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November 25, 1994 - Image 53

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-11-25

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Gestetner

and nursing homes to converse
with senior citizens in a language
that almost speaks for itself.
While Yiddish remains the
spoken idiom in certain Orthodox
communities, and Yiddish words
and phrases have become incor-
porated into everyday speech, it
is unlikely, even unthinkable,
that Yiddish will ever become the
vernacular it once was. "The re-
newed interest in Yiddish is noth-
ing like a renaissance, says
Hebrew University's Turniansky.
"That," she adds grimly, "would
imply returning to what existed
before the Holocaust."
Adult education classes and
Yiddish-speaking clubs notwith-
standing, the *Diversity seems
the most likely bastion for pre-
serving Yiddish. And judging by
the number and size of classes in
Israel, there is room for optimism.
All the major universities offer
language courses in Yiddish,
which many students take after
completing the highly popular in-
troductory courses in Yiddish cul-
tm.e, taught in Hebrew. But few
students-perhaps three or four
every year at Hebrew Universi-
ty-choose to major in Yiddish.
Bar-Ilan University in Ramat
Gan has a special teacher train-
ing program for elementary and
high school teachers of Yiddish,
and the Hebrew University has
a renowned research-oriented de-
partment-the only independent
Yiddish department in the world.
Latvian-born Yiddish teacher
Michael Bordin's enthusiasm is
infectious. In his three beginners'
classes at Hebrew University, the
approach is no-frills, straight
grammar-one way, he says, to
week out the less serious stu-
dents. Instead of producing
yawns and absenteeism, a deter-
mined sense of camaraderie pre-
bails as students enthusiastically
conjugate verbs and practice their
tenses.
The class is a heterogeneous
mix of young and old (one woman
is a mother of seven, and grand-
mother of five), native Israeli and
immigrant-even Jew and non-
Jew. However, the majority of the
students-despite media focus on
a handful of Japanese and
Yemenite students learning Yid-
dish-are Ashkenazi.
Rachel, a doctoral student of
Chasidic music at Hebrew Uni-
versity, says her degree gives her
the perfect opportunity to learn
Yiddish, and Leahtalks of the
need to translate more Yiddish
literature into Hebrew. "If not,
the next generation will know
nothing of the Yiddish language's
rich past."
Michael, a combined music
and Yiddish major, immigrated
to Israel from Russia three years
ago. It was his childhood dream
to learn Yiddish, he says. Having
•settled in Israel and mastered
Hebrew, Michael's dream is now
becoming a reality. What would
Ben Gurion say now? Li

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