Dovid Katz: Courses in 2021-2022

SEE ALSO: WEBINARS AND LECTURES


FALL SEMESTER 2021

Isaac Bashevis Singer. Chaim Grade & Old Jewish Vilna. Current Hasidic Yiddish Publications. Ashkenazic Hebrew. Yiddish literature in 1920s & 1930s New York in the old radical daily Fráyhayt.

Information & Registration at

the Workmens Circle website

Inquiries: please contact program coordinator Baruch Blum: bblum@circle.org

Sundays: Current Hasidic Yiddish Publications

Fall 2021: 1 PM — 2:30 PM NY time (10 AM LA; 6 PM London; 7 PM Paris & Berlin; 8 PM Tel Aviv & Vilnius) on the following Sundays: Oct. 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; Nov. 7, 14, 21; Dec. 5, 12

The course provides a selection of readings from diverse genres of current (and recent) Hasidic Yiddish publications with a substantial emphasis on magazines and journals, but with some reference to books and newspapers in the final sessions. The goal is to acquaint participants from the “wider world of modern Yiddish” with current Published Hasidic Yiddish. Following the classic Yiddish reading circle tradition, participants who wish to read take turns reading segments, which are then analyzed with reference to stylistic, linguistic, cultural, religious, historic and societal nuance. Some friendly ghosts (Is it real Yiddish? Is it any good?) are confronted head-on. The emphasis is roundly on language, with comparison with features of non-Hasidic Yiddish, including the last generation of secular literary masters, the language of 20th century Yiddish immigrant communities internationally, and the language emanating from “our own” courses, study books and groups.  Note: The course does not deal with religious, political, or demographic aspects of today’s Hasidism and its internal groupings and divisions (nor with the forces behind any specific publication). It is about ― the Yiddish language in a published form that serves a vast number of 21st  century native Yiddish speakers of all generations. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

The course has been developed with the generous assistance of Genesis University and Mr. Albert Rosenblatt of New York City.


Mondays: Readings from the New York Yiddish Daily Fráyhayt (Freiheit)

Fall 2021: 1 PM — 2:30 PM NY time (10 AM LA; 6 PM London; 7 PM Paris & Berlin; 8 PM Tel Aviv & Vilnius) on the following Mondays: Oct. 4, 11, 18, 25 Nov. 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 Dec. 6

Readings, discussion and analysis of original pages of New York’s leftist daily newspaper, the Fráyhayt (later the Morgn Fráyhayt) during its earlier period. Founded in 1922 and closed in 1988, the paper had at various times carried the prose, poetry, essays and journalism of some of the leading Yiddish writers and educators of the twentieth century, including Menachem Boraisho, Moyshe-Leyb Halperin, H. Leyvik, Kalmen Marmor, Nakhmen Mayzl, Moyshe Nadir, Isaac Raboy and Avrom Reisen (most of whom would eventually leave and join the ‘right-wing socialists’  ― strange as the term may sound today).  It is perhaps the later twentieth century politics of McCarthyism and its subsequent (sometimes unconscious) incarnations in academia and mainstream Jewish culture (sometimes extending to condemnation of secular Yiddishism generally), added to the utterly objective evils and massive crimes against humanity of Soviet tyranny, that have in a sense combined forces to prevent a more laid-back, descriptive survey and enjoyment of actual pages from actual issues of a vast reservoir  of vibrant  Yiddish culture. Emphasis on 1920s and 1930s Yiddish literature of New York’s Lower East Side, and on forgotten authors. The instructor, author of the introduction to Amelia Glaser’s and David Weintraub’s  Proletpén, contends that there never was a Frayhayt page (or paragraph!) that could be confused with one from any Soviet publication. Indeed, its unique American social and Yiddish literary character had its roots in virtually every corner of Jewish Eastern Europe and a writing staff and readership whose childhood years were steeped in traditionally Orthodox Jewish religious culture.  A PDF of select pages, starting with issue no. 1 in 1922, will be provided at each session from the instructor’s private collection. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

The course is affectionately dedicated in honor of S. Chic Wolk of Los Angeles, California, whose own childhood studies in the related progressive Yiddish Ordn  schools in Chicago inspired deeper studies of America’s old Yiddishist literary left, and its daily newspaper, the Fráyhayt. Indeed, the set used for the course was rescued thanks to his timely foresight and generosity of spirit.


