What I’m Reading

Here is some of the Yiddish or Yiddish-related material I am/have been reading. I have nothing specific to uncover or to preach this week. So, I fall back on the original meaning of “blog” as “web log”, and share some of what I have been reading and thinking about, and what’s on my immediate reading list:

  1. The Birobidzhan Affair, by Israel Emiot. I received a gift of Masha Gessen’s book “Where the Jews Aren’t” that has been in the news lately. So, rather than read it right away, I thought I’d read the Birobidzhan book that’s been sitting on my shelf. I have both the Yiddish and the English version (on extended loan from by friends in Rochester. But I’m honorable and they had extra copies of both). I was going to make a try at the Yiddish, but in the end I’ve opted for time efficiency. Despite the title, the book focuses not so much on Birobidzhan itself, but on the author’s experience in a prison camp.
  1. The story, Di Farkishefter Shnayder, by Sholem Aleichem. Preparation for an online class.
  1. Fishke der Krumer, by Mendele Mocher Sforim. Ditto.
  1. Dr. Shloime Simon, by Chanan Kiel. A tribute published in the Tsukunft, dated 1988 (eighteen years after his death).
  1. An article Gele Fishman wrote in the Forverts about her friend Blume: http://yiddish.forward.com/articles/199592/my-close-friend-blume/ What is interesting to me here (besides the wonderful photo that not only features the writer and her friend, but also my Aunt Judith Simon Bloch as a teenager), is the picture Fishman gives of the crystallization of identity. Being teenage Yiddishists, just coming into their mature intellectual selves in the holocaust years, marked her and her friend and gave them a life’s mission. I am fascinated by that interplay of timing and individual meaning-making.
  1. Translation and Poetry. An article my grandfather wrote in 1932 reviewing a new translation of Lord Byron’s poetry. Kindly shared with me by a scholar of English Romanticism, whose particular interest is in parallels and intersections between English and Jewish culture. I looked for and could not find this article over the summer, and I’m grateful to have it. Therefore it is slightly awkward to arrive at the conviction that her characterization of my grandfather’s article in her book “Byron and the Jews” is not altogether accurate. Just between you and me.
  2. Also still working on A Little Love in Big Manhattan, Ruth Wisse’s book about the poets Mani Leib and Moishe Leib Halpern..

This should keep me busy. “Any one can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.”– Robert Benchley.

———

People did show up at Yiddish Ithaca’s first meeting two weeks ago. Hooray! We are meeting again Monday. This time I did not move heaven and earth to publicize it. We will see who comes back. The problems are first that it is still “my group” and not “our group” yet, and second that despite our small numbers we have a broad range- from knowing nothing and being idly curious, to knowing little but eager to learn more (and even these split between wanting to learn to read or just to talk) to knowing a bit and undecided on reading vs. schmoozing as a focus, to being fluent. No one else seems ready to assert what they want and bring the energy to help make it happen. So I’m taking charge of the beginners. Otherwise, my plan for smoothing the way despite the disparate experience and expectations is to bring honey cake.

If the group shrinks in one direction (only the beginners, or only the highly committed learners) that will simplify matters. But if not, I have a role model in my teacher from Rochester, D, who has managed to keep a group together for many years despite some fairly stark differences in level and learning style.

fishman

Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute’s Mitl Shul graduation, 1944. Photo presumably supplied by Fishman to accompany her Forverts article. Please repay them for my stealing it by reading (and/or by subscribing or contributing to) the Forverts.

 

As Your Gift

vi-zayn-geshenk

As Your Gift

Your good broad hand that guides the planets’ ways
in their wide circles, and keeps their paths unbent,
measures for each living thing its share of days
from your high and capacious firmament:

The cows in the stable have this many dates,
and in the woods, this many for the hunted ones
this many bumps in the road for Adam’s sons
just as it is written in the Book of Fates.

And I, too, in flesh and blood have had my planned
allotment, my full portion. I am sated
with days, as summer leaves are saturated.
And I greet each new day that comes as holy,

as your gift; and like my first day in agony
my last one, too, will be counted from your hand.

 

from Sonetn, by Mani Leib.
Translation 2016, by David R. Forman. Do not reproduce or use without permission.

leib

 

In which the calendar takes me somewhere strange.

‘Yiddish’ is Yiddish for ‘Jewish’

Do you speak Jewish? I’m learning. But it’s not easy. Not even always fun.

