Revival of Yiddish in Lithuania gets some media attention from Deutsche Welle

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Here's an article in Deutsche Welle from about two days ago on Yiddish education in Lithuania. It's an okay introduction to the background of why some hope for a revival of the language, but it's severely lacking in numbers:

On the edge of what was once the Jewish Ghetto in Vilnius, Yiddish -- a language that had been all but left for dead -- is being revived.

Dov-Ber Kerler is part of the revival. In a rabbinic sing-song, he recites stories from a lost world. Fourteen students from six different countries hang on his every word. Many take notes, most of them writing in Hebrew letters.

They are students in the advanced class at the Yiddish Institute at the University of Vilnius.

How many students? When did the advanced class start? Is enrollment increasing?

The rest of it deals only with individual student interviews and what Vilnius used to be like before WWII, so in the end you don't really come out knowing any more on the status of the language than you did before you read the article. The German version of the article is the same.

Luckily, the New York Times published an article in 2007 on the revival of the language with much more detail than this one. It focuses more on the language's status in New York of course. It ends with the following sample:

Mr. Wex was asked in Yiddish whether he was Lithuanian or Galician, a reference to a historic rivalry between Jews from different regions of czarist Russia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire (areas that are part of modern-day Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Ukraine). Mr. Wex replied, without skipping a beat, “Yakh bin a poylisher, nisht ken litvak un nisht, got zol ophitn, ken galitsyaner.” (“I am a Polish Jew, not a Lithuanian or, God forbid, a Galician.”)

So perhaps I'll end this with a question: anybody have any hard numbers on the status of Yiddish now compared to let's say a few decades ago?


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