Tuesdays: Readings in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Shorter Fiction

Fall 2021: 2 PM — 3:30 PM (11 AM LA; 7 PM London; 8 PM Paris & Berlin; 9 PM Tel Aviv & Vilnius) on the following Tuesdays: Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28 Nov. 4, 11, 18 Dec. 2, 9, 16

Close, detailed readings from Isaac Bashevis Singer’s short stories set in the Polish Jewish shtetl, designed to enhance participants’ abilities for their own future reading of sophisticated modern Yiddish literature with maximum capture of nuance in the original. Emphasis on cultural, Talmudic, and Kabbalistic references and on stylistic detail. Conducted in the spirit of the classic Yiddish reading circle, with participants who wish to read taking turns reading followed by paragraph-by-paragraph discussion and analysis. Note that some of the texts contain materials of an erotic nature. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.


Wednesdays: Ashkenazic Hebrew II

Fall 2021: 3 PM — 4:30 PM (12 noon LA; 8 PM London; 9 PM Paris & Berlin; 10 PM Tel Aviv & Vilnius) the following Wednesdays: Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27 Nov. 3, 10, 17 Dec. 1, 8, 15

Emphasis on enjoyment of Ashkenazic Hebrew conversation and study of a range of texts stretching from medieval times (including the Aramaic Chad Gadyo) to the Hebrew revival poets of the nineteenth and twentieth century (including Lebensohn, Mikhal, Gordon, Bialik, Imber, Tchernichovsky) all the way to today’s Hasidic polemics. Religious texts include samples from Hasidic, Litvak, and Muserist milieus.

The course is appropriate for participants who have working proficiency in any form of Hebrew (whether ancient, rabbinic, or modern) and who have some passion for East European Jewish culture (and a love of diversity). Knowledge of Yiddish not required. Participation in the previous elementary courses not required, but participants are urged to become acquainted with the online manual (and slowly evolving dictionary), both of which grew out of the spring and summer sessions of the WC’s online program. Conducted in Ashkenazic Hebrew (with occasional explanations as needed in Yiddish, English, or Israeli Hebrew).


Thursdays: Chaim Grade’s Fiction and Old Jewish Vilna

Fall 2021: 1 PM — 2:30 PM (10 AM LA; 6 PM London; 7 PM Paris & Berlin; 8 PM Tel Aviv & Vilnius) on the following Thursdays: Oct. 7, 14, 21, 28 Nov. 4, 11. 18 Dec. 2, 9  

Each session will be divided into (a) an illustrated aspect of the history and culture of Jewish Vilne (Yiddish Vílne) and (b) a close reading of one (or more) of Chaim Grade novellas set in the city.  Emphasis on enhancing participants’ ability to read sophisticated Yiddish literature on their own with maximal capture of nuance.  The course follows the classic Yiddish reading circle tradition of taking turns reading and discussing the material read. The instructor will provide stylistic, cultural, linguistic, religious and Vilna-specific commentary, sharing relevant extracts (and maps) from his book, Lithuanian Jewish Culture and his online Mini-Museum of Old Jewish Vilna. Those interested are invited to visit the Lithuania page of the author’s website at www.dovidkatz.net. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.


SUMMER SESSION 2021

Information on registration at the Workmens Circle website

(email for queries)

All times listed are North American Eastern, please check your local time!

