דעם שבת פֿאַלט אויס דער 74סטער יאָרצײַט, לויטן סעקולערן קאַלענדאַר, פֿונעם גרויסן ייִדישן פּאָעט מרדכי געבירטיג ז׳׳ל, וועלכער איז אומגעקומען אין דער קראָקאָווער געטאָ, אין 1942.
אַ לעגענדאַרע פּערזענלעכקייט אין דער וועלט פֿון ייִדישער מוזיק בעת זײַן לעבן, איז ער אין דער זעלביקער צײַט געווען צום־מערסטנס אַנאָנים: אַ פּשוטער סטאָליער, וואָס האָט אין זײַן פֿרײַער צײַט געשריבן לידער וועגן די אָרעמע ייִדן פֿון קראָקע, וווּ ער האָט געוווינט זײַן גאַנץ לעבן.
ס׳איז שווער אויף איין פֿוס איבערצוגעבן די וויכטיקייט און השפּעה פֿון געבירטיגס לידער. אויף דעם וואָלט מען געדאַרפֿט אַ גאַנצן אַרטיקל, צי אַ דאָקומענטאַר־פֿילם. ס׳איז כּדאַי פּשוט צו דערמאָנען, אַז פֿון אַרום 100 לידער זײַנע וואָס זענען אונדז פֿאַרבליבן, הערט מען אָפֿט כאָטש אַ טוץ פֿון זיי און זיי בלײַבן צווישן די סאַמע באַקאַנסטע ייִדישע לידער איבער דער גאָרער וועלט.
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[From In geveb]
Translation theorists and many keners of Yiddish are remarkably alike in their mystification or obfuscation of what it means to translate. How often do we hear indignant exclamations of “S’hot nisht keyn yidishn tam,” or “you just can’t translate that” followed by such proofs as hak mir nisht keyn tshaynik or nisht geshtoygn, nisht gefloygn? And how often have we been stymied by illustrious theorists (Walter Benjamin’s opaque and pivotal “The Task of the Translator” chief among them) announcing versions of the following: “We only ever speak one language. We never speak only one language.” (Jacques Derrida). “Nothing is translatable… . Everything is translatable.” (Emily Apter). “Benjamin defines translation as untranslatable.” (Carol Jacobs).We would do better to simply acknowledge that “don’t knock on my teakettle,” or “didn’t rise, didn’t fly” really are inadequate literal translations of rich idioms. Or that Benjamin gives us the best and most difficult advice when he writes that “the task of the translator is to find in the translator’s language that latent structure which can awake an echo of the original.”
Fundamental to discussions of translation have been questions about fidelity and transgression. “Traduttore, traditore” (translator, traitor) goes the familiar Italian adage. Or, to cite a line perhaps closer to home, we read in the Talmud Rabbi Yehuda’s verdict that “one who translates a verse literally is a liar; one who adds to it is a blasphemer and a libeller.” Add to this the history of Yiddish and Yiddish-speaking people in the twentieth century and translators are, indeed, faced with a daunting task. The fear is not only that we may lose culturally specific nuances (always a concern in translation from any language) but the history and culture of pre-Holocaust Askenazic Jewry.
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[from In geveb]
The very first seminar on Yiddish literature that I took in graduate school was called “Yiddish Modernisms in Eastern Europe Between the Two World Wars.” I wrote a seminar paper on Moyshe Kulbak’s poem “Vilne,” and thank goodness, because here I am don’t-ask-how-many years later writing my dissertation, in part, about concepts of place in Kulbak’s writing. I still have my copy of the poem from that course, absolutely covered in notes and definitions of Yiddish words and cultural concepts I learned from reading that poem. Maybe this was the first time I read the word “Bund” in Yiddish? And I distinctly remember learning about the cultural beliefs associated with water carriers from the poem. A great poem like “Vilne” is always something of an iceberg, its total mass and weight and meaning and power invisible at first sight, its larger shape only becoming perceptible with careful investigation. But it becomes all the more iceberg-like from the position in which I and many young readers and potential translators of Yiddish find themselves: learning a foreign language and culture, especially given the extra challenges of immersing oneself in the many layers of Yiddish culture that inform any one work of literature. By extra challenges I mean the extreme disruptions to Yiddish cultural continuity given the many upheavals and catastrophes Yiddish underwent in the twentieth century: the disruptions of World War I, emigration, pressure to assimilate, World War II, Stalinism. Not only is the poem an iceberg, hiding most of its mass, but so much of the culture, the material history, the contexts of the poem are hidden from us as well, requiring real dedication from the reader and so much more so from the translator to understand.
Click here to read more.