The word ‘Jewish’, of course, is used most often to refer a religion. Sometimes, it is used to mean an ethnicity (loosely defined), and sometimes to a nationality [Today, when the word ‘nation’ seems inextricably tied to the concept of ‘state’, one might better say, a cultural identity]. But in Yiddish, the word ‘Jewish’ also means the language. The deeper one goes the more this asserts itself. It is not a neutral code for talking about the world. When you learn to read and to speak Jewish, you learn to think through the lens of our religious and national history.

So, for example, studying Yiddish impels a certain level of engagement with the foundational texts. Toyre (Torah) is so central to Jewish life that secular Jewish writers both quote it and assume knowledge of it in their literature. Even the dates on the Jewish calendar are not dependably given as a month and day, but at least as frequently indicated by the nearest weekly Torah portion. So, I’ve added the Torah portions to my calendar. [If you like, you can, too: https://www.hebcal.com/home/60/google-calendar-jewish-holidays%5D.

Ki Teitsei

Doing that tempted me to at least give this week’s portion a glance. And immediately all the ambivalence flooded in. Here’s how the Yehoash translation begins the portion my calendar calls “Ki Seitsei” (more usually transliterated as ‘Teitsei’):

“Un du vest aroysgeyn in milkhome akegn dayne faynt, un got dayn her vet zey gebn in dayn hant, un vest fangen fun zey gefangene, un vest zen tsvishn di gefangene a froy sheyn in gestalt, un vest ze glustn, un vest zi dir veln nemen far a vayb, zolstu zi brengen in dayn hoyz, un zi zol opgoln ir kop, un opshnaydn ire negl; un zi zol oyston fun zikh di kleydung fun ir gefangenshaft un zitsn in dayn hoyz, un baveynen ir foter un ir muter a khoydes tsayt, un dernokh zolstu qumen zu ir un zi bamanen, un zi zol dir vern far a vayb.”

Having read that far, I close the TaNaKh and put it away. No, not because it’s an extreme run-on sentence. In fact, I’ve always found run-on sentences rather compelling, a kind of breathless storytelling, which can either be childlike or, as in this case, suspenseful and cumulative in its power. Here’s the English:

“And (when) you will go forth in war against your enemies, and your Lord God will deliver them into your hands, and you will capture prisoners, and you will see a woman among the prisoners who is lovely in form, and will desire her, and want to take her for a wife, you shall bring her into your house and she shall shave her head and cut her nails, and she shall take off the clothing of her captivity and sit in your house, and mourn her father and her mother for a month’s time, and then you shall go to her and be her husband, and she will become your wife.”

Later, I did go back and read more, but not much. Basically, the Law is domesticating rape and slavery. The domestication takes the form of trying to mitigate the worst horrors of treating people as the spoils of war. In fact, it has been suggested this form of slavery should not even be called by that name. A manservant or maidservant had the Sabbath off,  was fed of the same food the master ate, and had certain other rights. In the case of this particular passage, a man who wanted to take a captive for a wife had to treat her as a wife. Having done so, if he got tired of her, he could not undo that choice. He could divorce her, but then had to set her free and was explicitly forbidden from selling her. Furthermore, he had to acknowledge their children as his legitimate children.

Slavery is Slavery

I’m not impressed. Here is an apologia of sorts, from contemporary Chabadnik Tsvi Freeman, of slavery in the Jewish tradition. Naturally, I am not impressed by this either:

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/305549/jewish/Torah-Slavery-and-the-Jews.htm

The argument is that in a long-ago world surrounded by other slaveholding cultures, to prescribe a kind of kinder-and-gentler slavery, a slavery with ethical limits would, first, be pragmatically enforceable and, second, would lead inexorably to abolition. The act of seeing slaves as human beings, coupled with the humanistic tradition elsewhere in Judaism would make eventual abolition inevitable. But leaving that inevitable outcome to be arrived at through the rabbinic tradition and the Talmud, making the Jews themselves come to this conclusion over time, would cause them to endorse it and internalize it more deeply.