1: Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish Journals

Sundays 1—2:30 PM on June 20; July 11, 25 & Aug. 1, 8

This five-week mini-course provides a survey of readings from Hasidic Yiddish publications from the last five or so years (but mostly from 2020 and 2021). Course goals: to explore the Yiddish of the magazines published by this Yiddish-speaking civilization, and confront all those friendly ghosts out there: Is it really Yiddish? Is it any good? Do they know what they are doing with “Yiddish fit for print”? Does it have a future? How does it compare with today’s Yiddish coming out of our own classes, courses, clubs, and conferences? With the Yiddish of the last generation of non-Hasidic East-European-born Jewish immigrants to America and beyond (and their children….)? If you’re ready to take on a curious Yiddish taboo, and look with an open mind at the actual language used in Hasidic magazines, you might want to try this course, where participants take turns reading and analyzing in a spirit of tolerance and good humor…

Course Notes


 

2: Vilna in Jewish Lore

Mondays 1—2:30 PM on July 5, 12, 19, 26 & Aug. 2

Reading and discussion of short excerpts from writings on Vilna by (among others): sons of the Gaon of Vilna; Shmuel Joseph Fin (Fuenn); Hillel Noah Maggid (Steinschneider); Chaikel (Khaykl) Lunski; Meyshe Kulbak; Kalmen Marmor; Daniel Charny; Max Weinreich; Noyakh Prilutski; Leyzer Ran; Israel Lempert (Izraelis Lempertas). A few of the early readings are in Ashkenazic Hebrew, with full (verbal-only, in-session) translation into Yiddish. Knowledge of Hebrew not required. PDFs of texts will be provided weekly at each session. Participants who volunteer take turns reading segments as per the classic Yiddish reading circle tradition. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

Course Notes


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3: Ideas about Yiddish

Tuesdays 2—3:30 PM on July 6, 13, 20, 27 & Aug. 3

This five-week mini-course entails five sessions each devoted to one or more excerpts from a Yiddish scholar’s provocative work about Yiddish (with reference, where relevant, to his/her opponent’s work). Excerpts to be read include works of (in alphabetical order): S.A. Birnbaum, Jean Jofen, Yudl Mark, Matisyohu Mieses, Sh. Niger, Chaya R. Nove, Noyakh Prilutski, I. M. Shpilreyn, Max Weinreich, Uriel Weinreich, L. L. Zamenhof. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

Course Notes


4: Introduction to Ashkenazic Hebrew

Wednesdays 3—4:30 PM on July 7, 14, 21, 28 & Aug. 4

A five-session mini-course whose prime object is to help participants gain the skills and confidence to speak Ashkenazic Hebrew as a living language and better enjoy classic works written in the language as well as ancient texts as recast in the language over a period of many centuries. The course, conducted in Ashkenazic Hebrew (with occasional explanations as needed in Yiddish, English, or Israeli) is appropriate for participants who have working proficiency in some form of Hebrew (whether ancient, rabbinic, or modern) and who have some passion for East European Jewish culture. Knowledge of Yiddish helpful but not required. The online manual (and slowly evolving dictionary) were initiated as a work in progress during the WC’s first course in Spring 2021.

Handbook (in progress)

Mini-Dictionary (in progress)


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5: Chaim Grade’s Vilna Vignettes

Thursdays 1—2:30 PM on July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29

Readings of some Chaim Grade vignettes set in prewar Jewish Vilna, selected from his Der mámes shabósim (My Mother’s Sabbaths) and Der shtúmer mínyen (The Silent Prayerhouse) with possible addition of a poem or two. The five-session course follows the classic Yiddish reading circle tradition of taking turns reading and discussing the material read. The instructor will provide cultural, linguistic and Vilna-specific background. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.


SPRING SESSION 2021

Workmens Circle list of all offered courses

1: Intermediate via Sholem Aleichem

2: Advanced via Chaim Grade

3:Topics in Semantics, Grammar, Stylistics & Dialectology

4: Ashkenazic Hebrew


 

(1) Intermediate via Sholem Aleichem:

Course goals: The course follows the “read together and discuss in Yiddish” method of the classic Yiddish reading circle. Emphasis on development and enrichment of participants’ language capabilities. Texts will be analyzed for cultural nuance and dialect as well as religious and civilizational background (including the nature of Yiddish humor). Course Tools: Texts, to be provided as online PDFs of excerpts from Sholem Aleichem, including Menakhem-Mendl, Tevye der milkhiker, Motl Peyse dem khazns, and Funem yarid. (Readings from previous semesters will not be repeated, so “veterans” are welcome to re-enroll if they feel the format is useful to their ongoing Yiddish development.) Additional Information: This course is suitable for those who have completed one year of college-level Yiddish instruction or the equivalent. This course is taught entirely in Yiddish.

