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Choosing Yiddish

New Frontiers of Language and Culture

Edited by Lara Rabinovitch

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Title Page

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pp. ix-x

Befitting the nature of Yiddish studies today, Choosing Yiddish: New Frontiers of Language and Culture has evolved thanks to the work of numerous people from various disciplines, institutions, and locations around the world. Many have helped in small but instrumental ways. ...

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Foreword: Yiddish Studies: Toward a Twenty-First-Century Mandate

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pp. xi-xiv

It is now commonplace that as the number of native speakers of Yiddish declines, with the exception of the ultra-Orthodox, academic interest in Yiddish increases. As many have noted, this situation has profound implications for how Yiddish is taught and studied in the academy; most students now come to the subject with no connection to a Yiddish milieu or native speaker. ...

A Note on Transliteration

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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. 1-10

Someone choosing Yiddish today for a routine ATM transaction, as drawn on our cover, might strike you as incongruous, yet the real and metaphorical notions of Yiddish currency lie at the heart of our endeavor in this volume. In the sense of its circulation in academia and in the sense of its relevance and prevalence at this moment in time, ...

Writing on the Edge

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Prelude to “Writing on the Edge”

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pp. 11-14

These days, no one loves the edges and the edgy, the marginal and liminal, the modernist and the post- more than Yiddish scholars—and with good historical and cultural reason: given the current state of the publishing industry and academic job market, the stakes in claiming edginess are high. ...

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Der Nister’s Symbolist Stories: Adventures in Yiddish Storytelling and Their Consequences

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pp. 15-28

The idea that Yiddish culture has a particular affinity for storytelling has exceeded its statute of limitations as a truism and has graduated to a cliché. Far more than other genres such as poetry, novels, and even drama, the short story form is the cornerstone of the modern Yiddish literary canon—and not the slice-of-life type of story ...

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Writing on the Verge of Catastrophe: David Vogel’s Last Work of Prose

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pp. 29-46

The last work of prose by the Hebrew poet and author David Vogel (1891–1944), posthumously titled They All Went out to Battle, depicts a fascinating testimonial narrative of a year of imprisonment in French prisoner of war camps during the Second World War. The manuscript was found aft er the war buried in a yard in the small town of Hauteville in southeastern France. ...

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In the Pot, Half-Melted: Sacco-Vanzetti Poems and Yiddish American Identity

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pp. 47-64

On April 15, 1920, in South Braintree, Massachusetts, two guards were murdered in a daring daylight payroll robbery. In the ensuing mishandled investigation, the police arrested two Italian immigrant workers—Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti—on thin and largely circumstantial evidence, including their commitment to anarchism. ...

Yiddish and the City

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Prelude to “Yiddish and the City”

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pp. 65-68

Historians of Yiddish-related modernizing developments in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have tended to gravitate to metropolitan environments, notably Warsaw and Vilna, paying much less attention to the shtetl, the main habitat for east European Jewish life. Indeed, until the beginning of World War II, Warsaw and Vilna played particularly significant roles ...

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The Lower East Side Meets Greenwich Village: Immigrant Jews, Yiddish, and the New York Intellectual Scene

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pp. 69-86

Starting in the 1880s, immigrant Jewish intellectuals fluent in various languages began to use Yiddish for journalistic, literary, educational, and political purposes. A similar turn to Yiddish occurred two decades earlier in Russia, when a small number of maskilim began writing fiction in Yiddish, thus laying the foundation of modern Yiddish literature.1 ...

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Propaganda or Fighting the Myth of Pakhdones? Naye Prese, the Popular Front, and the Spanish Civil War

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pp. 87-102

On April 24, 1938, Naye Prese, the Paris-based Yiddish communist daily, published a greeting on its front page from Misha Reger, the political commissar of the Naft ali Botwin Company. The Botwin Company, a small Jewish military unit within the International Brigades, was at that time fighting in Spain on the side of the Republican government ...

