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Yiddish sees a bisl resurgence - Cleveland Jewish News: Opinion

Yiddish sees a bisl resurgence

CJN adds weekly column

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Posted: Friday, December 30, 2011 3:07 pm | Updated: 3:41 am, Sat Jan 7, 2012.

Welcome to "A Yiddish Vinkl" (Yiddish Corner), a new CJN feature to help readers connect with an unfamiliar language or reconnect with a familiar one.

Yiddish was practically a lost language after the Holocaust, when millions of its Eastern European speakers were murdered or landed in countries where they - and especially their children - needed to speak other languages.

It's made quite a comeback.

Leo Rosten's books The Joys of Yiddish (1968) and Hooray for Yiddish (1982) helped popularize words and phrases, as have comedians, politicians, TV and the movies. Words like tchotchke and maven are now accepted as English.

Creation and growth of the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., proved there was something to the language's tenacity and appeal. In 1980, a 23-year-old graduate student named Aaron Lansky began saving discarded Yiddish books that scholars estimated to number around 70,000.

Today, his center has saved one million volumes; developed educational programs; helped establish Yiddish collections at more than 600 libraries, including the Library of Congress; and made 11,000 titles available for free online (www.yiddishbookcenter.org).

The Associated Press just reported on the first semester of Yiddish at Emory University in Atlanta, which it noted joins more than 20 U.S. and Canadian universities to offer the language - some even granting degrees.

With the language's revival has come a revival of Yiddish culture. New York City has two Yiddish theaters. Klezmer music is everywhere.

Facebook has Yiddish-related groups. Google translator includes Yiddish among its options.

Not bad for a lost language.

The CJN asked local Yiddish lover Harold Ticktin to pen the column. Ticktin, of Shaker Heights, is a retired lawyer who is active in many community organizations and continues to teach and write.

Conversant in six languages, Ticktin is self-taught in Yiddish. He is on the board of the International Association of Yiddish Clubs and chaired the group's convention in Cleveland. He also conducts the Yiddish Vinkl discussion group now in its 11th year at R.H. Myers Apartments. He was a founding member of the Yiddish Concert in the Park Committee of Workmen's Circle.

So kum (come), lern (learn). Es vel zein (it will be a pleasure).

Welcome to the discussion.