[Mendele] Mendele Vol.20.005
victor.bers at yale.edu
Sun Sep 12 09:14:08 EDT 2010
Mendele: Yiddish literature and language
Contents of Vol. 20.005
September 12, 2010
1) ayngeshpart (Irwin Mortman)
2) ayngeshpart (Leyzer Gillig)
3) ayngeshpart (Lillian Leavitt)
4) ayngeshpart (Martin Jacobs)
5) ayngeshpart (Maurice Wolfthal)
6) The Popular Language that Few Bother to Learn (Zachary Sholem Berger)
Date: August 25, 2010
In my family and many other families, "ayngeshpart" means stubborn.
Date: August 25, 2010
I knew the word "ayngeshpart" as meaning "imprisoned." In that context, at
least, it is not at all a localized word. I don't think I ever heard it
used as meaning "stubborn" but I can see the connection.
The word I would use for "stubborn person" would be "akshn." The noun form
"stubbornness" is "akshones" and the adjectival form is "akshonesdik."
Date: August 25, 2010
In response to Nicole Taylor's inquiry about "angeshpart": yes, my family
used it often talking about being stubborn or set into a particular
position. Yes, standard Yiddish would use "ayngeshpart." Another word to
mean the same would be "Farakshent," (accent on second syllable), with the
same Central Polish and Standard Yiddish
Date: August 25, 2010
Weinreich's Modern Yiddish-English Dictionary: "stubborn, obstinate,
Date: August 25, 20100
In response to Nicole Taylor's query about "angeshpart," this was the word
- and the pronunciation - that my parents used to mean "stubborn." I don
't know how "local" this usage was, but they were from Buczacz, then in
Pol and, now in Ukraine, long ago in Galicia under the Austrians.
Date: September 7, 2010
Subject: The Popular Language that Few Bother to Learn
Will Yiddish scholarship, the eternal victim, fall prey to lackluster
Twenty years ago there were four American universities with Yiddish
programs: the Jewish Theological Seminary, Harvard, Columbia, and UCLA.
Now there are more than a dozen. From Michigan to Maryland, from Chicago
to Santa Cruz, students are learning about Yiddish literature and culture.
Interest in Yiddish is growing even as its speakers
(outside Charedi enclaves) continue to decline in numbers. But interest
in the topic of Yiddish does not translate into a stable foundation for
teaching the language, which makes some scholars nervous about the future
of Yiddish scholarship.
At most institutions, Yiddish is taught by part-timers, graduate students,
or faculty with other commitments. Given economic constraints, and the
second-class status that Yiddish enjoys, even experienced teachers can't
be sure of stable employment. Miriam Isaacs, the only full-time Yiddish
instructor at the University of Maryland, was
recently fired. "I taught Yiddish there for 15 years," says Isaac, "and no
one ever tried to find me a permanent position. I was always a visitor,
from Yiddishland, from Mars, a lecturer from year to year." Hayim Lapin,
director of Jewish studies at the University, says that the issue was not
Yiddish per se, but the elimination of all visiting faculty as a part of
budget cuts. "We were not opposed to Yiddish as a field, but in the short
term other priorities came first: Israel Studies and Bible."
At the University of Kansas, a Jewish studies professor has tried to offer
Yiddish for three years but has gotten no takers. At Brandeis, Yiddish
language and culture will soon be eliminated as a minor (as will Hebrew
language), though elimination of Yiddish courses is not currently planned.
At the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism)
Yiddish is not offered.
Statistics show no mass interest in Yiddish language learning at the
university level. Figures from the Modern Language Association for 2006
(the only year available) show 969 students enrolled in Yiddish courses
nationally (about a tenth of those studying Hebrew, albeit somewhat
greater than the 750 or so students studying, say, Armenian)
This number also includes 400 students at the Rabbinical College of
Monsey, where administrator Adam Berger seemed bemused when asked if
Yiddish was taught there. "We learn our shiur in Yiddish. We speak
Yiddish," he said. "We don't teach Yiddish."
In addition, there are no formal standards or central certifying authority
for Yiddish teachers. Little formal training in Yiddish language
instruction has been available since 1987, when the Yiddish Teachers'
Seminar (a graduate-level institution in New York) shut down. Thus
consistency is lacking, as well as consensus about what kind of language
should be taught: an academic literary Yiddish spoken by a few thousand
today and necessary for the study of Yiddish literature; or a "Chasidic
Yiddish"? (Alternatively, says author Michael Wex, "candidates wearing
sandwich boards reading Lebn zol medinas yisroel should be dropped off in
Williamsburg. Those who talk their way out, pass the test.")
Why is Yiddish language learning not more popular or established? Perhaps,
says Ruth Wisse of Harvard, it is because Jews are insufficiently engaged
in their own heritage. "Were Jews to become as numerous as the Chinese and
as aggressive as Islamists, Hebrew and Yiddish might become the most
popular languages in higher education." Wex says learning about Yiddish is
more popular than learning the language itself "for the same reason that
there are more boxing fans than boxers: it's difficult, occasionally
painful, gains the practitioner neither status nor respect and is not
needed to live a full and satisfying life."
There is understandably a note of panic among some scholars when you ask
them about the future of Yiddish instruction in American universities.
Justin Cammy of Smith College is among them: "We are in grave danger
within the next 10-20 years of losing qualified Yiddish language teachers.
[In part] it has to do with the lack of funding for
serious Yiddish teacher training. It is critical that some institution,
organization, or funder take this on as its central mission. Nothing would
serve the field of Yiddish more and ensure its survival that the focused
training of Yiddish language teachers."
If Yiddish language instruction in the United States is not stable,
perhaps its advocates could learn from the example of Hebrew? Certainly
the number of students in Hebrew courses is on the rise. But the quality
of Hebrew language instruction in universities, as well as the connection
between day school Hebrew and university Hebrew, is not on the communal
radar as a concern. None of the major "incubator" organizations have
awarded grants to organizations concerned with language teaching or
learning, whether in Yiddish or Hebrew. Donald Sylvan, the director of
JESNA, the major advocacy organization for
Jewish education in North America, agrees that Hebrew is important, but
"segregating" Hebrew education from the rest of Jewish education might not
the best way to improve language proficiency.
Yiddishists might envy the position of Hebrew, but at least as far as
language instruction in the United States, they are in similar straits.
Perhaps this is a matter of priorities. Wex
gain: "If even a fraction of the money currently used to send teenagers on
free trips to Israel...were used to subsidize free Jewish
education--ideally in both Hebrew and Yiddish-- perhaps we'd be able to
give our youth something more substantial than a chance to get laid for
If cultural literacy in Yiddish (or Hebrew, for that matter) is out of
reach of all but a diminishing number of American Jews, perhaps
translation is the answer? The New Yiddish Library, hosted by the Yale
University Press, aimed to fill this gap, but will soon cease publishing
new titles; the books, says Wisse (a member of the editorial board, along
with Cammy), "have not yet made their way into the life stream of American
culture." The highly regarded translators of a previous generation
languish in nursing homes or have passed away.
"We have to be realistic," says Cammy, almost wistfully. "In the context
of contemporary world culture, Yiddish is not a significant player. ...
The kind of undergraduate student who will want to learn Yiddish just to
be able to read Yiddish literature in the original is quite special." It
could be that in the not-so-distant future, Yiddish scholarship will be
left to those autodidacts who find their own way to the language, despite
the lack of communal support.
Zackary Sholem Berger
End of Mendele Vol. 20.005
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