“Coney Island” is one of a series of ritmish retsitatsye (rhythmic recitation) poems written by Victor Packer and performed by him live on New York radio station WLTH in the late 1930s. Never before published, the poem was transcribed from surviving broadcast disks housed at the Henry Sapoznik Yiddish Radio Archives at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Additional transcription by Michael Yashinsky.
Click here for the sound poem
Click here for the text
[From the Yiddish Book Center]
In this final seminar we cover some more revision (past tense verbs and periphrastic verbs) and talk about the final language test
Introduction to more texts about the Holocaust
Introduction to so-called “periphrastic” verbs
Please see the link below for the first seminar of semester 2
In this session we covered separable verbs in the past tense and looked at a series of short holocaust texts
In this seminar, we look at our first Holocaust-themed text together, and cover some key Holocaust vocabulary:
In this seminar we learnt about present tense verbs in Yiddish
We also read a simple text ‘מײַן משפּחה’
Here is a recap of there session for revision purposes:
In this seminar, we covered more on the loshn-koydesh component of Yiddish:
- revision of LK letters
- more vocabulary
- recognition of LK words
- reading practice
Here is a recap video of the seminar session:
In this session we learnt about final forms and the loshn-koydesh letters
See the training video below
This week, we covered the following:
What is Yiddish? 10 letters of the alphabet: pasekh alef, ayin, komets alef, beys, daled, giml, hey, mem, tes, samekh.
Below is a link to the short recap video to help you practice the letters we learnt this week.
If you have any questions, please use the comments field below.
by Solon Beinfeld and Harry Bochner
This new dictionary (published just two years ago) is by the far the best resource for Yiddish-English translation and is a wonderful investment. The hard copy costs around £30 or you can access the online version for the same price here:
A real must if you want to invest in just one book for this module!
There is a review of the dictionary here.
[From The Yiddish Forverts]
איך פֿאַרנעם זיך מיט שפּראַך כּמעט מײַן גאַנץ לעבן, דער עיקר, מיט לשון ייִדיש. און וויפֿל איך זאָל זיך נישט אַרײַנלאָזן אין ענגליש, טראַכט איך, אַז אויף ייִדיש קלינגט עס בעסער. אַלע שפּראַכן זײַנען מישלינגען און דאָס מוז מען גלײַך עטאַבלירן בײַם סאַמע אָנהייב פֿון לערנען אַ שפּראַך. דאָס גלייבן, אַז עס זײַנען פֿאַראַן שפּראַכן וואָס זײַנען מער געהויבן, וויכטיקער, מער פּרעסטיזשפֿולw איז נישט מער ווי אַן אויסגעבלאָזן איי, נישט באַזירט אויף קיין שום אַבסאָלוטע לינגוויסטיש־עמפּירישע פֿאַקטאָרן.
מען קען אַמאָל אָפּשאַצן אַ שפּראַך לויט איר עלטער, אָדער לאָגיק, לויט איר מוזיקאַלישקייט אָדער ראָמאַנטישער גענייגטקייט; מ’קען זי באַקרוינען ווי די שפּראַך פֿון געטער, אָדער אַ שפּראַך, וואָס לייגט זיך גרינג אויף דער צונג; אַ שפּראַך, וואָס איז מעכטיק אָדער אָנמעכטיק, אָבער קיין איין שפּראַך פֿאַרדינט זיך נישט מען זאָל זי גרינגשעצן, מאַכן צו קליין־געלט, אָדער אויסשטעלן זי אויף לײַטיש געלעכטער, ווי עס טוען עס די אַמעריקאַנער קאָמעדיאַנטן, ווען עס קומט צו ייִדיש.
די מענטשן וואָס רעדן אַראַביש, זײַנען אונטערן אײַנדרוק, אַז זייער קלאַסישע שפּראַך איז די שענסטע און די לאָגישסטע פֿון אַלע, מיט אומפֿאַרגלײַכלעכער גראַמאַטישער סימעטריע און לעקסישער רײַכקייט. דאָס קלאַסישע אַראַביש איז געקניפּט און געבונדן מיטן קאָראַן, און במילא מיט זייער גלויבן. דורך זייער שפּראַך דערוואַרטן זיי צו דערגיין דורך ניסים־ונפֿלאות צום סאַמען תּוך־אמת פֿון איסלאַם.
