Let's answer that question with not just one but a few others: do you carry or "shlep?" Do you aspire to be a kind, responsible person or a "mentsh?" Do you "kvetsh" or merely complain? Why have so many Yiddish words become part of English -- and why is Yiddish attracting more students now than it has in decades?
Why Study Yiddish?
- Once the language of the majority of Jews worldwide, Yiddish is now the daily language of about 1/2 million people -- but don't succumb to "Not-What-It-Once-Was-Itis!" The number of Yiddish speakers is probably growing, and there are regular degree programs and increasingly popular, summer language-immersion programs across the US and Europe, in Canada, and even in Israel!
- Sadly, many Jews of European descent grew up with the feeling that Yiddish language and culture was not something to be proud of -- but this element of jewish psychology derives from the "culture wars" of another era and is completely unfounded! For a millienium, Yiddish-speakers treasured, maintained, and advanced Jewish tradition, bringing Jewish life into the modern world in all its variety -- secular, religious, Zionist, socialist, and..."unaffiliated!" Today, Yiddish remains a profound, expressive language, still used in newspapers, theater, film, music, and literature, as well as daily life.
- Yiddish isn't an alternative to Hebrew -- it's a way into both the Hebrew language and Jewish tradition -- as they survived for a thousand years in Europe and as they emerged into modern Israeli and Diaspora culture.
- Don't take my word for it! Only by studying Yiddish can one encounter the reality of the language and its culture and to discover their real worth!