TENTATIVE SLOT: Mondays 1—2:30 PM  NY time: on 1, 8, 15 & 22 March; 5, 12, 19 & 26; April; 3 &10 May.

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(2) Advanced via Chaim Grade:

A close reading of Chaim Grade’s short story (/novella) Di Shvúe (The Oath). Course goals: To  read the text of a modern master as a group with analysis focused on linguistic, stylistic, cultural, historical and religious elements “of every sentence” (rather than aiming for some great number of pages covered). Participants take turns reading with each segment followed by discussion. Course Tools: PDF of the text provided online to participants. Additional Information: This course is taught entirely in Yiddish.

TENTATIVE SLOT: Thursdays, 1—2:30 PM NY time: on 4, 11, 18 & 25 March; 8, 15, 22 & 29 April; 6 & 13 May.


(3) Topics in Grammar, Semantics, Stylistics & Dialectology:

Intended for a wide spectrum of students of Yiddish (at intermediate and advanced levels). No specialized background in technical linguistics required. The course will look  both at issues that continue to confront many Yiddish students in our times, and at others where prevalent variation itself makes way for an array of meaningful observations on usage, including the secular-religious, normativist-descriptivist, and purist-variationist axes, as well as the centuries-old “north-south division” in grammar, semantics and pronunciation. At the first session, students will be invited to propose specific issues under these rubrics that interest them, which will, in the event of wider interest among participants, be added as possible and appropriate. Additional information: The course is conducted entirely in Yiddish.

TENTATIVE SLOT: Tuesdays 2—3:30 PM NY time: on 2, 9, 16 & 23 March; 6, 13, 20 & 27 April; 4 & 11 May.


(4) Ashkenazic Hebrew:

A five-session mini-course whose prime object is to help participants gain the skills and confidence to speak and communicate in Ashkenazic Hebrew as a living language and better enjoy classic works written in the language as well as ancient texts as recast in the language over a period of many centuries. The course, conducted in Ashkenazic Hebrew (with occasional explanations as needed in Yiddish, English, or Israeli as appropriate to participants) is appropriate for participants who have working proficiency in some form of Hebrew (whether ancient, medieval or modern — or Israeli) and who have some passion for East European Jewish culture. Knowledge of Yiddish very helpful but not required.

Far from being a monolith, Ashkenazic comprises an array of variants that are systematically differentiated on two axes. First, that of basic type: (1)  formal synagogue Torah, Haftorah and Megillah reading; (2) prayers; (3) Talmud study; (4) Creators of modern Hebrew (“pre-Israeli”) poetry (Bialik, Gordon, Imber, Lebensohn, Tchernichovsky etc.) and prose (Mendele, Berdichevsky, Gnessin, early Devorah Baron) (5) the Semitic (Hebrew & Aramaic) component in Yiddish per se. Second, the dialect variation for each of these five categories (following the sound patterning of the coterritorial Yiddish dialect). Beyond the sound system, Ashkenazic Hebrew, a vital (and understudied) component of East European Jewish culture, has its own specificities in vocabulary, semantics, syntax and idiomaticity, collectively a manifestation of a unique Jewish (and European) milieu.

Participants interested also in more technical linguistic aspects, particularly in relation to Yiddish linguistics (which will not be the focus of this course) are invited to have a look at the instructor’s papers in English and Yiddish (more: here and here; on the origins of Ashkenazic stress; on the Ashkenazic of a poem by Y. L. Gordon; see also Yiddish linguistics page).

TENTATIVE SLOT: Wednesdays 3—4:30 PM NY time: on 24 February; 3, 10, 17 & 24 March.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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