I call bullshit. Slavery is slavery. Here’s the clearest argument I can think of against a reformist approach to a categorical evil. The same parsha (portion) has an unambiguous prohibition against re-imprisoning a runaway slave: Zolst nisht iberentfern a knekht tsu zayn har, az er vet zikh rateven tsu dir fun zayn har.

fugitive-slave

Yet, on September 18th, 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act, explicitly requiring Northern states to return runaway slaves to the south. There cannot be a “half slavery”. Treating people as property has its own inexorable logic. So much so, that people who called themselves Christians, and who cited “The Bible” as their justification for slavery, ignored that same book when it told them their “property” must have rights.

The passage has many other unpleasant bits in it. Every year, people who like a good story start the Torah from the beginning, and blessedly peter out long before we get to Dvarim (Deuteronomy).

But knowing what is in the Torah is a source of humility, a tonic against thinking our people and our tradition are somehow better than other peoples or other traditions. Our long memory is a great advantage, precisely for its preservation of our failings. And, too, it forms the best possible defense against fundamentalism. So, I will continue to look in this ancient mirror from time to time, and to keep these reminders in my calendar.

Screen Shot 2016-09-16 at 4.58.34 PM.png

Yiddish Ithaca

I rented a meeting room in the library and put up flyers. Monday evening is our first meeting.

“Yiddish Ithaca” may turn out to be a reading circle with four members, or it may turn out to be a lively conversation group with a dozen, or it could someday morph into a more serious organization, promoting Yiddish learning through classes and cultural events in central New York.

Now, I would be perfectly happy with any of this. If there are four people in Ithaca who want to read a Yiddish word together, I will be thrilled to have the company. All I want is to keep learning, and learning goes best in connection with other human beings. And if there is not even that critical seed wanting to give this a go, I am willing to say, “I tried,” and turn my attention elsewhere.

But, what would make me distinctly unhappy, is if there are in fact people in Ithaca, New York or nearby, who would love to read Yiddish, or to speak Yiddish, who never find out about it. If they never find out about it, they will not come, and if they do not come, the group will not form.

So help me out. If you know anyone in Ithaca who might know anyone in Ithaca who might want this, please tell them about it. Here’s the flyer with the details:


yiddish-ithaca-flyerFeel free to share it, or to put people in touch with me directly. There’s also a facebook group and an event page. Any way you can think of to spread the word, I would appreciate it.

Jonathan Boyarin at Cornell, who is rooting for this to work, reminded me that “Yeder onheyb iz shver” (All beginnings are hard). It is a line from the folk song Oyfn Pripetchik, which has been ringing in my ear since I received that encouraging email.

Just last semester I learned two interesting things about that song. First, it is a ‘folksong’ composed by a known author (Mark Warshavsky) at a known time (the second half of the nineteenth century). Second, the line quoted above is itself a quote, from Rashi, who was born nearly a thousand years ago. In other words, culture does not just ‘arise’, but is created by individuals. Some practices that seem very old are recent innovations, and all ‘innovations’ have roots stretching back father than we can even imagine.

The song is about children gathering in a kheyder, a little one-room schoolhouse, to begin a life of learning. The pripetchik is a hearth. Surrounded by the harsh cold, it created a small heated space in which it was possible to learn. But I learned my little tidbits about that song in a Workmen’s Circle class on the internet, from a teacher over 5000 miles away, in Buenos Aires. Now that is a real innovation! The world is one kheyder now. No one need be quite as limited by the place where they happen to find themselves.

And yet, nothing takes the place of physical presence of human beings in each other’s company. Monday evening. Seven O’Clock.

tcpl

Dialectology, Part 2

“If I could speak English. I would give them a piece of my mind.”
“What would you do, what?”
“I would travel to America, and I would go in to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and I would say to him in English, ‘Mister Secretary, I think you ought to know… Feh, Feh, Feh, Feh, Feh!’”
“For that, you need English?”

DzhiganThis snippet of dialog is from “Aynshteyn Vaynshteyn”, a classic comedy routine by the duo, Dzhigan and Shumacher. There’s no point in me trying to transliterate much of it. Let’s just say, it doesn’t sound like what it looks like. The content is funny. I particularly like their description of the difference between a dictatorship and a democracy. But the real humor is in the delivery. Timing is definitely some of it. One of the characters drawls impossibly slowly while the other talks a mile a minute. But some of it also comes from the thick Lodz dialect. You can hear the whole routine here:

http://archives.savethemusic.com/bin/archives.cgi?q=songs&search=title&id=Einshtein+Weinshtein  [When you get to the page, find and click the ‘play’ button]

The dialogue above starts at about 2:45, but right from the outset you hear ‘gitn’ morgn instead of ‘gutn’. Then there is a vowel shift in reading a newspaper: ve me lay-ent (in Yivo transliteration, ‘ay’ makes the sound as in the English ‘Aye-Aye’) instead of ley-ent (the ‘ey’ makes a vowel sound as in the English ‘they’).

