Viva Dead Languages: Help Save Yiddish

(Yiddish lives)

(Yiddish lives)

A recent article in the Washington Jewish Week reports that the University of Maryland in College Park may discontinue its Yiddish language courses after a 30 year run. As a campus with one of the most vibrant Jewish student populations in the U.S., UMD’s decision carries a special symbolic weight. Many Yiddish language activists and supporters are discouraged by the impending decision, which the UMD Meyerhoff Jewish Studies Center director and history professor Hayim Lapin attributes to general university-wide budget cuts. If you would like to show your support for the continuation of Yiddish study, please visit www.jewishstudies.umd.edu/academic/YiddishLetter.html, and sign on to the petition to save the Yiddish program at the University of Maryland.

Filed under Campus Wars, Education, USA, Yiddish

42 Responses to “Viva Dead Languages: Help Save Yiddish”

  1. Truly upsetting news. However one cannot ignore the fact that Yiddish was put at a priorital disadvantage before “budgetary constraints” led to this move. It says in the article that Jewish studies majors “must be proficient in third-year Hebrew, which means most of them must take three full years of that language. Yiddish is not offered as a substitute language.”

    Without equal status, it comes as no surprise that the University finds no problem with cutting the language from its offerings. Without equal academic status with Hebrew, Yiddish will continue to be treated as less worthy and less important. Jewish Studies departments, like that at Maryland, need to understand that they are not Hebrew studies departments, nor Israeli studies department. Once they can do this, maybe they will be able to stop shafting worthy subjects with second-class status which make them vulnerable to being tossed out of academia all together.


    Yisroel · December 1st, 2009 at 12:30 am
  2. I am student at the University of Maryland, with ties to the Jewish Studies Department, though I do not take any classes through the department.

    The University is indeed in a huge budget crisis– some departments are being cut entirely, for instance, the Classics department is in danger of ceasing to exist as early as next Fall. The Assistant Provost of Diversity was removed from his position. The staff at the Meyerhoff Center is incredibly supportive of all Jewish life on campus, not just that officially endorsed by the Department. If Lapin is considering cutting the Yiddish program, I would guess that this is because enrollment for these particular classes are in a decline. With budget cuts happening all over the University, it is unsurprising that the department may cut an entire portion of their program.

    I am not suggesting that the program SHOULD be cut, to the contrary, as a non-Yiddish speaker, I recognize the cultural and historic importance of the language, and wish I had proficiency in the language.

    Decisions must be made; programs are being cut all over campus. Right or wrong, the Hebrew programs are easier to fund and more popular with the student population, and thus hold a higher economic priority.

    I don’t think the individual can put a price on learning or knowledge. However, when one runs a department, the needs of the entire program need be considered over one specific part of the program.


    deborah · December 1st, 2009 at 12:47 am
  3. Yisroel-
    How can you suggest that Yiddish is equal to Hebrew in importance to Jewish studies? Hebrew links all of Jewish civilization; Yiddish belongs primarily to one time and place.


    BZ · December 1st, 2009 at 12:54 am
  4. BZ -
    I would imagine that most universities teach Israeli Hebrew, a modern creation designed by lexographers and linguists; many with political aims in mind. In today’s world, this language is important and worthy of study in that it connects the student with the people, life , and culture that finds itself in the State of Israel. Yiddish on the other hand, along with the Hebrew of the Hebrews, the Ladino of the Sephards, and the Judeo-Arabic of the Teymeni and others ukdoyme ukdoyme, are examples of languages that arose naturally from “foreign” origins later to be employed by Jews and made Jewish through hundreds (if not thousands) of years of Jewish experience and cultural activity. Without disparaging Israeli Hebrew, I do find that it is too just as time and space oriented as you claim Yiddish to be. Insofar as these departments are placing Israeli Hebrew at a higher level of importance than any other “time and space” limited Jewish language, I still hold my position that all such languages should be afforded equal status in fulfilling the major requirement for the university (even if that means, in the post budget cut world, seeking the course and credit either from another university or summer program like that offered in vilna). Should biblical hebrew (the hebrew of the hebrews) be the subject in question my position would in fact be weakened, my only strength being the fact that such a language, which is so deeply connected to the Jewish faith, fails today in binding a world Jewish civilization which contains a large, if not majority, secular population with little connect to the Hebrew of the Hebrews that has in fact bound Jews of all corners of the world for thousands of years.


    Yisroel · December 1st, 2009 at 2:04 am
  5. I am a graduate of UMD Jewish studies department and at least as far as the course work for the major is concerned Hebrew is far more important. There are requirements to take courses dealing with texts in Hebrew such as Bible courses and Medieval philosophy. There are no such requirements concerning Yiddish.

    Currently I am studying to be a Jewish educator at the Hartman Institute and similarly the vision of a master Jewish educator relies heavily on knowledge of Hebrew and not Yiddish.

    On the other hand I used to work at a Jewish Day school in LA where there was a very vibrant Yiddish language program and an attempt to reclaim Yiddish as an important content piece in the creation of Jewish identity amongst the students.

    Yisroel, I reject your assumption that “in today’s world, this language is important and worthy of study in that it connects the student with the people, life , and culture that finds itself in the State of Israel.” Hebrew connects Jews to all other Jews across the historical timeline not only to the happenings of the modern State of Israel.

    Yiddish is indeed an important Jewish language and deserves serious study so that we may be exposed to the richness of that culture and time period. But when push comes to shove Jewish History has shown that it prefers Hebrew as the language of Jewish national, cultural, and spiritual expression par exellance.


    uzi · December 1st, 2009 at 5:02 am
  6. wow. BZ i would never imagine you saying such a thing, as you are so often so open-minded, fighting against presuppositions.
    yisroel is quite right. though i myself am a doctoral student in jewish mysticism, and know hebrew (whatever that is) is essential to my task, i can acknowledge the biases in the jewish academia. the jewish studies world has pretensions of objectivity (as if such a thing could exist), but in truth it has always been a hybrid between scholarship and jewish communal advocacy. israel/zionist politics on university campuses are always centered in jewish studies departments (cf. my alma mater columbia as a perfect example).

    yisroel is quite right about the artificial and specific nature of the modern, israeli hebrew language. indeed, (and i am sorry and a bit embarrassed i cannot produce the reference) a contemporary israeli linguist wants to rename the language of israel “israeli” and not hebrew.