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The Other Polonia: Yiddish Immigrant Writers in Buenos Aires and New York Respond to the New Polish State

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pp. 103-122

“The Jewish emigrant (oysvanderer) from Poland who came to Argentina,” lamented Avraham Hersch Fridman in Buenos Aires in 1924, is oft en confused with other Jewish emigrants from the Russian Empire. To be sure some shared an accent, literary inclinations, or food tastes, but Jews from Poland cared only for information about Poland ...

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Choosing Yiddish in the Classroom: Montreal’s National Secular Schools, 1910–1950

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pp. 123-140

In an article about the Montreal shuln1 authored in 1955, journalist Ben-Zion Goldberg (Waife) remarked in New York City’s Tog-morgn zhurnal, “If there has ever been the possibility of Jewish/Yiddish autonomy (yidishe oytonomye) in English North America, it was in Montreal.”2 ...

Yiddish Goes Pop

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Prelude to “Yiddish Goes Pop”

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pp. 141-144

I have been asked to write a short essay on the theme “Yiddish Goes Pop,” but I question the premise. Yiddish has not suddenly “gone pop”; it always has been “pop”—even in the efforts of avant-garde literati, secular scholars, and earnest kultur-tuers (cultural activists) to render the language highbrow. ...

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Isaac Goldberg and the Idea of Obscene Yiddish

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pp. 145-162

By Lenny Bruce’s second appearance on The Steve Allen Show on May 10, 1959, he had already begun to earn his reputation as, in Allen’s words, “the most shocking comedian of our time . . . a comedian who will offend everybody.” Building on this reputation, Bruce launched into his set by quoting two unsympathetic critics, ...

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The Idealized Mother and Her Discontents: Performing Maternity in Yiddish Film Melodrama

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pp. 163-178

Upon discovering that her daughter Annie had become an accomplice of her gangster husband and stood behind bars accused of murder and armed robbery, Mrs. Waldman, the virtuous matriarch in the film A Jewish Mother, cries out, “My Annie—a thief! My daughter—a murderer! Woe is me, what I have lived to see!” ...

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Russian Militia Singing in Yiddish: Jewish Nostalgia in Soviet and Post-Soviet Popular Culture

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pp. 179-194

In 1997, Iosif Davidovich Kobzon (born in 1937) announced that he would say good-bye to his public by performing “a final concert” in 300 cities of the former Soviet Union. Kobzon, who likes to call himself the “Russian Frank Sinatra,” was at the time one of the most popular and significant singers in the Soviet Union. ...

Yiddish Comes to America

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Prelude to “Yiddish Comes to America”

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pp. 195-198

Yiddish came to America in tandem with the Jews. At no point in the history of the Jewish people in America could the sounds of Yiddish not be heard. In fact, Yiddish provides an enduring thread that runs through the American Jewish experience and evolved as American Jewry evolved. ...

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My Yidishe Murder: The 1876 Case of Pesach Rubenstein, Hasidic Slasher

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pp. 199-216

In December 1875, a Jewish immigrant from Russian-ruled Poland murdered his lover in a field in Brooklyn by slashing her throat with a cigar knife. The press had a field day and the explosion of articles that followed the story, from the discovery of the body through the trial and to the death in prison of the defendant, ...

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Race, Culture, and the Creation of Yiddish Social Science: Max Weinreich’s Trip to Tuskegee, 1932

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pp. 217-232

In December 1932, the Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich took a trip to Booker T. Washington’s Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama.1 Taking leave from his duties at the Yiddish Research Institute (Yidisher visnshaft lekher institut, or YIVO), in Vilna, Poland, Weinreich had been invited to spend the 1932/33 academic year at Yale University ...

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Coming to America: Max Weinreich and the Emergence of YIVO’s American Center

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pp. 233-252

In early October 1939, the Amopteyl (short for Amerikaner opteyl, or American Division) of YIVO released a pressing announcement. A month earlier the German-Soviet partition of Poland severed the contested multiethnic city of Vilna (Vilnius) from that country. The scant information available revealed that the institute remained intact ...