I admit I enjoyed the comedy, if not all the class time devoted to the specific changes in pronunciation. And I would not have understood even the portion of the material we covered in class if I had not had the transcript, and if we had not gone over the dialect.

Handwriting

It was in my handwriting class that I learned the word ‘ideolect’. Though language is a shared and social activity, people use it in very individual ways. Nowhere is this more evident than in personal letters. Also, if the word ‘ideograph’ didn’t already exist, it would be the perfect descriptor for the barely decipherable squiggles unique to a particular writer.

After the first day, when we looked at some common variations in the forms of individual letters, we didn’t really have a structured curriculum, but would simply communally work our way through one personal letter (correspondence) after another. It was often quite stunning how little our ability to read one person’s handwriting would transfer to the next person. For the hard ones (and they were mostly hard ones), it felt like every word was a riddle. But over time, a couple of principles did emerge.

Expectation affects what you see. Sometimes words are hard to read because they are not Yiddish. In my grandfather’s writing (whether printed or handwritten) I often don’t realize he has switched into Hebrew until I hit the second or third word in a row that I don’t recognize. Many people’s letters contain town names in Russian or Polish. A South American manufacturer whose rubber supply is cut off during the war wonders about how he will make ‘a biznis’ for himself. Above all, in Yiddish letters of one hundred years ago, there is a lot of German. Some words don’t ‘belong’ in Yiddish. Other times it is only a matter of Germanized spelling: אונד for און (und/un), or זאהל for זאָל (zohl/zol), for example.

These are the least of the spelling problems. It became evident at some point how many Yiddish speakers had never formally learned to write in Yiddish. The old-world kheyder (one-room school) emphasized reading, memorization and, at higher levels, the  interpretation of complex texts. Writing seems to have been emphasized much less and, in the traditional khadorim would have been in Hebrew rather than Yiddish anyway. Then, too, there was no standard system for spelling yet.

So what did people do? They wrote words how they sounded. The word חדר (kheyder) itself, for example, appears as חיידער in one letter we read. Nor is this necessarily a mistake. In the Soviet Union, all the Hebrew-origin words were spelled out phonetically. So, whether this spelling was an indicator of low literacy depends on where and when the letter was written.

More than once we saw ‘זאך’ for ‘זיך’ (zakh for zikh) and ‘בא’ for ‘בײַ’ (ba for bay). And, finally, we have worked our way around this long digression back to my main subject. Since people wrote however the language sounded to them, it is extremely handy to have a grasp on the major variations in how Yiddish was spoken. In other words, dialects.

Utility

Part of the reason my grammar teacher spent so much time on the Dzhigan and Shumacher routine was that practicing with their dialect would be helpful in understanding a Hasidic rabbi who came to Yivo to talk with us summer students. Turns out I missed that visit, having an urgent need to be up in the archives at that time. Nevertheless, at some point, the utility of knowing various dialects could no longer be disputed. It manifested itself in something as seemingly unrelated as handwriting class. Then, when I attended a class lecture by historian Samuel Kassow on Warsaw between the two world wars, it was extremely helpful to have some familiarity with ‘sabesdike losn’ before he came.

So there’s my grudging admission. Basic knowledge of dialects can open up more of the world of Yiddish, whether it comes to humor, the letters people wrote that are so revealing of day-to-day life, or a scholarly talk about history. Nevertheless, I stubbornly maintain my list of priorities. Reading first, starting with my grandfather’s work. Next, reading poetry and after that, classic literature. Understanding the many variations and uses of spoken language comes after.

Home

Since I got back from my summer, I’ve struggled a bit with focus. There are so many things I want to do, it’s hard to dig into any one at a time. This fall, I plan to continue the work of reading and translating my grandfather’s writings. I am also talking an online literature class. OK, two online literature classes. I admit it, I get overenthusiastic sometimes. I am also starting a Yiddish group here in Ithaca. I don’t know whether people will be more interested in conversation or in reading, but I’m up for whatever other people want. I also have at least one offer of a Skype partner, who wants to read poetry together.

