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Twenty-First Century Yiddishism: Language, Identity, and the New Jewish Studies Hardcover – March 1, 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1845194062 ISBN-10: 1845194063 Edition: Bilingual
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“Tatjana Soldat-Jaffe’s Twentieth-First Century Yiddishism is a risky yet engaging tour through the post-Holocaust social history of Yiddish in Israel, Europe — especially Germany — and the United States. It is a parallel history of the status of the Jewish imaginary, Jews in the imagination of non-Jews, Jews as historical figures, and Jews as self-creators of a new / old Jewish identity. Well researched and well written, it is both first-rate socio-linguistics and social history, of importance to scholars of American, Israeli, and German Jewry.”  —Sander L. Gilman, Emory University

“Even before the extermination of millions of native Yiddish speakers by Hitler, sociolinguists who followed the migration of Yiddish-speaking Jews from Europe to America and Palestine anticipated its categorization as an endangered language. It took only one American assimilationist generation and Hebrew University’s revival of Hebrew as a modern language to give the thousand-year-old language a push toward oblivion. The Holocaust could have been the final blow: the end of Yiddish as a language and literature. But that has not happened, and Soldat-Jaffe (Univ. of Louisville) adds to the discussion with this intelligent study of why Yiddish is still with us, and why it may persist. In Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish, David Katz used the astonishing rebirth of Haredi orthodoxy in the US as a critical case to examine Yiddish language survival. Soldat-Jaffe begins with the first great Yiddish language conference in Czernowitz in 1908, offering a social history of Yiddish, then concentrating on the postwar Haredi in the UK and the cultural revival of Yiddishkeit in Europe and America. This historical and comparative analysis makes a strong case for the survival of a language whose demise has been routinely predicted for the past 50 years. Recommended.”  —Choice

“This ambitious, thought-provoking work examines the socio-linguistic implications and ideological debates surrounding Yiddish education today. Dr. Soldat-Jaffe presents and analyzes three arenas of Yiddish pedagogy: home study among Haredi Jewish children in London, and academic study in the United States and in Germany. … Each arena has its own complications, which the author discusses in detail, noting that Yiddish language learning today defies many established categories. Yiddish variously reinforces the native, daily language of Haredi children in London; renews the roots of American university students; and connects non-Jews (especially Germans) to Jewish culture. Academic learning is not sufficient to provide a true cultural immersion, and the use of Yiddish in the klezmer scene is often superficial. Curiously, both Haredi and secular Yiddish pedagogues have promoted Yiddish as a way of fighting assimilation and strengthening Jewish identity, while German students of Yiddish seek a connection with Eastern European culture and a rejection of collective memory and guilt. … This is a welcome contribution to the field of Yiddish and socio-linguistics. Densely written and employing academic language, this book is suitable for educated readers. The divergent yet related areas of Yiddish study addressed here raise many interesting questions. Indeed, each chapter could be expanded into its own book. Recommended for academic libraries, especially collections including Jewish studies and socio-linguistics.”  —Amanda Seigel, Dorot Jewish Division, New York Public Library (Association of Jewish Libraries)

About the Author

Tatjana Soldat-Jaffe holds a PhD from University of Illinois, and is currently a professor at University of Louisville, Kentucky, where she supervises the linguistics program. Her research and teaching interest focus on Yiddish studies, language & culture, and language & ideology.
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Twenty-First Century Yiddishism: Language, Identity, and the New Jewish Studies
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