    personally, i disagree with such a move, as i recognize that learning even modern israeli hebrew will provide one with tools to begin making one’s way into texts composed in different historical iterations and dialects of hebrew. however, that brings me to my next point. though i myself am a professional student of jewish texts, and i do see my place in the university more like an extension of my Torah learning, i do recognize that jewish studies has been, over the years, biased by its relationships to “traditional” jewish learning, which privileges authoritative jewish text over non-hierarchical historical understandings. simply put (though i personally recommend a knowledge of jewish literature for all students of judaisms) hebrew (whatever that is) is not essential to all realms of jewish study.

    to recap: 1) jewish studies has privileged the study of rabbinic texts, which has privileged forms of hebrew over other languages. 2) the modern israeli version of hebrew is a specific form of the language-body, and it is not a universal tongue lying behind all hebrews in all jewish literature. israeli hebrew’s dominance in the university is more of a political move than many jews give it credit for, given its programmatic history and the resultant exclusion of other forms of hebrew. personally, i am quite saddened by the flattening of the jewish linguistic plane caused by israeli hebrew’s hegemonic influence.


    invisible_hand · December 1st, 2009 at 9:49 am
  7. ah, sorry, post-script!

    lastly, i object to the title and the framing of the article, which is universal to mainstream press articles about yiddish. this is similar to how every article about contemporary graphic literature is always entitled, “bang! pow! comics are not just for kids anymore!”

    yiddish is not a dead language. though my relation to is is both professional (as i study hasidism) and personal (relationship to ancestral heritage, aesthetic enjoyment, feeling of continuity to tradition of yiddish socialism, neo-Hasidic spirituality), i recognize that the project of yiddish secular culture is not faring as well as it once did.

    however, jewschool should not make the mistake the mainstream jewish community has for the past… however many years. the utra-orthodox, yiddish-speaking community is not an outlier. it is a real part of the jewish world, and unless we give them full consideration, we have a poorer understanding of our own communities, which means we can respond to it less well. even as a passionate jewish radical, we ignore these communities at our own peril, as it hampers our ability to respond to contemporary currents. habad and aish hatorah were allowed to slip in under the radar, in a sense, and now they dominate jewish outreach (as problematic as it is, it’s a debate for another thread).

    demographics, demographics, demographics. look at the numbers. the yiddish-speaking community is growing, and it is the section of the jewish world with the highest birth and growth rate. yiddish is not a dead language at all.


    invisible_hand · December 1st, 2009 at 9:56 am
  8. I hear some people still speak Aramaic. Does that make it worth study for the average Jewish Studies undergrad at a large state university?


    David A.M. Wilensky · December 1st, 2009 at 10:48 am
  9. David, how else would said average undergrad understand both Talmud and Mendele?


    Amit · December 1st, 2009 at 11:34 am
  10. habad and aish hatorah were allowed to slip in under the radar, in a sense, and now they dominate jewish outreach (as problematic as it is, it’s a debate for another thread).
    Neither speak yiddish.


    Amit · December 1st, 2009 at 11:35 am
  11. Neither speak yiddish

    But don’t both groups present (to their students) Yiddish as the “true” Jewish language?


    Jonathan1 · December 1st, 2009 at 11:48 am
  12. [Chabad/Aish] Neither speak yiddish.

    Nonsense. Chabad yeshivas provide a solid, working foundation in yiddish. A lot of foundational hassidic writing is in yiddish – Likkutei Torah, Torah Ohr, etc. Hassidic maimarim switch between Hebrew, Yiddish and source Aramaic interchangeably. Most Chabad rabbis I know, even the BT’s, can carry on a basic conversation in yiddish, and some make it a point of teaching it to their kids from birth. Others don’t.

    But don’t both groups present (to their students) Yiddish as the “true” Jewish language?

    There are people like this. In the time I spent at Tiferes, my chavrusa was adamant that Yiddish is superior to Hebrew and brought multiple proofs that I can’t recount now. He is from Brazil and speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew, fluent Yiddish, taught himself conversational Arabic… being a mere trilingual mortal, I didn’t feel qualified to argue. Most people don’t waste their lives over such issues. As I mentioned before, much of Chabad’s foundational writing is in Yiddish, which requires knowledge of both language, mindset and aphorisms, so the necessity for deeply comprehending Yiddish will remain, at least within this community.

    I noticed one thing that no one has mentioned so far – Yiddish itself has dialects. I’m from Bessarabia, and the Yiddish I learned as a kid is different from the Litvisher or Chabad Yiddish of Belorussia and the Baltic states.


    Avigdor · December 1st, 2009 at 12:48 pm
  13. Avigdor made a good case for the living Yiddish as spoken in the Chassidic (and the Litvisch/Misnagdisch) community. There are places in Jerusalem and Bnai Brak where you can’t do business if you don’t speak Yiddish. But these communities (and their Pikesville equivalents) don’t send their kids to institutions like UofM, neither as students nor as teachers.

    What’s being lost, and this is a pity, is the SECULAR branch Yiddish.


    Simcha Daniel Burstyn · December 1st, 2009 at 1:47 pm
  14. It does seem a shame to be characterizing Yiddish as a language that is nowadays the exclusive realm of Hassids, and irrelevant to the rest of us. I see Yiddish as important for its legacy in Ashkenazi labour and socialist movements.

    I think the Yiddish v. Hebrew debate has a lot to do with how we envision what it means to “study” Judaism; are we studying religion/Israel (Hebrew) or culture/history/politics/heritage (Yiddish, for those of us from Eastern European stock, languages like Ladino for others)? Obviously that is a dichotomous way of putting it that doesn’t reflect the rich reach of both languages, but I feel like that is where this debate is going. Clearly both Hebrew and Yiddish are important, but the almost singular focus on Hebrew to the exclusion of colloquial Jewish languages in the realm of Jewish education does imply that the study of Judaism is perhaps a bit one-track-minded in terms of the study of religion.


    Hannah · December 1st, 2009 at 2:08 pm
  15. I see Yiddish as important for its legacy in Ashkenazi labour and socialist movements.

    And, you know, literature.


    em · December 1st, 2009 at 2:27 pm
  16. Agreed!


    Hannah · December 1st, 2009 at 3:00 pm
  17. Petition someone (with lots of money) to endow a position at the university.