Up to now my favorite Yiddish poet is Mani Leib, and not only because my grandfather was his friend. His work is lyrical and elegant. Simply, it is some of the prettiest writing ever in Yiddish. I have been trained, in English poetry, to value other things apart from formal perfection and beautiful sounds, but I feel no guilt in reveling in them in another language. At my summer literature teacher’s recommendation, I’m also reading the book A Little Love in Big Manhattan, by Ruth Wisse. It focuses on the life and work of Mani Leib and of Moishe Leib Halpern, two Yiddish poets in early 20th century NY.

Early on in that book, Wisse discusses a poem by Mani Leib, published in 1910, that created a stir. It’s a lyric, almost a tone poem, and its placement of aesthetic considerations ahead of ideology or even semantic meaning, caused a stir. Here, the patterning of sounds is inseparable from the meaning, a crucial part of the intended effect of the poem. Her transliteration, mentions Wisse, is not according to Yivo standard spelling, but reflects the poet’s dialect. For example, he pronounces the word רויט (red) [pronounced ‘royt’ in standard Yiddish] as ‘reyt,’ and rhymes it with ‘breyt’ (wide). I mentioned this to my mother. “My parents said reyt,” she said.

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A Reluctant Introduction to Dialectology

I got an email yesterday with the salutation A gitn rosh chodesh Elul, a greeting for the new month. The ‘i’ in gitn marks the writer’s Yiddish as originating from the southern part of Jewish Eastern Europe. The spelling of ‘chodesh’ rather than ‘khoydesh’ means she is normal Jew and not a fanatic Yiddishist, a stickler for Yivo transliteration. And, the calendar! The calendar matters. If you want to think in Yiddish, the meshugene Jewish calendar will eventually demand to be reckoned with. But, since Av has thirty days, and it is not actually Elul until the weekend, I’m going to put it off.

So,… Happy September. August 2016 was my blog’s most visited month so far. If you like what you read, please do subscribe, tell your friends, share a post on facebook, write me a comment with a question or a suggested topic, and so on. Spread it around.

Also this August, my picture appeared in the Daily Forverts. Now that would seem to be a marvelous thing. My existence in the small Yiddish world has been tangibly noted. And I love the Forverts. But still, at the time I felt a little odd about it. Why?

The picture was posed. Our teacher Isaac Bleaman brought in The Moment (a Hasidic Yiddish magazine), got our permission, and then snapped the picture of us looking at it, even though we were not actively or thoroughly studying this particular magazine. At best we had flipped though it and noted a few idiosyncrasies. But that in itself was not the problem. Lots of news articles use posed photos to illustrate or reinforce their point.

The problem was the point he was making. But to even explain the nature of my ambivalence, I have to back up a little for the non-initiated. I was at Yivo [link] this summer studying what some people call “Yivo Yiddish” and what they call “Klal” Yidish, or Standard Yiddish. Note that Yiddish has been spoken for a thousand years, and this standard is less than one hundred years old.

Standard Yiddish

Klal Yidish (only one ‘d’ in the standard transliteration) is analogous to what in England is called “BBC English” or, more properly, “Received Pronunciation”. It serves the same role as “Standard French”, or the French of the Académie Française. The invention of this dialect facilitated several things. It standardized spelling, which was, to put it kindly, chaotic. It also enabled a shared writing standard for advanced academic study. We take it for granted, for example, that an English-speaker can go to an English-language university and major in English, but in Europe between the wars such a possibility could only be imagined for Yiddish for the first time. It provided linguists with a comparison point for the study of variations in the language, both through history and across regions. Finally, and crucially for me, it spelled out which Yiddish a student should learn, if he was not learning it at his mother’s knee. Standard English and French provide that same starting point for foreign students.

In fact, there are variations in the way people actually used, and still use, the language. There is a richness of dialects, with Yiddish speakers from southern Poland or Galicia speaking a different Yiddish than that of the ‘Litvaks’ (not just Lithuanian Jews, but those from a broad region). I’m pretty sure the Yiddish from what was then Czechoslovakia was halfway to German. And so on. But as a beginner, and now as an intermediate student, I have been actively uninterested in learning about dialects. I’m confused enough. Why can’t I learn one version first?

