Oh, let me through to the joy of the Yiddish word.
Give me whole full days.
Tie me to it, weave me in,
Strip me of all vanities.
. . . Let me not forget for a moment
The Yiddish word.
"The Joy of the Yiddish Word," Yankev Glatshteyn,
Tr. B. and B. Harshav
Since its debut in 1994, Sheva Zucker's Yiddish has emerged as the most popular Yiddish textbook in America. This clear, lively sequel offers students a chance to deepen their knowledge of Yiddish language and culture. Yasher-koyekh – thanks for a job well done!
Aaron Lansky, President, National Yiddish Book Center
My approach in Yiddish is to teach Yiddish as a spoken, living language. Today, most young Yiddish speakers, with the exception of Hasidic Jews, have learned the language through study in a formal instructional setting. Indeed, these settings have produced a new and very different sort of Yiddish speaker. While studying a language academically can seldom yield the same fluency as learning it at home, it can perhaps produce other desirable results. Students who learn Yiddish by choice usually gain a unique appreciation of its historical significance and its capacity to enrich them intellectually and spiritually. The blossoming creativity of those newly involved with the language testifies to this.
These students generally have different goals and interests than most students of other second languages. Such students strive for proficiency, that is, the ability to function in the target language in a variety of activities. One must be able to buy groceries, go on dates, and read anything from a laundry stub or food package to the finest literature. I know quite well that many users of this book may never carry on a Yiddish conversation outside the walls of the classroom; it is even more doubtful that they will ever need the language to redeem their laundry or to read the ingredients on a food package. Here in America, only the matzah box still carries one lonely line of Yiddish (in non-standard spelling).
Volume 2 of Sheva Zucker's textbook, Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature & Culture is as rich and accessible a teaching tool as was Volume 1. The readings are lively and interesting, and the exercises enhance them, helping students build their language skills. The audio-recordings will be a wonderful companion as well. My students find the book user-friendly and excellent.
Kathryn Hellerstein, Senior Lecturer in Yiddish and Jewish Studies, Dept. of Germanic Languages and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
We therefore need to revise our idea of proficiency in Yiddish. Students should be prepared to explore the rich literary tradition shaped by writers as diverse as Reb Nakhmen of Bratslav, Sholem Aleichem, I.L. Peretz, Kadye Molodowsky, Itsik Manger, Hillel and Arn Tseitlin, Emanuel Ringelblum, Avrom Shulman, Rokhl Boymval, and I.B. Singer, all of whom are included in Volume I or II of my book. They should also be prepared, should the opportunity arise, to converse with Yiddish speakers, religious and secular, in Jewish communities in North America, Europe, Israel, Australia, and other far-flung locations. We must, however, realize that the nature of the conversation might often, although not always, be different, tending more to ideas and literature than to the practical and the everyday.
Thus I come to the publication of Volume II with renewed faith in this project and fresh optimism regarding the ability of today's students to "discover" Yiddish, to appreciate their need for it, and to make it central to their lives, in a way that native speakers may not do and may not need to do. It is this, finding a place for Yiddish, which requires thought and study and emotional investment that is, I think, the hallmark of this generation of Yiddish students and Yiddish lovers, and herein lies its strength. Indeed, the study of Yiddish uniquely addresses the greatest challenge facing the thoughtful Jew today: finding one's place between tradition and modernity, ethnic insularity and total assimilation, the certitude of absolute faith and the despair of skepticism. Yiddish brings to this challenge a distinct perspective not offered by any other aspect of our rich Jewish tradition, whether it be the Torah, the Hebrew language, or Zionism. With humor and irony,Yiddish offers valuable knowledge and insights gleaned from more than a thousand years of Jewish life.
It is my hope that through this book students will come closer to this richness and to the "joy of the Yiddish word."
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