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July 21, 1989 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-07-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

PURELY COMMENTARY

A Postscript To Sholom Aleichem

PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Editor Emeritus

A

panegyrically-spirited review of
a masterfully edited Sholom
Aleichem book was accom-
panied by a wish. It expressed a desire
to know that the famous author's works
would be read in the original instead of
being forced into popularity of
translations.
The review was on The Best of
Sholom Aleichem (Aronson Publishers),
edited by two masters, Irving Howe and
Ruth Wisse, who are distinguished as
authorities on Yiddish literature. Their
collected works earned applause and
their published dialogue in the form of
an exchange of letters gave a
remarkable account on the ideology and
social-political-religious concept of
Sholom Aleichem.
In the continuing anxieties about
the published works that include the
translations from the Yiddish, we keep
applauding the scholarly treasures that
are available to a measured degree in
English texts. Every effort is made to
retain the highly dignified and to avoid
resorting to the imitations that often
relegate the language to vulgarities.
The hope we entertain is that the digni-
ty of Yiddish literature will be assured
when the scholarly works are read in
the original. That's the "wish" that ac-
companies the acclaim for translations.
The very idea of the "wish" compell-
ed the question of the extent to which
Yiddish still is used, spoken, inter-

communicated, highly respected in our
own community. In other words, is it
"alive" here? I was anxious for the
authoritative and I asked a younger
man, one who knows and is able to read
and understand Yiddish in the original,
for his opinion on the status of the
knowledge of the language in our
midst. I turned to Phillip Applebaum.
who is also a Hebraist, who for a time
supervised the Akiva Hebrew Day
School and therefore is to be viewed as
having had a role in Hebraic academia.
Because he is a leader in the Young
Israel movement, I asked only for the
Yiddish status in Young Israel ranks.
He replied with a totality, with an
analysis of language continuity among
the elderly as well as in the ranks of the
Chassidim. Here is what we learn from
him about "the state of affairs relating
to Yiddish in our immediate
environment":

The status of Yiddish among
Detroit Orthodox is varied.
First, there are those who were
born in Europe. Their numbers
are dwindling, and even their
use of Yiddish is not as exten-
sive as it was in the past few
decades.
I have heard obviously
native Yiddish speakers carry-
ing on conversations with each
other in heavily accented
English. Sometimes one hears a
coversation in a hybrid Yiddish-
English. The problem is that
they speak to their children and

grandchildren in English only,
and they have grown more ac-
customed to English than Yid-
dish. At home, however, if they
and their spouses are native
Yiddish speakers, they converse
mostly in Yiddish.
As you know, the Orthodox
community comprises a number
of sub-groups defined by differ-
ing religious-political perspec-
tives, and among these groups
the usage of Yiddish varies.
Probably the largest seg-
ment comprises the yeshiva-
oriented Orthodox. Their
numbers have grown
dramatically in the past 20
years. Their attitude toward Yid-
dish is much the same as their
regard for other aspects of pre-
Holocaust Jewish life: it is
meritorious to revive the prac-
tices of pre-Holocaust Orthodox
Jews, but such practices are ac-
ceptable only insofar as they are
relevant to the expression of to-
day's Orthodoxy.
Thus, because Yiddish was
the operative language in pre-
war European yeshivot, and
because surviving European-
born yeshiva rabbis lecture now
in Yiddish, today's yeshiva-
oriented Jews strive to acquire
a working knowledge of the
language.