Probably no dialect is farther from Klal Yidish than contemporary Hasidish (Hasidic Yiddish). There are several reasons for this. Their progenitors came from the south, while standard Yiddish is closer to the more northern dialects. They live in isolated communities. They do not read in Yiddish. That is, they have the old traditional “internal bilingualism”, where Hebrew is the language of literacy and religious practice, while Yiddish is the less prestigious spoken language of the home. Therefore, Yiddish literature does not exert a pull that might keep them closer to the standard. Additionally, it is a vibrant, living, continuously transforming language. There are still many, many first language Yiddish speakers among the Hasidim, and no language stands still. Finally, while retaining more Lozhn Koydesh  (Hebrew-origin words) than secular Jews have in their Yiddish, the surrounding English is also strongly infiltrating Hasidic speech.

Now in the case of Hasidic Yiddish, I was not only uninterested, but hostile. Some of this comes from a secular Jew’s distaste for any religious fundamentalism or extremism. But more than that, even those of my ancestors who were orthodox were misnagdim (mainstream, anti-Hasidic Jews). For my Christian readers, imagine being non-practicing, but respectful of your Presbyterian roots, in a world where people don’t know much about it, but assume that snake-handling Pentacostals more or less exemplify Christianity. Lehavdil.

I should admit, though, that some of my hostility comes from a mix of envy and frustration. Here are Yiddish speakers who share few if any of my values, and have no interest in my worldview. Here is a critical mass of children who speak Yiddish, and they don’t read my grandfather’s books. Why should I make an effort to understand them? I’m not particularly proud of this attitude, just reporting it. Maybe something will come along some day and melt my heart. Or not.

The Article

In his article, Bleaman addresses those readers of the Forverts who write in, arguing for Hasidic, rather than Standard Yiddish. He admits that most secular academic classes give short shrift to the living language of Hasidic Jews. He calls these dialects a source of linguistic wealth. He expresses the sentiment that the separation between communities comes from both sides, and that secular Yiddish learners should know about how Yiddish is spoken on the streets of Brooklyn and Muncie. Perhaps this ability to understand contemporary spoken and written Yiddish of observant Jews could even help bring communities together.

A noble sentiment, but, as I say, I resist it. Still, Bleaman is a brilliant teacher and a persistent one. Even though it was not the central subject of the class, his enthusiasm for dialects was by no means limited to Hasidic Yiddish. He also told us about Sabesdike Losn, which is what non-Litvaks called a dialect from near Vilne. The name makes fun of how the letter shin (such as the one that makes the ‘sh’ sound in Shabes) would often be pronounced like the letter samekh (‘s’). There are also shifts in vowel sounds in this dialect. When he described the vowel shift in the converb (we’ll get to that can of worms eventually) ‘oys’ so that it sounds more like ‘oois’, I recognized my teacher from Rochester. In other cases, the sound ‘oy’ becomes ‘ey’. For example, ‘gevoynt’ (lived) may be pronounced ‘geveynt’. This can be awkward, because it sounds like ‘cried’. As in, I cried in Manhattan while studying Yiddish this summer.

Does it seem as though I’m rambling? It gets worse. Because even in something as seemingly unrelated as my handwriting class, the subject of dialects came up again. Maybe it’s best to pause, recap, and finish tomorrow.

Recap

I came to Yiddish wanting to learn to read, starting with my grandfather’s books, then to read literature more generally. I’ve also become particularly interested in Yiddish poetry. Speaking was and still is less interesting to me. The Yiddish speakers of today, I thought, are not really who I’m in this for. That was the starting attitude. OK, so learning to speak will help with the reading. One needs to know how people actually use words in the context of their daily lives to appreciate what a writer is doing with those words. As one of thousands of possible examples, it helps to know the natural word order, so you can pick up on when a writer varies it for emphasis. Fine.

But it’s hard enough to learn a language as a not-young person. I’m not old either, but there is a mystique of youth when it comes to language learning. Or maybe Americans are just always looking for excuses to not learn languages. Anyway, it’s legitimately hard to learn in my fifties, and hard to learn without access to an immersion environment. We can add that it’s hard to learn when my old college German keeps interfering, even after all these years. So why, I thought, should I deliberately confuse myself with multiple ways of saying every individual word? Somehow, it seems once it was broached, that dialects are and always were a crucial feature of the language, the subject would not go away.

 

Yiddish with a yud

No hair, no hitl. For Bleaman’s article, see: http://yiddish.forward.com/articles/198442/yiddish-with-a-yud/?p=all