a page in THE FOXFILES:

Reba's Eclectic Collection of
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While I was living in the Albany area a few years ago something very special was taking place in the library at Congregation Ohav Shalom. Rachel Weitz met with her small class of adult students and together they studied Yiddish with love -- "learnen Yiddish mit libe."

I am not sure if these classes are still taking place, but Rachel also assists with the once-monthly gathering of the Yiddish Club at the Schenectady Jewish Community Center, usually 2:00 on a mid-month Sunday afternoon.

So, what is Yiddish? And why are these events so special?

The YIVO Institute (see below) has this to say:
"Yiddish was the vernacular language of most Jews in Eastern and Central Europe before World War II. Today, it is spoken by descendants of those Jews living in the United States, Israel, and other parts of the world. The basic grammar and vocabulary of Yiddish, which is written in the Hebrew alphabet, is Germanic. Yiddish, however, is not a dialect of German but a complete language, one of a family of Western Germanic languages, that includes English, Dutch, and Afrikaans. Yiddish words often have meanings that are different from similar words in German. The term "Yiddish" is derived from the German word for "Jewish." The most accepted (but not the only) theory of the origin of Yiddish is that it began to take shape by the 10th century as Jews from France and Italy migrated to the German Rhine Valley. They developed a language that included elements of Hebrew, Jewish-French, Jewish-Italian, and various German dialects. In the late Middle Ages, when Jews settled in Eastern Europe, Slavic elements were incorporated into Yiddish."

In the Introduction to the text used in the beginner's class, Learning Yiddish in Easy Stages by Marvin Zuckerman and Marion Herbst, © 2000: National Yiddish Book Center, on pages 15 - 19 there is an interesting text on the development of the Yiddish language, up to the present day. It is interesting to note that a slightly different explanation for the word "Yiddish" is given there:

"Yiddish, the name of the language, comes from the Yiddish word for Jew, Yid. Yiddish is inseperably linked to the life of the Ashkenazic Jews, and its linguistic content is a reflection of their unique culture." (p. 18) Another interesting idea about Yiddish is stated in this way: "Yiddish was the language of two thirds of the Jewish people for one third of its history. To learn Yiddish is to open the door to a great treasure-house of literature, folklore, song and ideas." (p.16)

In the Introduction is included a portion of a poem entitled "Yiddish" by Leon Feinberg, translated by Joseph Leftwich, in which the history and sources of Yiddish are highlighted:

In the grey night of the middle ages,
Amid the flame of auto-de-fe,
Along roads chill and stormy
A people wandered on its way.

As a heart craves for joy that is quenched,
As parched throats for water long,
The dumb people sought a language,
Yearned with a chattering tongue,

Borrowed the yeast from the French,
From the Bible a measure of honey
That after the fermenting and rising
Some sweetness should be.

A little corn from the Slavs,
A deep bowl from Germany,
And motherly hands kneaded the dough
From which Yiddish came to be.

From words simple as small copper coins,
From plain speech straight from heart and head,
The Yiddish mother-tongue emerged
Like good new crisp home-made bread.

Rachel wants me to include information here about the various dialects of Yiddish. But honestly, since I am just a beginner I don't have the "ear" to hear the differences. Moreover, in my family history the standardization of the language was considered more important than the dialects -- my grandfather was a linguist, and the work of the YIVO Institute in creating a transliterated, standard Yiddish for universal use was important to him. So, should one of my class-mates wish to write up an explanation of the dialects, I am happy to include it. I, however, am not the right person to create such a document.

American Memory Project

Yiddish-Language Playscripts from the Library of Congress. The Yiddish theater developed as a uniquely American form in the Eastern European Jewish immigrant communities in New York City and other urban centers during the early twentieth century. These 77 unpublished manuscripts include light comedies and dramas, and have been selected from the 1,200 copyright-deposit plays housed in the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division.

Basic Bibliography for the Study of Yiddish

Some times a list of books is exactly what you wanted ... here is one from the "World of Hebrew and Jewish Languages" site of Tsuguya Sasaki, PhD.

Broder's Rare and Used Books

This is a well organized site with a strong searching mechanism (that does take you away from the main site, however) and a stated specialty in Jewish Studies. They have a a substantial list of titles in and about Yiddish and if you wish you may subscribe to their electronic catalog mailing list. The owners of this site found me and requested I make a link -- something which always makes me look at a site with a particularly critical eye. As they made the grade, you know that this Reference Librarian found a quality site on the other end of the request. Happy shopping!