Although they may speak
Yiddish with strong American

accents, their grammar may be
faulty, and their choice of words
may be erroneous, they are able
to effect a dialogue with their
European-born, Yiddish-
speaking rabbis.
There are many Yiddish
speakers who were born into
non-Yiddish speaking homes,
but learned the language
through years of study in
Yiddish-based yeshivot. They
still maintain Yiddish as the
medium for study with their
rabbis, and some even pass the
language along to their
children.
Incidentally, there is a new
vogue among the "yeshiva
crowd" to affect a pronunciation
of Hebrew based on the pronun-
ciation of native Yiddish
speakers. I am certain that such
Hebrew was never heard in
eastern Europe. Yet, these Jews
feel this forms an authentic link
with the past.
The Orthodox group which
has most consistently retained
the use of Yiddish is the Lubavit-
cher Chassidim. In fact, there is
very little English spoken in
their local cheder. Since they
don't teach any secular subjects,
there is no need for English.
Probably more so than other
Chassidic groups, the Lubavit-
chers follow the admonitions of

Continued on Page 32

Moshe Davis: Creator Of Academic Achievements

S

pecial recognition accorded by
the Hebrew University to Dr.
Moshe Davis, one of its most
distinguished personalities, increases
importance of the movement he found-
ed and continues to nurture, the In-
stitute of Contemporary Jewry, at the
Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
At the university's current convoca-
tion Dr. Davis was named the Samuel
Rothberg Prize Laureate for 1989.
Many of eminents worldwide, in-
cluding Abba Eban, Zubin Mehta, Sen.
Daniel K. Inouye, were selected
honorees at this function. Dr. Davis' role
in the acclaim given him has earned a
half century of Jewish scholarship with
some 30 years devoted to labors in Israel.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
(US PS 275-520) is published every Friday
with additional supplements the fourth
week of March, the fourth week of August
and the second week of November at
20300 Civic Center Drive, Southfield,
Michigan.

Second class postage paid at Southfield,
Michigan and additional mailing offices.

Postmaster: Send changes to:
DETROIT JEWISH NEWS, 20300 Civic
Center Drive, Suite 240, Southfield,
Michigan 48076

$26 per year
$33 per year out of state
60' single copy

Vol. XCV No. 21

2

FRIDAY, JULY 21, 1989

July 21, 1989

He has assured strong links for the ad-
vancement of Jewish learning on a
global scale and especially of Israel and
American Jewry on a most cooperative
basis.
The Hebrew University's accumula-
tion of data about the important Moshe
Davis record in Jewish scholarship is so
valuable that it needs sharing in its en-
tirety. Announcing the literary and
academic prize for which he was chosen,
the university asserts a continuity by
him of his educational labors for what
will hopefully be the beginning of his
fourth decade of Hebrew University
academic career. The university's
analysis of his creative labors asserts:
The many research projects
that he has initiated over the
years and the significant enter-
prises that he has established, in
Israel as well as abroad, are
testimony to his scholarship and
to his commitment to the foster-
ing of Jewish education
throughout the world.
A noted scholar, Professor
Davis served as Dean of the
School of Education of the
Jewish Theological Seminary in
New York during a most critical
period in the Seminary's history.
A man of action and outstanding
accomplishment, he established
the Ramah summer camps in
North America and created the

Leadership Training Fellowship,
the academic youth wing of the
Conservative Movement.
Among Professor Davis's
most prominent achievements in
Israel was his founding of the In-
stitute of Contemporary Jewry
at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem upon arriving in this
country thirty years ago, at a
time when this field was not be-
ing researched or studied at any
other university in the world.
In Israel, Professor Davis in-
itiated and conducts to this day
the Study Circle on Contem-
porary World Jewry. The late
President Shazar agreed to host
this study circle in his official
residence, a tradition which his
successors have continued.
Another initiative of Pro-
fessor Davis was the creation of
the International Center for
University Teaching of Jewish
Civilization under the auspices
of the president of Israel. This
center, having gathered authen-
tic information on Jewish study
programs at universities
throughout the world,
stimulated the creation of pro-
grams at additional universities
and has strengthened existing
programs through a continuing
and expanding project of

Moshe Davis

seminars and workshops held
annually in Jerusalem.
The privilege of having been bless-
ed to associate with him in a number of
his creative tasks provides this oppor-
tunity for increased appreciation of the
man I take pride in listing among my
own teachers. The Hebrew University
has reason to count Dr. Moshe Davis
among its chief academicians and earns
commendation for acknowledging his
creativity in the form of the prize now
awarded him.



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