    The U of Maryland isn’t obligated to hold Yiddish courses, and if they were popular we wouldn’t be having this conversation.


    ML · December 1st, 2009 at 3:17 pm
  18. Don’t worry, the poles teach yiddish now. A language only has value if it is being used. We can’t just impose yiddish education on others when we can’t be bothered to learn it. If you want yiddish to survive, learn it and use it. Anything else is vain nostalgia.


    Avigdor · December 1st, 2009 at 6:02 pm
  19. Avigdor–

    You don’t think it makes more sense to learn (1) Hebrew or (2) Aramaic, before Yiddish?


    Jonathan1 · December 1st, 2009 at 6:09 pm
  20. I think, starting at zero, it makes much more sense today to learn Hebrew before Yiddish. I am not proposing Yiddish over Hebrew, though some do (like my chavrusa). I was merely saying that instead of trying to social engineer our way out of losing Yiddish by forcing elite university departments to teach it to 15 people a year, those who wish to preserve Yiddish should simply pick up a book, learn it and speak it. It is a very simple language that many of us have already been exposed to as children. A language lives so long as we will to speak it.

    Now that I think about it, that would be a fun thing to do with my future wife – learn a language together (Yiddish) that most people around us could not understand.


    Avigdor · December 1st, 2009 at 7:45 pm
  21. Hannah writes:
    I think the Yiddish v. Hebrew debate has a lot to do with how we envision what it means to “study” Judaism; are we studying religion/Israel (Hebrew) or culture/history/politics/heritage (Yiddish, for those of us from Eastern European stock, languages like Ladino for others)?

    Not all Jews come from either Yiddish or Ladino/etc. heritage. Most of my ancestors in the last several centuries spoke the vernacular of the country where they lived — English in the United States, and German in Germany. And there is plenty of Jewish culture/history/politics/heritage/literature to study in those languages too.

    I’m not denying that Yiddish is essential in studying Eastern European Jewry (just as English is essential in studying North American Jewry), but Hebrew can be used to read sources from 2nd-century Israel, 5th-century Babylonia, 11th-century Spain, 15th-century Germany, 18th-century Poland, and 21st-century America. There’s just no comparison.


    BZ · December 1st, 2009 at 8:51 pm
  22. I think the debate is essentially about the place of literary vs. vernacular languages and the importance of each. I think – just in sheer terms of amount – that the literary languages should win the love of the humanities.


    Amit · December 2nd, 2009 at 4:14 am
  23. I think apples and oranges are being compared here. BZ, you’re referring to classical Hebrew as if it’s the same as spoken Hebrew, a language that has only been used in vernacular by a decent percentage of Jews for less than a century. During the time of the Mishnah it’s pretty safe to assume that most Jews were speaking Greek and Aramaic and those that spoke what we call Hebrew wouldn’t have been calling it Hebrew, most likely. Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Arabic are all examples of the spoken languages Jews crafted using the surrounding vernacular and Hebraic elements. But to pit one against each other is a false analogy since Hebrew for an overwhelming majority of the centuries you mentioned and all in between, Hebrew was a language of study and prayer. Yiddish was spoken as the most widely spoken Jewish language on the globe for almost 1000 years.(since Sefardim/Mizrahim have had a more varied language base between Arabic, Farsi, Aramaic, Urdu, Hindi, Spanish,etc and their Judaic creoles).


    Justin · December 2nd, 2009 at 4:57 am
  24. Justin – the three main chronolects of Hebrew (Classical, Middle and Modern) are sufficiently similar that one intro course should cover them all. “Hebrew” (such as it is) is obviously not very useful as a political language (Israelis are almost all conversant in English), but is useful as a literary language.
    THe various Jewish vernaculars are cute footnotes to History, even important footnotes, but let’s not get carried away.


    Amit · December 2nd, 2009 at 7:58 am
  25. my point is that Hebrew, for a good chunk of Jewish history, has not been a spoken language. I’m not saying modern Hebrew is unrelated to previous periods, simply that it is unique because it is a spoken language. Modern Hebrew is similar to Yiddish, in that regard. It is today the language of both vernacular and literature. I was merely noting that Yiddish has a much longer history and much more widespread use than modern Hebrew. To compare classical and middle Hebrew, which were not spoken but only written and learned, to spoken languages is not an appropriate analogy, in my opinion. that’s all.


    Justin · December 2nd, 2009 at 8:03 am
  26. I agree, but in an undergraduate setting, if you learn one Hebrew, you’ve essentially learned them all. So to compare Yiddish and Modern Hebrew while ignoring the history of Hebrew is not an appropriate analogy, in my opinion. That’s all.


    Amit · December 2nd, 2009 at 8:18 am
  27. One thousand years of Jewish culture is a lot more than a “cute footnote.”

    If hardly anybody is taking the classes, cutting them probably is the right decision. When universities have to make cuts, that’s generally how they do it. The question of whether the program did enough to promote or encourage students to take Yiddish was one for better economic times.

    But I don’t understand why this discussion seems to have devolved into one of the inherent worth of Yiddish or that requires demeaning Yiddish. Which is more “worthwhile” depends on what you want to study and what you’re interested in. And it’s not like it’s unheard of for undergraduate programs to require students to learn more than one language. Classics programs often require students to learn Greek and Latin. Latin American Studies programs often require students to learn Spanish and Portuguese.

    Like I said, it was a discussion for better times, but the complaint that the program privileged certain understandings of what aspects of Jewish culture are “worthy” of study to the detriment seems pretty valid to me.


    em · December 2nd, 2009 at 12:55 pm
  28. I don’t want to add to the pile-on as I really 100% agree with Em, but I really do want to emphasize that whatever side of this issue one is on, the word “cute” is really pretty offensive and obviously patronizing.