Dan Wyman, Book Specialist in Out-of-Print Jewish, Holocaust, & Radical Imprints in All Languages

And speaking of books! Dan's shop must be a fantastic place to spend time and money, if the content of his site is any reflection. Scroll through some of his extensive booklists, the most facinating of which I found to be "Yizkor Books, Jewish Reference Works, and Histories of Destroyed Jewish Communities." A year later I still find no one list for all the Yiddish titles, but things are a bit more organized here than when I first encountered the site a year ago, and I remain convinced that this is a labor of love and is not to be missed by anyone seriously looking for Yiddish or other books in field of Jewish Studies.

Folksbiene Theater

The Folksbiene Yiddish Theatre in New York City is America's oldest Yiddish theater company.

Etlekhe Yidish-Loshn-Vebzaytlekh

"Some Yiddish Language Sites" -- a very up-to-date listing from Yugntruf, "Call to Youth," a worldwide organization of Yiddish-speaking and Yiddish-learning young adults, founded in 1964. Also the organizers of "Yiddish Vokh," an annual all-Yiddish retreat which takes palce in the nearby Berkshire Mountains.

European Minority Languages

This intelligently arranged mega-list of resources which includes just a bit on Yiddish, but has resources for 31 other living languages, as well! Jumps are in alphabetical order and by language family. Includes Other Directories and Other Minority Languages Worldwide. This is a bi-lingual site available in English and Gaidhlig (Scottish Gaelic).

The Forward

The English language weekly version of the Yiddish Forverts. MavenSearch (see below) says this about the Forward: "America's historic national Jewish newspaper. Founded as a Yiddish daily in 1897, the English paper carries on the tradition of intelligent, controversial writing covering the American Jewish community with a level of depth and insider knowledge you cannot find anywhere else." Along the left-hand side bar are links to newspapers, news services and news wires from around the world.

Gantseh Megillah

Written by Michael D. Fein, this is an extensive list of Yiddish expressions and idioms. Several other sites have picked it us and use it in whole or part.

History of the Abuyudaya Jews of Uganda

This essay from the Jewish Virtual Library seems to have nothing to do with Yiddish per se. But you see, I always try, when developing Web pages, to include some totally mind-bending bits that cause one to think about the main content of the page in a new or different way. I hope this piece written by Arye Oded, the Israeli Ambassador to Kenya, will be an inspiration to those concerened about the survival of the Yiddish language.

Internet Movie Database

IMDb lists over 100 films in the Yiddish language. Many listings include plot summaries, information on the actors, director, etc. IMDb is an outstanding Internet-based research tool that has been online for many years.



Jewish music events around the world listed by date, location, genre and type of event. A product of Avi Davidow's Klezmer Shack.

MavenSearch: Jewish Web Directory

Online since 1994, a reliable and fairly comprehensive search tool on the order of "Yahoo!" with a keywork search box and pre-selected sites in a variety of subject catagories. A search of "Yiddish" resulted in 90 hits.


A moderated mailing list dedicated to the lively exchange of views, information, news and just about anything else related to the Yiddish language and Yiddish literature. It is open to all and subscriptions are free. Mendele, which began circulating among a handful of academics on May 15, 1991, now has over 2000 subscribers, on every continent but Antarctica.
Mendele's mailing address is mendele@lists.yale.edu
Address for the list commands: listproc@lists.yale.edu

National Yiddish Book Center

This non-profit membership organization is working to rescue Yiddish and other modern Jewish books and celebrate the culture they contain. Founded in 1980 by MacArthur Fellow Aaron Lansky stumbled upon an alarming fact: throughout North America, thousands of priceless Yiddish books that had survived Hitler and Stalin were being discarded and destroyed. As an older generation passed on, more often than not their precious Jewish volumes were literally thrown in the trash by children and grandchildren unable to read the language. An entire literature was on the verge of extinction. The Center has gone on to recovered 1.5 million volumes, with hundreds of additional books continuing to arrive each week. The Center’s achievement has been hailed as the "the greatest cultural rescue effort in Jewish history." NYBC is the world’s only comprehensive source for out-of-print Yiddish books. Used Yiddish books are sold for $16 each. Almost every title in the collection is also available in a new, high-quality reprint edition. Reprints cost $29, are printed on acid-free paper, and are never out of stock. The linked resources in their Onine Resource Center are excellent! http://www.jafi.org.il/education/diaspora/links/language.asp?startcatid=10

"Our Links" from The Jewish Agency for Israel

Links to sites on many of the regional Jewish languages including Aramaic, Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-French, Judeo-German, Judeo-Greek, Judeo-Italian, Judeo-Persian, Judeo-Portuguese, Judeo-Provençal, Judeo-Slavic, Ladino, and Yiddish.

