Sheva Zucker’s Yiddish: An Introduction

An Introduction to the Language, Literature & Culture by Sheva Zucker

Yiddish: An Introduction, Volume I, by Sheva ZuckerSince its publication in 1994 Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature & Culture has become the leading Yiddish textbook. It is a comprehensive program with book, answer key, and very thorough recordings (available in both memory stick and CDs), and may be used for both classroom and self-study.

The book is suitable both for students who have no prior knowledge of the Yiddish alphabet as well as those who do. It contains 285 pages and is divided into eleven units/fifteen lessons. It contains a Yiddish-English Glosary.

An English-Yiddish Glossary is available separately (See Answer Key, Vol. 1).

Volume 1 is currently available only through


The current trend in language teaching is towards “proficiency”; students should be able to gain enough proficiency to function within the “target” culture, so that they can read menus, train-schedules, want ads, and other “authentic materials.”

Dr. Sheva Zucker’s textbook has many virtues: up-to-date language, standard spelling, and much more. Both teachers and students will especially enjoy the author’s fine humor–a rare feature in language textbooks.

Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter, Senior Lecturer in Yiddish Studies, Emeritus, Columbia University

Our goals in teaching and learning Yiddish are, I believe, quite different. Most would agree that it is more important for students to have the linguistic skills to read Sholem Aleichem in the original than to be able to order a piece of herring or buy a pickle on New York’s Lower East Side.

My book will enable people to do both.

I have tried, using the limited vocabulary of an Elementary text, to give people a path to the rich intellectual and world of Eastern European Jewry. I know quite well that many people who study Yiddish may never actually meet a native speaker, and many will never have the opportunity to converse in the language outside the classroom, and yet, they want to be able to speak. They want to have the feeling, if only for the brief duration of the class, that they are in and a part of the world of Yiddish. Only by being able to express themselves in the language and by learning about the world in which this language was and is still spoken, can they attain this. The book, therefore, focuses on the literature and culture as well as on the spoken language.

The author’s ability to explain Yiddish grammar simply and straightforwardly, her useful exercises – which are not overly difficult – and her utilization of literary material for teaching vocabulary and grammar make this book a welcome contribution to the Yiddish teaching field.

Professor Emanuel S. Goldsmith, Queens College (CUNY)

Volume I is divided into eleven units which are constructed around conversation topics such as getting acquainted, health, family, clothing, food, work, Jewish holidays, etc. Most units are divided into two lessons. Lesson A contains a conversation on the topic and Lesson B, a literary, folkloristic, or historical selection on the same theme. Students will read selections from such authors as Kadye Molodowsky, Itzik Manger, Aaron Zeitlin, Rokhl Boymval, Reyzl Zhikhlinski, and Rebbe Nakhman of Bratslav. By Unit 7 they will be able to read an excerpt from Sholem Aleichem in the original! Each unit also includes appropriate songs, proverbs and idioms, explanations of grammar, and both oral and written exercises.

Yiddish is intended for college, high school, serious adult education students, and auto-didacts. I have tried to present a systematic study of the Yiddish language which also captures the humor and pathos of Yiddish-speaking life. The Yiddish experience is the Borsht Belt and the Holocaust and a great many things in between. Sadly, it is a world that has almost vanished geographically, but it is very much alive in the hearts and minds of those who know it and those who go in search of it. I hope I have conveyed something of the essence of that world and that experience in a way that appeals to both young and old, secular and religious, Jew and non-Jew.