    Hannah · December 2nd, 2009 at 1:24 pm
  29. Amit, I agree with the most recent commentators wholeheartedly. Jewish languages are most assuredly NOT a cute footnote in history.
    your implied assumption is that Hebrew is a non-vernacular language, which is essential to the body politic of the Jewish people.
    firstly, taking the globalizing forces that are succeeding in the flattening out of the Jewish world as a given is a sad thing in itself.
    secondly, the point that YIDDISH IS NOT A DEAD LANGUAGE is an important one that people are missing. While modern, secular Yiddish culture is definitely weak today, Yiddish is still widely spoken by the Hasidic community, which is growing rapidly.
    lastly, assuming the essential and pure continuity of Hebrew is a fallacy. Today’s modern, Israeli Hebrew has much resemblance to a “vernacular” language, given its huge influx of english and arabic loan words. hence the academic claim that it should really be called “israeli,” the vernacular language of the israeli populace.
    on an interesting sociology of religion note, the vernacular was seen as the language for “women and men who are like women,” especially in Yiddish history, with women’s books like Tzena Renna being written in VayberTaytsch, Women-German/Yiddish. But today, many contemporary Hareidi and Hasidic books for women are being written in modern, Israeli Hebrew, which has taken on the role of “vernacular” in opposition to the still sacred, literary Loshn Koydesh (Holy Tongue, the Hebrew/Aramaic mix) of Rabbinic literature.


    invisible_hand · December 2nd, 2009 at 1:37 pm
  30. Let’s not forget Birobidjan, or the ייִדישע אווטאָנאָמע געגנט, if you will. Beginning in the early ’30s, Yiddish was the official language there. Still today, while the official language is now Russian, Yiddish is taught in many schools. There is much more to say on this–I feel a post is probably in order…


    Raysh Weiss · December 2nd, 2009 at 2:00 pm
  31. the complaint that the program privileged certain understandings of what aspects of Jewish culture are “worthy” of study…seems pretty valid to me.

    Now there’s a succinct description of the question. Thanks, em.

    I imagine that my father (z”l), whose native language was Yiddish and who never gave a thought to modern Hebrew in his life, would be surprised to find that the primary spoken language of most of European Jewry for nearly a thousand years is a “cute footnote” to history.


    miri · December 2nd, 2009 at 3:03 pm
  32. in an undergraduate setting, if you learn one Hebrew, you’ve essentially learned them all.

    As an academic in Judaism, this hasn’t been my experience at all. Learning biblical Hebrew in the academy is generally NOT helpful in learning modern Hebrew (even apart from the fact that learning to actually write and speak any language is different from reading it).

    It’s possible that going from modern to biblical is easier (as Marc Zvi-Brettler’s book suggests); since I knew modern Hebrew first, I found biblical Hebrew much easier than some of my classmates – though the grammar is of course pretty different – but it was still certainly not a case of “learning them all.”


    miri · December 2nd, 2009 at 3:06 pm
  33. The end of Yiddish Studies at UMD is indeed a sad commentary on Jewish studies in the U.S., as well as the current depression. The sad and horrible truth is that the murder of the six million during the Holocaust destroyed the Yiddish speaking world and that assimilation in Europe, the U.S. and Israel ended Yiddish as a spoken language among the overwhelming majority of the reamining Ashkenazic population. Haredim will still speak Yiddish, but they will not study or write literature in it. Hebrew will maintain its dominance because it is spoken in modern form by six million or so and studied in ancient/medieval form as a language or religion. Yiddish lacks both of these. I don’t write this with glee, but with sadness.


    Steven · December 3rd, 2009 at 1:22 pm
  34. steven –

    i agree with you that hebrew’s current ascendency is due to the political nature of history, as it folded out. we are all good foucauldians, i am sure…

    however, i would like to voice a note of caution in re: to your description of yiddish’s history and current status.

    first of all, though it is surely not a dominant cultural force, there is still a significant number of jews (and gentiles) who support and produce yiddish culture.

    secondly, the erasure of yiddish in israel was not due to assimilation (alone). israel put the sincere kibosh on yiddish in the early 20th century, seeing its embrace and promotion of hebrew as essential to zionist culture succeeding. yiddish (and more “ashkenazic” sounding hebrew) were deemed too effeminate for the burgeoning political project in palestine. the mode of pronouncing hebrew is often called “sephardic,” which ignores its political motivation to make hebrew sound more masculine and aggressive, the main purpose of placing the accent on the final syllable.

    lastly, the hasidic community is growing, growing, growing. of course english has made its way into the community, which is reflected in the contemporary williamsburg dialect. for example, the different forms of the definite article (“the” in english) based on gender and case have all pretty much turned into “di,” which sounds and functions much like the english “the.”
    books and cds in yiddish are still being produced.


    invisible_hand · December 3rd, 2009 at 6:21 pm
  35. the mode of pronouncing hebrew is often called “sephardic,” which ignores its political motivation to make hebrew sound more masculine and aggressive, the main purpose of placing the accent on the final syllable.
    It was also the mode of pronouncing Hebrew prevalent among the Sepharadim.
    (Ashkenazim had changed their accenting in liturgical Hebrew in the 18th century, before Zionism. Don’t strech it.)


    Amit · December 3rd, 2009 at 7:32 pm
  36. OK – to respond:
    (1) Compared to the great canon of Jewish literature, Yiddish is a footnote. Sorry. Yell all you want: Homer is Homer, and Appolonius Rhodius is not Homer. This does not mean he is not important, just that he is not Homer.
    (2) As an academic in Jewish studies – if you know one, you know them all. Not well. Not enough to write in them or about them; but enough to read them
    (3) The fact that some (!) hassidim speak Yiddish still shouldn’t help it make the cut. When they start writing important things in Yiddish (like Avigdor pointed out with Chabad – but there will be no more writing in Chabad, ad bias goel tzedek, tommorow according to them) things will change.
    (4) It’s nice that we like to say that there were cultural undercurrents and subversive subcultures and blah blah. You don’t understand any of those cool cool things without a sound grounding in the BASICS. in the case of Jewish studies: three years of Bible and three years of Talmud. At least. Otherwise you know nothing.


    Amit · December 3rd, 2009 at 7:39 pm
  37. Amit, you do understand that a Jewish Studies program at an American public university is not the same as Jewish learning in the religious sense, right? Certainly, there’s some overlap, but Jewish Studies (like African American Studies, like Latin American Studies) is an interdisciplinary approach to understanding a culture and a civilization using history, philosophy, religion, literature, anthropology, sociology, etc. I poked around the Web site looking for a nice “graduates of this program are expected to ….” and didn’t find one, so let me provide a sampling of course titles instead.

    “American Jewish Experience”
    “Fantasy and Supernatural in Jewish Literature”
    “The Jew and the City Through the Centuries”
    “The Hebrew Bible: Narrative”
    “The Hebrew Bible: Poetry and Rhetoric”
    “Critical Approaches to Israeli Culture”
    “Jews and Judaism in Antiquity”
    “Modern Jewish History”

    These students aren’t doing three years of Bible and three years of Talmud. That’s not what the program is for and that’s not what they enroll for.