Philip Gilly's Judaica and Judaism Resources

Here is a list of Websites about the Jewish community in New York's Capital District.

Project Muse

Over 160 journals from more than 20 not-for-profit, scholarly publishers are currently offered inProject Muse. Muse is a unique collaboration between the participating publishers and the Milton S. Eisenhower Library at the Johns Hopkins University. Primarily intended for subscription use by academic libraries, free sample issues of most included periodicals are available with full-text online. Those which might be of interest are: American Jewish History, Israel Studies, Jewish Social Studies, Modern Judaism, Prooftexts, Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies.

Collection of Spoken Yiddish

Columbia University's effort to bring to the World Wide Web information about the Yiddish language. Includes digitized samples of varieties of Yiddish speech, derived from the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry, and the Language and Culture Archive of Ashkenazic Jewry.

Understanding Yiddish Information Processing

The Home page of the Mailing List for UYIP. Includes links to many software programs and products that support Yiddish. To subscribe to UYIP send E-Mail to uyip-request@world.std.com with a blank subject and containing just the word subscribe. After you subscribe, you'll be sent the UYIP info file via E-Mail with additional details. Highly technical.

Workmen's Circle

The Workmen's Circle / Arbeter Ring is a fraternal organization which fosters Jewish identity and participation in Jewish life through Jewish, especially Yiddish, culture and education, friendship, mutual aid and the pursuit of social and economic justice.

Yamada Language Center

The University of Oregon's excellent site includes a small number of high quality Yiddish links. The Yamada Center provides a number of additional resources including a library of downloadable fonts and a listing of over 100 language-related listservs.

Yiddish Voice

On WUNR 1600 AM / Brookline, Massachusetts USA, listen LIVE Wednesdays 7:30-8:30 p.m. (Note: that's 7:30 p.m. Boston Time). Requires RealAudio Player. Request Line: (617) 367-8456 (please only call during the show). Beyond the on air program, this site's links to other resources on the Internet, listing of mailing addresses and phone numbers for important Yiddish organizations not on the World Wide Web, other radio shows, and extensive catalog of books, music, video, software, etc. at the store makes this a site to be used often by anyone interested in the Yiddish language.

YIVO Institute

This site has much to offer, but sometimes you just have to go to the physical place! I strongly recommend a visit if you are going to be in the New York City area.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
The Center for Jewish History
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011-6301

YIVO has the foremost collection of books and documents written in Yiddish. The Archives and Library's holdings, however, also include many works in English, French, German, Hebrew, Ladino, Polish, and Russian.

Some site pages and the newsletter available online in Yiddish, Adobe Acrobat required. On their Web site you will also find an excellent chart of the Alef-beys, the Yiddish Alphabet with a YIVO Transliteration Chart. Sound clips available for most letters. These audio segments require RealPlayer 6.0 or higher. The publications catalog of the Institute is 7 pages long and includes such topical divisions as: History & Culture of Ashkenazic Jewry, Yiddish Language & Literature, Exhibition Catalogs and Recordings.

Zemerl: The Interactive Database of Jewish Song

Currently contains lyrics to over 500 songs in Yiddish, Hebrew and Ladino. Also has some interesting article and sound clips.

The annotated links herein are a totally subjective selection of Internet based resources about the Yiddish language, Yiddish / Ashkanazi culture, some organizations and institutions involved contributing to the survival of Yiddishkeit, and a few more general resource sites that those interested in this kind of thing might also find of some use.

It is not the intention of the author of this page to represent any particular position regarding the Jewish faith, the right of Israel to exist as a nation, or any other philosophical, political or religious matter. The content of these resources might span from the secular to the orthodox, the left to the right, including Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Hassidic & etc. ... These links have been collected and annotated by a librarian with a long history of service in the public libraries of New York State and are more a reflection of her intellectual curiosity than anything else. If you have objections or wish to make suggestions for improvements or additions, feel free to send an e-mail to: foxgull@foxgull.com. Furthermore, the author of this site is only responsible for her original content. She takes no responsibility for the content, accuracy or currency of any resource she has chosen to link to.


URL: http://foxgull.com/resources/yiddish.html
This page created: 26 October 2001.
Most recent update: 15 May 2008.

THE FOXFILES are dedicated to the memory of my parents:
Ollie Garland Tanner (1906 - 1960) and Sarah Marcus Tanner (1919 - 1996), but this page is especially for my Mother who I wish had taught me her "Mama Loshen" when I was a child.
© 1996-2008, Rebekah Tanner