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Kulturfest Diary (day 7)
די באַקאַנטע אַקטריסע ליִאַ קעניג האָט פֿאַרווײַלט דעם עולם מיט קאָמישע סקיצן און ליטעראַרישע רעציטאַציעס
The beloved actress Lea Koenig performs hysterical skits and gave literary recitations: In Yiddish with English subtitles:
Click here to read more
[From The Economist]
On the first Sunday of Krakow’s recent Jewish Culture Festival several rain-soaked families took their seats in a tiny pop-up library behind a 15th-century synagogue. It is the oldest of seven in Kazimierz, the historically Jewish quarter where the festival takes place every year. Agnieszka Legutko and Anna Rozenfeld greeted the group: “Shalom aleikhem!” “Aleikhem shalom,” replied the five young girls and their parents. Ms Legutko and Ms Rozenfeld, who were leading this children’s Yiddish workshop, introduced themselves in Yiddish, and started a chain. “Ikh heys Marianna” went the first girl, followed by Lotka, Edyta, Natasza and Lila. Then the singing began.
According to the Department of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University fewer than one million people worldwide still speak Yiddish, compared with over 11m in 1939. Five of the six million Jewish Holocaust victims spoke Yiddish. A “nearly murdered language”, is how Michael Alpert, an American klezmer musician, describes it. But the decision made by the organisers of the Krakow festival to focus not on Hebrew or Holocaust studies but on Yiddish was unsurprising: the language appears to be recovering. Mr Alpert says the number of Yiddish speakers has increased in recent years, citing both the high birthrate of Hasidic communities worldwide, who still use the language, and also its appeal as “hip and cool, part of the new face of Jewish Poland”.
Click here to read more
[From the Jewish Forward]
Theodore Bikel, who has died at the age of 91 in Los Angeles, was a shtarker, unlike many showbiz stars who merely play shtarkers on TV or onscreen. The barrel-chested, booming-voiced actor and singer had talent and stamina, the kind that allowed him to play Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof” over 2000 times. After over sixty years as a folk singer Bikel offered resonant, blunt, direct performances that captivated audiences.
A lifelong fighter, as a youngster in Vienna after the 1938 Anschluss, he returned home bloodied from schoolyard brawls with anti-Semitic classmates, as he recounted in “Theo: An Autobiography” . Bikel was equally combative as an ambitious young Israeli actor after his family made Aliyah. Bikel’s Bukovinian Jewish father Josef, who toiled in an insurance company, was a deeply cultured, ardent Zionist who made sure his son’s Hebrew lessons began at age five, before any other schooling. At-home readings of Hebrew and Yiddish classics made Bikel ultra-aware of Jewish heritage, as to be expected for a boy named after Theodor Herzl, whose birthday he shared.
In Tel Aviv, Bikel struggled for roles at the Habima, Israel’s National Theatre, only getting a bit part in a 1943 adaptation of stories by Sholem Aleichem. So he co-founded his own chamber group in 1944, the still-thriving Cameri Theatre After training in London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Bikel did not return to live in Israel after its statehood was declared in 1948, although he narrated the film “Ein Breira” (Song of the Negev;1949) a U.S.-Israel co-production directed by the Polish Jewish filmmaker Joseph Lejtes (1901–1983). Bikel wrote in “Theo”: “A few of my contemporaries regarded [not returning to Israel] as a character flaw, if not a downright act of desertion. In me there remains a small, still voice that asks whether I can ever fully acquit myself in my own mind.”
Click here to read more.
Checkout what’s a happening at leyenzal:
2 new lectures loaded up and plenty of materials for students of Yiddish. Well worth another look.
Leyenzal is an online educational resource for readers and students of Yiddish. Every two weeks, users are able to download an excerpt of a novel, a story, or a selection of poems along with an original Yiddish-language lecture about the text. The site’s goal is to encourage active readership by making this incredible body of literature more accessible. Lecturers include some of the most sought-after educators, researchers, and activists in the world of Yiddish today. The site’s readers include individuals, khavruses (learning partners), and reading groups who engage with the materials all around the world.
Click here to read more.
I have updated and added some new grammar training videos for you. You can access them here
I thought it might be helpful to load up a few tips re reading Yiddish texts, based on some of the pitfalls I’ve noticed you falling foul of (to mix my metaphors :-))
One common problem relates to orthography: have a look again at lecture 5 from semester 2. This runs through the key orthographic issues. Also look at the chapter we talked about from:
Zucker, Sheva, Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature and Culture Volume 2 (The Workmen’s Circle/arbeter ring, 2002).