    Frankly, given that you see Judaism as only a religion and nothing else, I’m not sure you’d have much use for Jewish Studies.


    em · December 3rd, 2009 at 8:16 pm
  38. amit-
    every hasidic book are yiddish drushim translated into hebrew. and many of those books were distributed in yiddish. and em’s points stand strong. talmud is not involved in most Jewish Studies, nor is traditional biblical commentary. you’re not making much sense any more.


    Justin · December 3rd, 2009 at 11:38 pm
  39. Em, if you can’t see bible or talmud in those course titles, you must have no use for jewish studies.


    Amit · December 4th, 2009 at 5:18 am
  40. em writes:
    I poked around the Web site looking for a nice “graduates of this program are expected to ….” and didn’t find one, so let me provide a sampling of course titles instead.

    I think this is something like what you’re looking for:
    “The Jewish Studies major provides undergraduates with a framework for organized and interdisciplinary study of the history, philosophy, and literature of the Jews from antiquity to the present. Jewish Studies draws on a vast literature in a number of languages, especially Hebrew and Aramaic, and includes the Bible, the Talmud, and medieval and modern Hebrew literature. Yiddish language and literature comprise an important sub-field.”

    So everyone’s right.


    BZ · December 4th, 2009 at 8:49 am
  41. Em, if you can’t see bible or talmud in those course titles, you must have no use for jewish studies.

    And if I’d said nobody should study Bible and Talmud because they’re worthless and have nothing to do with Judaism, this would be an appropriate response. Except I didn’t say anything remotely like that.