Yiddish Encounters Hebrew

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Prelude to “Yiddish Encounters Hebrew”

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pp. 253-256

I came to Yiddish, to YIVO, in order to fully get Hebrew. This was my story for years (first mistake1). As a student of modern Hebrew culture, I maintained, it was impossible, irresponsible, really, to fully enter into Hebrew literature without somehow encountering, accounting for, Yiddish along the way. ...

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A Mistress, a Nanny, or a Maidservant: Discourse on Yiddish in Fin de Siècle Hebrew Newspapers in Eastern Europe

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pp. 257-276

In March 1889, shortly after the publication of Der hoyz fraynd (The House Friend) by Mordkhe Spektor in Warsaw and Di yidishe folks-bibliotek (The Jewish People’s Library) by Sholem Aleichem (Shalom Rabinovitz) in Kiev, a columnist in Hatzefira Naftali Herz Nenmanowitz,1 wrote, “What is zhargon? a plain ordinary Jew asked when he found on my desk …

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Choosing Yiddish in Israel: Yung Yisroel between Home and Exile, the Center and the Margins

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pp. 277-294

On May 24, 1978, when the Yiddish poet Rukhl Fishman received the Itzik Manger Prize for Yiddish Literature in Tel Aviv, she noted in her acceptance address, “Before Itzik Manger undertook to settle in Israel, he wrote: Kh’hob zikh yorn gevalgert in der fremd / itst for ikh zikh valgern in der heym” (For Years I have been homeless among strangers / Now I go off to be homeless in my own home).1 ...

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Hebrew Remembers Yiddish: Avot Yeshurun’s Poetics of Translation

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pp. 295-314

A few days after his death, the New York Times published a short obituary in honor of the Israeli poet Avot Yeshurun (1904–1992).1 The laconic headline “Poet in Unusual Idiom” accurately summed up a career that spanned most of twentieth century modern Hebrew and Israeli writing, one that encompassed and articulated the various subjects, themes, questions, ...

Hear and Now

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Prelude to “Hear and Now”

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pp. 315-318

Too often, we focus on oral culture to the neglect of aural culture. What about the sound of Yiddish? Oft en what makes a language “dead” or “alive” (or perhaps, as we say in Yiddish, goyses) is whether or not people speak it. But what about listeners? What about people who can and do listen in multiple languages even if they do not speak them? ...

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Echoes of Yiddish in the Speech of Twenty-First-Century American Jews

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pp. 319-338

So begins Lisa Alcalay Klug’s 2008 book Cool Jew. In this faux rabbinic haskama (letter of approval), Yiddish serves as a hook to pull the reader into a vision of “cool” Jewishness. Klug’s use of Yiddish words represents not an isolated instance but a widespread phenomenon among contemporary American Jews. ...

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“Hold on Tightly to Tradition”: Generational Differences in Yiddish Song Repertoires among Contemporary Hasidic Women

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pp. 339-356

The main message conveyed by “Mesoyre lid”—the critical importance of adhering to “tradition”—is hardly surprising given its provenance: the song comes from the Tosh Hasidic community based near Montreal. The emphasis placed on tradition, or on what is perceived as tradition, by contemporary Hasidim is apparent in many facets of their lives: ...

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The SoCalled Past: Sampling Yiddish in Hip-Hop

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pp. 357-376

“You know what I’m saying. It’s like they put it there like eighty years ago so that we could use it now.” Commenting on a short instrumental riff from an old Yiddish record, Montreal-based musician SoCalled1 begins an interview as such. He continues, ...

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pp. 377-380

The remarkable collection of essays that constitute Choosing Yiddish—wide in range, surprising in argument—suggests a series of thoughts and, perhaps, concerns to the reader familiar with the field of Yiddish studies and that of Jewish studies, its close and partially—though only partially—encompassing cousin. ...

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pp. 381-386

Ela Bauer is the chair of the Department of Communication and Film at the Seminar Ha-Kibbutzim College in Tel Aviv. In addition, she teaches in the Jewish History Department at Haifa University and is the academic coordinator of the Posen Research Forum at Haifa University. ...


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pp. 387-394

E-ISBN-13: 9780814337998
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814334447

Page Count: 496
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1
Volume Title: N/a