The key issues relating to orthography and other common errors are as follows:
- sometimes where, in YIVO orthography, you would always encounter a pasekh (אַ pasekh alef, ײַ pasekh tsvey yudn, for example) you may find the ‘bare’ letter in other orthographies: א or ײ
- in fact, it is not at all uncommon to encounter alef without its pasekh or komets: א instead of אַ or אָ. Try not to get thrown by this: just try thinking about which letter might actually be meant. Hence דאס clearly refers to דאָס, for example
- where you will always find a dagesh in YIVO orthography for kof (in loshn-koydesh words), you may not in other systems: כמעט instead of YIVO כּמעט, for example
- sometimes, in loshn-koydesh words not in the YIVO system, you may not see the line across the top of the veys: טוב instead of YIVO טובֿ, for example
- try not to confuse samkh and shlos-mem. They look very similar, especially in early hand-typed scripts, but a shlos-mem will usually have the very square bottom right corner: ם [shlos-mem] as opposed to ס [samekh] where the corner seems to have been ‘worn away’ or smothed over
- in hand-typed texts, sometimes a final langer tsadik ץ can look like two letters (yud, langer-nun, ין, for example). Make sure you have read it right and look up both possibilities
- in some texts, it’s easy to confuse nun and giml: נ and ג. In very clear fonts they are easy to distinguish, but in hand-tyoed texts, they can look very similar. Again, try different possibilities until you get something that makes sense
- proper names can be tricky, especially given names, which are almost always loshn-koydesh in their spelling, usually being traditional names from the Bible. Hence משה , רבֿקה and other loshn-koydesh names re very common. If you’re stuck, just drop me a line and I’ll do my best to decipher them for you. It’s worth noting that many surnames are spelt according to the phonetic system, hence for Emanuel Ringlblum, רינגלבלום is a phonetically spelt surname whereas the given name עמנואל is spelt according to the traditional system. If you’re really interested, look at this presentation by Warren Blatt given at the 18th Seminar on Jewish Genealogy, Los Angeles, July 1998
- in many hand-typed texts, or texts produced on manual roll presses, a beys [ב] can look like a khof [כ] (and vice versa); make sure you have it the right way around
- many of you are struggling to recognise past tenses. Try to work out what the stem of the verb is by reverse engineering it: remember to check against the following files (also available on blackboard):
I’ll add other issues here as I come across them.
Click here to access this interesting documentary from 2008.
Dennis Marks travels to New York to discover what has become of Yiddish and how much of the language survives today.
On the Lower East Side, where many Jewish migrants first came to live, he finds a musical and theatrical tradition which once supported a dozen Yiddish theatres on 2nd Avenue.
He hears from the publisher of The Forward, once the world’s most popular Yiddish newspaper, but which is now in seemingly terminal decline.
And he explores the enormous influence of Yiddish culture on American life, its literature and its comedic tradition.
This site is very useful:
Yiddish Sources is a portal for anyone who is interested in Yiddish and Yiddish Studies. It is part of the WWW Virtual Library History Central Catalogue.
The information on this website is arranged in three main sections: reference, research and events. A new addition is the Yiddish Studies Bibliography, which lists relevant scholarly literature in the field of Yiddish Studies.
Yiddish sources is a work in progress and new content is regularly added. It is easy to stay updated by email, using our RSS feeds or by following us on Twitter and Facebook.
Registered users can create a personal list of bookmarks and leave comments.
This post contains additional grammar videos to help you revise for the language test. These should all be read in conjunction with Dovid Katz’s excellent Grammar of the Yiddish Language which is available here. The page umbers in brackets refer you to that work. It is essential you consult Katz who covers the issues in much more detail than I do here.
More videos will be added as they become available:
Nouns: Gender, articles and plurals (pages 56-62)
Adjectives: Understanding endings changes (81-85) updated!
Cases: How they work in Yiddish (75ff)
Verbs: Forming the present tense (pages 126-130) updated!
Forming the past tense in Yiddish (including verbs with separable prefix) new!
This site is extraordinary – it has a searchable portal of the complete holdings of the Yiddish Book Center, and contains 11,000 digitally scanned and freely available books, some useful video classes in Yiddish conversation and an online bookstore. Absolutely indispensable resource.
- Click here to access Yiddish conversation classes ‘a smek yidish’ delivered by Yuri Vedenyapin
- Click here to access the searchable database (use the keyword search if you don’t know how to spell the Yiddish word or term you’re looking for)
Excellent resource. Katz is a leading Yiddish scholar now based in Vilnius. He has published widely on Yiddish linguistics and Yiddish language and culture. The site contains links to unpublished work and out of print books and articles.
“Katz has been an outspoken critic of the presentation of Holocaust history in the national historical narrative of Lithuania, condemning it as aiming at both mitigating the extent of local involvement in the tragedy and trivializing and obfuscating the Holocaust.” (fromt the Wikipedia entry on Katz)
Click here to acces his site.
Here is a pdf of Dovid Katz’s Grammar of the Yiddish Language, still by far the most comprehensive and reliable grammar. It cointains detailed gudance on phonetcs, noun genders and plural formation, cases, verbal conjugations in all moods, periphrastic verbs, adjectives, syntax and semantics.
It is currently out of print:
J Mazin’s A manual and grammar of the Yiddish language (1927)
See also the Yiddish language learning bibliography here.