    em · December 4th, 2009 at 12:24 pm
  42. Loyt ongaben der UNESCO in der velt ekzistirt 6000 shprakhn. 2000 fun ale, zey haltn az zey geyn tsum farshvindung, yiddish oykhed tsvishn zey. Der fakt az ir kontaktirt zekh in internet vegn Yiddisher shprakh dokh nisht fun gut lebn. Derfar az siz nishto lebn aykh, arum aykh keyner nisht met veymen m’ken redn. Ikh miz dermonen aykh vos eyst de shprakh far dem zol vazn aykh vos ir tut und vos ir hot shoyn ongearbet. Shprakh und kultur substantsies vos shafn zekh mit konkretishe grupe of mentshn fun eyns etnishe oyfkum voynendike kompakt und izolirt far kontaktirn zikh tsvishn zekh. Un derfar az etnisher grupes siz do a sakh und ariber dem siz do a sakh shprakhn. Und nor individn fun di grup vos hot men geshafnt dos shprakh darf men obn im, mer keynr nisht andere. Etnisher grupe shprakh- rift men der folk shprakh, eygener shprakh oder natsionale shprakh deym folk. Und dos grupes, dos folks kinder kenen zan und mizn zan forzetsers far dos shprakh keyner ander. Ir ober ayere kinder darf men obn tsigayneshersh shprakh? In tnaims of kompaktish voynung vi in der shtub und arum m’redn af eygenem shprakh kinder fun geboyern un aynzoygn dos shprakh nor m’klaybnt nisht. In tnaims ven kompakt voynung vert shvakh und afilu nishto und s nokh kvecht arum un arum ander, fremder shprakh kinder khoch darf men visn farvos ir(zeyre eltern) veysn di shprakh, far vos ayere ureltern m’hot gered af dem shprakh, tsu vos darf men obn dos shprakh. Ober oyb ir hot far zekh aleyn bashlisn az ayers eltern shprakh poshet tsinsh tsu koved und mer gornisht und aza idee ir ibergebt tsu kinder, naturlikh az kinder farshteyn dos konkretish, far zeyrs eltern, bobes und zeydes, s’hot geveyn gefeln der shprakh ober tsu vos mir darfn im obn? Male vos es geveyn epes gefeln far zey, vos kert zikh tsu undz. Oyb kinder veysn nisht tsu vos zey darfn obn Yiddish shprakh und in shtub m’rednt nisht af dem shprakh, shprakh vet shtarbn. Inderemesn aynt fun ale yiddishe mishpokhes efsher 5-7% ingantsn in shtub redn af eygenem shprakh. Gut a kuk af zekh aleyn und ir vet derzeen di zelbe kartinke. Dos is fakt az Yiddish vet shtarbn. Efsher er vet zan a bisl merer ba khasidn. Ober farshvindenish Yiddish nit zeyr ergste dos iz nokh. Shprakh und kultur dos iz produkt fun lebnstetikayt konkretish grupe of mentshn. Yiddish oykh produkt fun konkretn grupe of mentshn. Vos dos iz far a grupe? Fun vonet zi hot genemen zikh? 3000 yor tsuruk siz geveyn ekczistirt a folk tsu veymen geveyn gehern zich nomen iudi=jew. Und dos iz geveyn nit poshet mentshn(oylem). Dos iz geveyn a folk geshafendiker zich loyt natur tekhnologie, natsie, etnik, velekher gehot ale simanim eynheytlekhkayt. Eyn(eygener) genotip, oyszen(neyvnt tsu mizrakhdiker nor b shum-oyfn nit farshidine rasis und nit farshidine etniks) algemeyn shtraykhn kharakter, shprakh, kultur, shtayger(lebn) und zeyrs eygene religie. Folk, natsie, etnik iz geveyn oysgetribn (gants efsher iz geven aroysgetsovungent tsu farlozn) fun zeyer erd un mit grupes zaynen tsezayt ibern etlekhe geografikel punktn. Yeropeishe grupes(in fakt siz geveyn tsvey) far 2000 toyznt yorn gefinen zich in der naye svive nit kukindik af der vil fun mentshn obn andergan der protses fun transformatsie, di naturlkh gezets fun natur un farvandlen zikh in a naye etnik grupes. Eyder etnik grupe hot bakumen eygener genotip, der oyszen, shtraykhn kharakter, kultur, stayger(lebn) und afile eygener shprakh. Mizrakhishe grupes legabe fun yeropeishe grupes gantsn asimilirt zikh vi etnik und azoy kulturish mit di folks tsvishn veymen zey is gevoynen. A gresere teyl fun mizrakhishe grupe genemen amol iudeeshe religie geblibn ibergegebene di religie biz aynt. Eyntsiker eliment far ale grupes siz geveyn religie. Grod zi(religie) tsugov tsum etnik instinkt, getsvingen ale iudeeshe grupes opzindern zikh und lebn loyt ire klolim, und far yeropeise grupes siz nokh gevorn farmakhte roys afn fremder erd, vos iz mitgehelft ekczistirn a naye etnik grupes, nor zi tsvingen trugn a termin “Jew” demlt az in fakt ale grupes nit gehobnt nit etnik, nit kulture tsvishn zekh gornisht algemeyn. Und aynt in der fakt rusish vort “evrey” und english vort “Jew” eyst gehernst tsu religie nor nit tsu natsie, vi azoy verter “krister” ober “muslimer”, gehern zikh tsu religie. In der tsayt fun Roimishe imperie afn berg der Reyn dershinen zikh iudeeshe yishuvim. Gevoynd dortn 1000 yorn, zey geshafnt bliendikere yishuvim, tsegromirte mit kraytstregern. Far di zelbe zayt, dos yishuvim iz farvandlt zikh in a nae etnik grupe mit a eygenem oyszens, shraykhn kharakter, shprakh yiddish, kultur, stayger(lebn). Far der grupe fun istorie farfestiknt zikh nomen Yiddish(Ashkenazi). Di Ashkenazishe(Yiddish) etnik grupe iz oykhed naturele, spetsifishere, origenal, unikel shafung fun natur.
