zayn goldener glants fartunklt gor,

Un oft dos sheyne fun der sheynkayt vaykht

Durkh tsufal, enderung fun der natur:

Dokh eybik lebn vet dayn zumers prakht,

Un vos du sheyns farmogst vet eybik vayln;

S’vet toyt nit hobn iber der keyn makht,

Vayl bist fareybikt in di eybike tsayln;

    Vi lang nokh mentshn otemen, oygn zen

    Lebt mayn gedikht, un du vest nit fargeyn.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)


Vertaald uit het Engels in het Jiddisch door Abraham Asen


Sonnet XVIII

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate:

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,

And often is his gold complexion dimmed,

And every fair from fair sometime declines,

By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,

Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,

    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Also related to goth Jew aesthetics @chiribomb Ive been thinking a lot about what basically amounts to “shtetl punk.” It first piqued my interest with how a lot of modern klezmer has punk leanings, and then i thought about it more as I was learning about yiddish functioning as expressive and anti-assimilationist language. And then you get a lot of radical political influence as well with a lot of yiddish music, stories, and history. And at least in the the circles I’m in, we talk some about the radical implications of primarily associating with other Jews/ only dating Jews / existing as a Jew in a way that is at odds with “secular” society.

Something that has been interesting about it to me, is that we’ve gotten a few Jewish folks in our parent’s generation being like “you kids, and your love of Jewish culture, I don’t get it.” So they perceive it as counter cultural as well, even though it is their culture too? I’m assuming a lot of it is how antisemitism fluctuates through the generations and how that influences the Jewish community

The main issue I see with it is people who complain about folks romanticizing pre-war Europe, but also pretty much any subculture inspired by a time in history could have a similar critique so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

nalia-r  asked:

One of my projects is the story of a Mexican Catholic girl and an Ashkenazi Jewish boy. Due to a citywide disaster, their large feuding families are forced to move in together. There's tension due to religious differences and an unresolved dispute from years back. Because there's a tight focus on these two families and their home life, what are some things I could write that would ground readers and read as authentic? FMC is second generation immigrant, MMC grandpa was holocaust generation.

Mexican Catholic and Ashkenazi Jewish Family Tensions

If you’re looking for reasons to get into conflicts, the first thing that comes to mind is just that kind of mutual secular xenophobia that happens when marginalized people date outside their group.

I’ve never seen Christians of color try to drag non-Christians to church the way white Protestants do, so I don’t know if that’s realistic… I could see pork being a conflict – even if the Jewish family doesn’t keep strict kosher, they might still eschew pork for tribalistic reasons and that might seem unreasonable to the Mexican family.

I don’t know if Mexican Catholics “blame us” for Jesus’s death, but some other types of Christians do so that’s worth looking into. I could see the Ashkie family being secularly racist if they were super white-passing – not that it’s a particularly Jewish problem, just a white problem. It’s learned behavior.

Or, maybe I misunderstood and you’re not looking for realistic sources of conflict but just general details that would add verisimilitude to your setting. From the Ashkie/Shoah refugee standpoint:

Does this family have a mezuzah outside the door? It’s a little tiny box with a protective prayer inside.

Passover and the High Holy Days (the stuff around new year’s, i.e. Sept/Oct) are more important than Chanukah in the Jewish calendar but because of Christmas, Chanukah got blown out of proportion and some of us have taken the ball and ran with it (which is ironic, for an anti-assimilationist holiday lol.) Nevertheless, don’t treat Chanukah as bigger than those other things if you’re writing from the outside.

How closely do they observe Shabbat? That can be anything as casual as having challah and other slightly more culturally significant foods (chopped liver, matzo ball soup, etc.) on Friday night or something as observant as asking the Mexican family to help out with turning the lights on and off until Saturday evening. Do they go to shul? Have families invented a shul in someone’s living room bc of the citywide disaster?

Do they have books like my grandparents had, huge compilations of Jewish humor and books about the history of Yiddish, etc.?

Are there smells that the grandpa can’t smell without being triggered? (This is an example from my own life.) Are there memories he doesn’t talk about? Did he get out before everything went to shit or does he have a tattoo? Do you have a specific country in mind that your grandpa character was from?

The Mexican characters can affectionately make fun of Ashkie food for not being spicy, if they want.

It’s gonna be up to you how strict kosher they are. Some of us don’t care. Some of us leave out pork but otherwise don’t care. Some of us leave out pork, shellfish, don’t mix meat and dairy, but don’t care about the little mark. And some of us check the package for the little marks that say yes, this chicken breast is kosher, etc.

If you’re not Jewish, if you’re gonna write us, please go read something we’ve created first. Something relatively light-hearted and easy to deal with is the Rabbi Harvey graphic novels. They’re a retelling of old Jewish stories set in the Old West in Colorado, and if you read one of those books you’ll probably feel more comfortable recreating our culture.


The first thing coming to my brain is that there’s a lot of Jewish influence in Mexico, particularly our food. We have a family tradition here, us Rodríguezes, of doing cabrito for special occasions and I am told that this is a Jewish thing.

There’s the ugly and awful history of the Inquisition, on the one hand, with people burned publicly for being Jewish.  Then there’s the part of our history where we had a LOT of refugees coming in in the late 1800s. Today there are vibrant communities and big synagogues and so forth, but there was this long period of basically being Secretly Jewish and mixing your culture with Mexican culture, like I remember there were these little deserts that is basically unleavened bread for Passover, that Mexican Jews made to participate but not be outwardly obvious about it to duck persecution. 

Anyway point is, because we have a fusion culture of things we don’t even realize on its face are of Jewish origin, you could maybe do one of those “we’re not so different” ways of resolving their differences.

– Rodríguez

If you’re interested in Jewish literature, then listen up because I’ve got a book for you. The title is The World to Come by Dara Horn, and it just about bowled me over.

In brief, it’s about Benjamin Ziskind, a man who, shortly after his mother’s death, goes to a single’s mixer at a museum, sees a Marc Chagall painting that he thinks used to hang in their living room, and steals it. It’s also about his sister, an artist he enlists to forge a copy, and his grandfather, who was tutored by Chagall as a child in the Soviet Union, and Der Nister, the Yiddish novelist whose pen name means “the Hidden One” and who feels compelled to hide his work so it will survive, and Benjamin’s parents, who kept secrets that haven’t been uncovered even after their deaths.

On a broader note it’s about the angels who teach unborn babies the entire Torah and then knock it out of them, the relevance and magic of Yiddish in the modern world, and the different ways in which artists portray or distort or channel the truth in their work. It’s 75% family drama and 25% midrash–the final chapter, especially, left me absolutely breathless as Dara Horn explored the education of Benjamin’s unborn nephew in Paradise. It’s a tricky book–there are a lot of references that you probably won’t get unless you have at least a passing familiarity with Jewish theology and Ashkenazi folklore (Russian history and Yiddish writing are also a plus) but man oh man, READ THIS BOOK.