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Groggy from lack of sleep, she returned to her language class at the Yiddish Book Center, where she had been chosen as a summer intern that year. Debra went on to study Yiddish culture in college classes and bolstered her facility with the language at intensive workshops around the world, from New York to Vilnius to Tel Aviv.
That remained her focus while obtaining a PhD from the Yiddish studies program in Harvard University’s Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. But, she added quickly, “I’m teaching theater at the only college in the country that has a resident Yiddish theater company—the Folksbiene Theater performs here. Beyond the question of how, students of Yiddish often must answer another question, at least from others—why? An encyclopedic examination of Yiddish afternoon schools (and their close relations, Yiddish summer camp) was published recently by historian Fradle Pomerantz Freidenreich. The schools often were affiliated with political movements, ranging from Labor Zionist to Communist, with the notable exceptions being schools run by the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute.
Of course, the sheer force of the stream of assimilation was relentless, and in the years after World War II, it became a flood that nearly swept away everything in its path.
The result, he adds, is that “for a very long time Yiddish was a niche business in America.” It was a niche business that for the most part survived by setting up fledgling franchises in universities. One person who has straddled the old world and new world of Yiddish instruction is David Roskies, who grew up in Montreal in the 1950s and attended secular Yiddish day schools. Roskies went on to Brandeis University, where he earned a PhD and began teaching and writing extensively on Jewish literature. Roskies has long been concerned that the move of Yiddish from the home and school to academia led to an unfortunate compartmentalization—“Yiddish for the sake of Yiddish” in his words—languagestudy separated from the more richly contextual Yiddish cultural studies “embedded in a dense social fabric.” Though he holds the official title of professor at two different universities, he urges his students to refer to him as “Lehrer,” an honorific that implies a more comprehensive teaching range. One of the first college-level Yiddish programs was begun in the 1950s at Columbia University, established by the linguist Uriel Weinreich, the son of the great Yiddish linguistic and cultural historian Max Weinreich and himself an alumnus of afternoon Yiddish schools run by the Workmen’s Circle. Former Yiddish Book Center intern Jeremy Dauber now runs the Yiddish Studies program at Columbia.
It was at Columbia (before Dauber arrived to teach) that Sarah Benor first felt the tug of Yiddish culture. That class convinced her that she needed to learn Yiddish, and Sarah arrived at the Yiddish Book Center as an intern the summer after her freshman year.


The idea of a post-vernacular Yiddish culture comes from the work of Rutgers University Jewish studies professor Jeffrey Shandler, whose 2006 book, Adventures in Yiddishland, explored the idea of the language offering a sort of symbolic homeland.
In Aaron Lansky's decades of watching young adults arrive at the Center ready to cross the border into Yiddishland, he has seen a progression in attitudes and motivation.
Now, in addition to the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, the Yiddish Book Center offers yearlong fellowships for recent college graduates. For now, this particular new immigrant into Yiddishland has found a home at the Yiddish Book Center. John Marchese is a frequent contributor to The New York Times, Worth, Philadelphia, and Pakn Treger.
World of Proverbs - Famous Quotes: A man is not old until his regrets take the place of his dreams. For many, the earliest words they remember learning as children were in Yiddish, the language of home, of family, of warmth and cooking and close-knit community. Though her father had spoken Yiddish around the house (often to the family dog), it was Debra’s first formal instruction in the language. She graduated from Hampshire College with a senior project that involved translating and producing two Yiddish musicals.
She recently accepted a teaching position in the theater department of Baruch College at the City University of New York. Passionate Pioneers: The Story of Yiddish Secular Education in North America, 1910-1960 gathers information on a thriving education sector that, at its peak, comprised nearly a thousand schools, spread across 160 communities in the United States and Canada, offering instruction in Yiddish to children and adults.
He is the series editor of the Yiddish Book Center and Yale Press University Press’s New Yiddish Library series. These days,  according to a list of resources compiled by the Yiddish Book Center, there are about twenty colleges and universities around the United States that offer some kind of instruction in Yiddish. He arrived for a summer in Amherst after his freshman year at Harvard, and like so many students before and since, the time spent immersed in and surrounded by the products of Yiddish culture inspired him to return to school with a serious intent to learn the language. A klezmer band played at her bat mitzvah in suburban Washington, DC ., which inspired her to adapt her classical violin training into jamming with local klezmer bands. Among the current cohort is Rola Younes, a native of Lebanon whose first languages are Arabic and French.


For a time, Roskies helped run an intensive summer seminar for advanced graduate students to immerse themselves in Yiddish culture and language in a way that hadn’t been possible since his own childhood.
When she read in the Columbia course catalog that there was a class in Yiddish culture that included klezmer music, she enrolled. After receiving a PhD in linguistics from Stanford, she now teaches at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, and her research interests have widened beyond the Yiddish language.
Burghardt, scholar-in-residence at the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center, will tell the story of Yiddish, from its origins in the Middle Ages to its steep decline after the Holocaust.
She worked as a freelance reporter for The New York Times for 20 years and is the author of three nonfiction books. In recent decades, learning Yiddish in a secular setting has usually been something students could only do as they reached college age. It’s a program the professor has described as “Yiddish finishing school.” Lack of resources forced the program’s termination. Fortuitously, the eminent scholar of Yiddish literature, Ruth Wisse (who is David Roskie’s sister), had just arrived in Cambridge to set up a Yiddish studies program. But she has taught Yiddish in a number of different settings, from high schools to synagogues and recently to rabbinical students at Hebrew Union College.
And while opportunities for formal instruction are increasing, it is still not a path of study that can be set upon blithely. Burghardt will talk about the enormous literary, musical and scholarly contributions made in Yiddish throughout history and its interconnectedness with the traditions of Yiddishkeit, and examine rumors of its surprising resurgence in modern culture around the world.
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