    Dos iz Ashkenazn gegebn der velt, Geyne und Enshteyn und azoy vayter, dos iz Ashkenazn gegebn der velt mer fun ale andere folks nobel laureaters, dos iz Ashkenazn biz aynt in a sakh antviklters lender shteyn afn oeykhe nivo in biznes, ekonomike, kultur, visnshaft, rekht und azoy vayter, nit ken [moroccan Jew], nit [yemenite Jew], nit [iraki Jew], nit [iranian Jew], nit [sefard Jew] und azoy vayter. Dos iz Ashkenazn geboyt medine Isroel und dos zey holtn in der hent regirung of de USA zol zey onteraltn Isroel. Und dos is kimat zeks(6) million mentshn derargete mit Gitler geveyn Ashkenazn. Fashistn, zey nisht gedarft kukn in der pasport zol dervisn dos is Jew ober nit, zey gevisn Ashkenazn ba ponem. Und dos iz Ashkenazn oysgetrakht az Jewish nazionaliti und jewish religie der zelbe substantsie. Aynt Ashkenazn met groys gikhkayt vernt men farshvindn, assimilirn zekh. Assimiletsie- dos eyst m’hot khasene afn farshidene natsies. Und nart nisht up zekh aleyn und andere, ayre kinder oykhed hot men khasene nish ken af yidn. Un ir derloybt zey. Azoy pinklekh vozoy farshvind vert Yiddish otozoy pinklekh farshvindn vern Ashkenazn. Ashkenazn farshvindn vern azoy vi Yiddish dos iz fakt. S vet nit blaybn yiddishe peynemer, yiddisher sekhl und yiddisher kultur. Genug gikh s vet zan. In tokh genomen dos vos hot getroymt Hitler. In tokh genomen Ashkenazn farnikhtn und oysroteven zekh aleyn. Ale Yiddishe onfirers, ershte onterhelfern der protses und zey farintesant zol nist blabn ashkenazn af der velt. Ober zey farshtonen az siz do mentshn yidn ver veysn yiddish und viln yiddish und ba zey plitsling oysgeblitst a gedank az m ken makhn gelt ofn dem situatsie. Zey oysgetrakhnt a farbrekherishe idee az m’ken farhitn der shpakh und farzetsn im loyt libe oys und bloyz far zekh aleyn, glyakh vi Hobbi. Shver tsu gleybn az ale di gelernte mentshn m’hot nisht gevisn und biz aynt zey visn nisht az shprakh und folk substantsies farbindene tsvishn zekh un nit optsutayln eyns funum ander. Oyb s shtarbt eyner shtarbt der tsveyter. De tsveyte shildike in dem ale yiddishe shraybers, kompozitors, muzikantn, zingers. (In tokh genemen ale yiddishe onfirers, shraybers, muzikantn und andere, gevorn farbrekhers far gants Yiddishe populyatsie, folk und zeer kultur.) Avode a proste mentshn gleybn onfirers. Zey gleybn az shprakh und kultur m’ken forzetsn loyt makhmes. Zey gleybn az shprakh und kultur m’ken forzetsn far zekh aleyn. Absurdisher gleybenung. Shprakh ayers ureltern vi s’hot zikh aroysgevizn far aykh loyt Hobbi, gelibter farnemenish, shpilekhl und far aykh nisht vikhtik eymetser lernt dos shprakh ober nit. Far aykh altsyns siz do forzetsers ober nit, ober ir hot hofn az shprakh poshet aleyn vet forzetsn zikh und nit farshvindn vern. Vozoy er ken forzetsn zikh bloyz viln oder gedank? Ot i dos a tragedish gedank! Leyberdiker shprakh dos iz nisht ken zakh far Hobby. Dos iz absurd. Far hobby sakhn ken zan nor (markes, bilder und azoy vayter). Ver haynt zogt az shprakh Yiddish loz lern ver s vil er is merder, farbrekher far dem Yiddisher(Ashkenazn) folk und Yiddisher shprakh und kultur. Tsigayner veyst az zaner eygener shprakh, nazionale shprakh iz tsigaynersh und derfar er darf visn im. Aykh dakht zikh az ir tut epes un inder emes ir tut nisht gornisht. Yio ir hot lib Yiddish un farnemt ir zekh met Yiddish derfar az dertsoygnt im fun geboyrn un nisht oysgeklubt. Und oyb fun dem tetikayt ir fardint nokh a pur kopkes dos is ingontsn mekhaye. Ir met ayer tetikayt, gikher omtetikayt, mit libe far zekh aleyn, helft gikh tsu farshvindnish Yiddish. Ayere tetikayt kemen klasifitsirn otozoy: mir gut, a mekhaye nokh mir loz zan khoch mabl. Vos vet zan ven Ashkenaszn farshvindn vern? In USA Ashkenazn farshvindn vern dos is ombashtraytlekhr fakt. Altn in der hent regirung USA s vet nit zan veymen und ontershtitsung Isroel vern vintsik efsher s vet endkn ingantsn. On USA ir darft tsu farshteyen vos vet zan. In Isroel Ashkenazn farshvindn vern dos iz tsvey mol ombashtraytlekhr fakt. Derfar az sionistish gedank, idée und politike iz- veymen mir gebn rekht voynen in Isroel er iz Jew. In tokh genomen Isroel- dos iz eksperimental plots tsu shafn a naer Jew, dos eyst Isroeler in realkayt aziatn (arabers) fun ale natsies fun gants velt. Und ven ale ibermishn zikh ale vern aziatn (arabers) mit aziatisher mentalitet und mit azelekher gedank demlt, nokh on ombashtraytlekh USA, medine Isroel farshvindn vern. Ot dos vet zan ayere farlibn zikh far zekh aleyn in Yiddish. Ot dos vet zan derfar az met Yiddish farnemt ir sekh bloyz far zekh aleyn.

    I am Traiberg Vladimir. Before my arrival in Israel I lived in the former USSR. All these years my nationality was Jewish. And as each individual belongs to his nationality group, I knew that, I also belonged to my own group of people. Indeed, from the very childhood I saw the contacts of our family with people which related to their own similar, generalities among them were: external appearance, language (Yiddish), culture (songs, dances, theater, synagogue, character traits, domestic life.)
    After arrival in Israel I was amazed at seeing the lack of similarity, both in ethnic end in cultural attributes, of the society called Jewish. This fact through my thinking and feeling is not natural and I set out to find out, if it is really true that the people gathered here are one people, one nationality, and one ethnicity. The first findings showed that somebody had divided all “Jews” by the terms related to their places of residence and I appeared to be an Ashkenazi. All the historical sources, all the ethnic and demographic researches agree on conclusion. Only Nature- Creator was the ideologist and creator of “Nations”. Besed on its technology and laws “Nations” and each “Nation” separately were generated. Based on its laws “Nations” survive and live to this day. “Nation” -is a group of people united by one ethnic origin(that is anthropology, anatomy, phenotype and race depending on the geographical place of residence) and a common mentality and culture created by them as a result of detachment and residing jointly over the long-term. In order to preserve the ethnicity groups it was necessary for nature to create a specific technology. And such a tool of inheritance became genetics. Every member born into a specific ethnic group, regardless of their desire, inherits and carries in himself, in order to transfer to the following generation, a complete genetic set of ethnic attributes of their group including ethnic instinct. It is impossible to void this. The formation of all ethnicity groups “Nations” and each ethnicity group separately occurred in the world, on a specific site of land, and lasted many centuries and thus the territories on which they settled became their property. And actually it is possible with ease based on ethnic attributes to determine the geographical location of any given ethnicity group i.e. the territory belonging to him. Our entire planet consists of numerous ethnicity groups the formation and development of ethnicity groups is a natural phenomenon. Their variety is comparable to plants, flowers, where every ethnicity group is a unique ornament on the planet. Destruction and disappearance of any ethnicity group is an irreplaceable loss. Having armed myself with this knowledge, I have came to the conclusion that 3000 years ago there existed “Nation”, nationality, which possessed the name Judaic=Jew and it was not simply “Nation” (a crowd). This was a nation formed by nature’s technology, an ethnicity group which had all the traits of unity; that is the genotype, the external appearance, common characteristics, language, culture, life and the inherent religion. The ideology of religion was revolutionary in those times. It fairly rejected polytheism as the systems of the universes and replaced on monotheism, having shown unity and intercommunication of all living and non-living among them, with submission of all those who are intercommunicating with to the unity of the laws, where there is no place for chaos. But at that moment when this religion had just appeared in the form of the torah, the leaders of the Judaic-Jewish ethnicity group immediately rejected the created laws of God and replaced them with the laws of the torah. First of all they rejected the ethnic system of human society. Partly it was based on an objective reality, as the people living in the given geographic territory were of one super ethnicity group and all the neighbors resembled them. Therefore the ethnic instinct here almost did not work and thus everything obeyed the laws of the torah, where the basic principle worked as follows: whoever believes in the torah is our “people”. Only by this we can explain the wise men’s commandments of that time. It was stipulated, for example, that if a mother is Jew (where Jew is a religious group) then her children are automatically become Jews no matter what religion is their father. Unlikely, however, would be there this kind of commandment if these wise men had known that there existed, for example, Mongols, Chinese, Hindoo, Caucasians, Zimbabweans, Slavs and etc. and could not assume that people of their group one day will be mixing with these nationalities. Unconsciously rejecting the ethnic system of human society the Judaic-Jewish community automatically turned into a caste group. The struggle with God himself began. The “people”, the nation, the ethnicity group were banished from their land and in groups dispersed to some geographical points. The European group during 2000 years, being in a new living environment, regardless of people’s desire, has undergone a process of transformation based on the law of nature and became new ethnicity group. Each ethnic group acquired its own genotype, external appearance, character traits, culture, daily life and some even their own language. Eastern groups in comparison with European fully had assimilated ethnically and culturally with those people with whom they lived. Part of the Eastern groups adopted Judaic religion kept its faith till our days. The only common element for all the groups remained religion. It specifically forced the Judaic groups to stand apart and to live by its rules, and European groups became that closed space in a stranger’s land which promoted the formation of a new ethnicity group, it specifically forced them to carry the term “Jew” when in actuality all groups no longer had anything in common ethnically and culturally. The confirmation of this conclusion, I have found with an important, Russian scientist, an ethnographer Lev Gumilev. During the time of the Roman Empire, on the coast of the Rhine, settlements of Jews appeared. Having lived there 1000 years, they had created blossoming communities, which were destroyed by the crusaders. During this period of time this same settlement had turned into a new ethnicity group with their external appearance, character traits, language (Yiddish), culture and life style. Historically the group carried the name Ashkenazi. The Ashkenazi (Yiddish) ethnicity group is also a natural, distinctive, original, unique creation of nature. But for some reason on the people of this ethnicity group fell the burden of the hardest trails. And during the last 100 years there a question of the destruction of this ethnicity group as a whole by some ideological currents. But the Zionists decided to put the final point on this question. And the method chosen for this purpose is reliable and non-scandalous but insidious called-assimilation. And one must give them their due; they have succeeded at it. The main problem that appeared, is by which criteria or human feature to gather jews, because in reality it turned out difficult to do it since the ethnical jew does not exist. Zionists, being Ashkenazi themselves, they have given rebirth to the theory, that only religion is the main and sole attribute for national and ethnic belonging, having added to these elements of party membership. And now Israel in essence has become an experimental place of assimilation individuals for various types of ethnicity groups according to the Zionist scenario. Where strong worlds select who fits for these purposes by principle of “to Consider” or “to Approve” and with one stroke of a pen are immediately announced as “one people, one nationality, one ethnicity group” as if there was no past 2000 years. Specifically under the action of this scenario the term ”Jew” became a commodity and is freely bought in the former USSR. And now my nation has become a true passage courtyard for anyone and everyone. Another shining example of this theory is the procedure of entry into this nationality, an ethnicity group, as if entering a party organization, joins by means of accepting Judaism. Today all over Israel there are schools for preparing and creating “genetic Jew” from any nationality on the planet. After completion of study, the official State Ministry of Internal Affairs issues an identification card, which already says Jew in the column under nationality. After receiving this document the new Jew actually receives a mandate for possession of all territories of ancient Israel. Having become the owner of “his historical native land” he naturally decides such questions as: to give back or not to give back territories to his neighbors, the status of Jerusalem and others. Is this not the greatest mockery of both nature and people? None the less, they have instilled and convinced many people in their group and mainly the intelligentsia. Amazingly enough they have convinced the world community of this, too. All this has allowed them to almost destroy centuries of created language and culture of the Yiddish ethnicity group. The circumstance that saddens them is that it is impossible to instantly get rid of the well-known phenotype, neither with theory, nor with decrees. Yes truly the Yiddish ethnicity group will be successfully destroyed; he is almost truly already gone. Deprived of their people, their national and cultural belonging, we Ashkenazi in essence have turned into nobody and nothing, just a thing, a product, material, and in essence an experimental animal in the creation of “the new Jew”. The idea of creating again a special, chosen by God people, by collecting from all over the earth anyone wishing to participate in such an experiment, is deeply erroneous and utopian. Last observation show, that 80% of the people coming into Israel now from all over the world do not have one biological cell from that ancient ethnicity group and even more so no relation, naturally, to the Judaic religion. At the airport, all these people based on the created Zionist right, as “the member of Jew family” which means: wives and husbands of various nationalities, these people’s children who was borne not from Jew in previous marriages and adopted children who are not Jew etc., become citizens of the state and they receive appropriate identification. Upon receipt of the certificate about being granted citizenship, automatically they also become the owners of the entire territory of Israel. And just like the ones who accepted Judaism and became “genetic Jew” they now decide, already with rights of citizenship and as owners of the land of Israel, if Jerusalem belongs to them or not, whether to give back territories or not and so on. And with these same rights both of them go fight against the Palestinians.
    As of this day, in addition to the rest unlawful individuals only wives and husbands with mixed marriages of various nationalities who came from former USSR are now numbering in Israel hundreds of thousands. You can imagine scale all over the world, while at the same time hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who have lived on this land for thousands of years are forced to wander in other territories. This contradicts elementary human logic, not to mention the laws of nature, since all these people have no right to settle on this land.
    Certainly each ethnic group has the right to manage their destiny at their own discretion, but if the Ashkenazi (Yiddish) ethnic group agreed to disappear (voluntarily or involuntarily) based on the scenario which in was offered, that does not mean every individual in this group agrees with this.
    As for me, I do not want to be an experimental animal in the creation of “the new Jew” and to send my children and grandchildren to fight for this. It is frightening, that for this ideological experiment my children and grandchildren will have to risk their life and kill Palestinians.
    I believe, as most of the people, that any human rights are based practically on rules of justice and legitimacy.
    Is it possible that individuals of new ethnic groups formed during 2000 years and today again are mixing with other nationalities reflect and remain to be the same people who lived 2000 years ago?
    Is it possible that rational person can believe that 2000 years ago the whole Jewish nation consisted of ethnically various people- is it a law of nature, is it a justice and legitimacy?
    Is it possible that gathering people by principle of “to Consider” or “to Approve” – is it justice, is it legitimacy?
    Is it possible that enormous army of people received citizenship by faked, bought documents, mocking marriages and other different frauds is it justice, is it legitimacy?
    Is it possible that the biggest portion of people which lives in Israel now, was gathered by principle of “to Consider”, “to Approve” and Zionists are contending to the whole world that “these people are the same who remained during 2000 years and returned.” And continue gathering now, naturally for everyone to assimilate is it not an experiment to create new Jew or Israeli is it justice, is it legitimacy?
    Are we who by the law of nature and God married only with own people for continuity our own kin, thrown now into assimilative pot with those for whom primary goal was to get rid of Jewish essence. And therefore of this coupling with own people for them was nasty and disgusting than with alien people and now they suddenly began to burn with passionate love toward “own” people is it not outrage over us and our own children is it justice, is it legitimacy?
    Are people who were gathered by principle “to Consider”, “to Approve” expending their own territories by taking from neighbors with a claim “this is ours” -is it justice, is it legitimacy?
    Is soldier drafted to the highly modernized army, who just came to this country and who assimilated in four generations with various nationalities, shoots into weaponless neighbors only on the grounds that this soldier received mandate and with it right to kill, in which written that he is “Considered” and “Approved” to be the same Jew who lived 2000 years ago, and he defends his home and his land? Or a soldier not having any relation to the Jews but only “the member of Jew family” (other nationalities) and who received mandate of citizenship and with it right to kill? Or a soldier whose parents received citizenship and with it right to kill through faked and bought documents, and mocked marriages, also a soldier whose parents have adopt Jewish religion and became Jews is it justice, is it legitimacy?
    Is it possible that suffering and death of people that involved in this particular sphere and for the sake of this experiment -is this the best justice and legitimacy?
    Is it possible that my human rights consist in seeing all this absurdity and submissively surrender.
    Those who give permission and those who gather unlawful peoples they commit the crime against us, ours children, nature and God. Everyone who commits the crime he is criminal.
    Those who send unlawful peoples to kill, commit the crime against humanity, nature and God.
    Everyone who commits the crime he is -criminal.
    Every unlawful human has become soldier shooting and killing for present to him illegality new “native land” is criminal. Vladimir Traiberg


    Vladimir Traiberg · January 30th, 2013 at 11:21 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik