Dovid Katz: Courses in 2022

SEE ALSO: WEBINARS AND LECTURES


Summer 2022

Online courses in the New York Workmens Circle Yiddish Studies program. Registration information. Details can be obtained as needed from the program’s director, Nikolai Borodulin (nborodulin@circle.org), or its coordinator, Baruch Blum (bblum@circle.org). Four of these five-session courses are held entirely in Yiddish, and one is in Hebrew. In either case, participants who can follow the language, are passionate about the texts being read and analyzed, are welcome to sign up even if not (yet) fluent. Course titles, dates and times, and brief descriptions follow in sequence of days of the week. Times are New York City, please check for corresponding time in your location.

Sundays: Structure of Hasidic Yiddish (in periodic publications from 2022)

2 – 3:30 PM on July 17, 24, 31; August 14, 21

Readings from current Hasidic periodicals, primarily magazines (in the Yiddish reading circle spirit of taking turns reading selections) with emphasis on diversity and discussion of style, grammar, vocabulary, spelling and “linguistic directionality” in the spirit of ascertaining the actual structure and grammar of current Hasidic Yiddish in print. This text-based course is concentrated on the readings, with opportunities at the end of each session for open discussion on varying interpretations of the data presented. Note that it is not a course about contemporary Hasidism or its groups and issues. 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 Leftist Yiddish daily Fráyhayt (1920s / 1930s)

2 – 3:30 PM on July 11, 18, 25, August 1, 8

Readings from scan-ins of original pages from the New York leftist Yiddish daily Fráyhayt (from 1929: Morgn-Fráyhayt) from the 1920s and 1930s with emphasis on diversity: front page headlines and news columns on American and international affairs; editorials and opinion pieces; original poetry and prose (with emphasis on women authors); literary criticism and passionate debates on writers and works; views on Yiddish and issues of usage; women’s and children’s sections; secular Yiddish education in North America. Discussions of attitudes toward free love, religion, social and political activism, the East European ‘old country’ and the new American homeland; advertisements for products and esp. for social events (as well as religious events and kosher products). Note: The course is not a history of the Jewish labor movement or any part of it, though students thereof may find some relevant materials toward their own further research in that field. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

See the course page for background readings and samples of texts read. The course is affectionately dedicated to S. Chic Wolk of Santa Monica, California.

Tuesdays: Intellectual History of the Vilna Yivo (prehistory from 1908 through the 1925 founding to Max Weinreich’s departure in 1939)

2 – 3:30 PM on July 12, 19, 26, August 2, 9

Readings from the original works of the Yivo’s precursor theoreticians (Matisyohu Mieses, 1908 and Ber Borokhov, 1913), and of leading figures in Yivo’s founding (Nokhem Shtif, Max Weinreich), and in the realization of its programs, projects, and publications (in and outside of Vilna), during the years from 1925 to 1939: Zelik-Hirsh Kalmanovitsh, Yudl Mark, Noyekh Prilutski, Zalmen Reyzen, Nokhem Shtif, Elyóhu Tsherikover (Cherikover), Max Weinreich, with greater representation for the policy-determining works of Weinreich. The goal is to grasp the actual original ideas, style and milieu of these figures and their work and aspiration via brief excerpts from their own writings, read in class in the Yiddish reading circle spirit of taking turns reading. While only short excerpts can be read in the time allotted, participants will be given links or PDFs of the entirety of each work excerpted for further private reading if desired. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

For brief background reading, see the instructor’s pages on Yivo in his 2007 revised edition of Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish, available free online (pp. 294-300; 355-360; 408-411).

Wednesdays: Introduction to Ashkenazic Hebrew

2 – 3:30 PM on July 13, 20, 27; August 3, 10

An opportunity to say goodbye to hesitations and taboos, and fulsomely enjoy the rich and variegated world of Ashkenazic Hebrew, from medieval Passover songs, through the great Hebrew poets of the language’s revival (including the original of Israel’s national anthem) to today’s Haredi world, with equal emphasis on religious and secular Ashkenazic creativity over the last thousand years of Jewish history. Suitable for participants who have some command of any variety of Hebrew (ancient, medieval or modern). Conducted in Ashkenazic Hebrew (with occasional brief explanation in English, Israeli or Yiddish as required). Knowledge of Yiddish helpful but not required.

Earlier offerings of this W.C. course led to this early draft of the instructor’s Manual of Ashkenazic Hebrew and A Mini Dictionary of Ashkenazic Hebrew (both available free online). Another spinoff  of this course is the evolving Ashkenazic Hebrew youtube playlist.

Thursdays: Readings on Old Jewish Vilna

2 – 3:30 PM on July 14, 21, 28, August 4, 11

On the eve of the 700th anniversary (in 2023) of the city Vilna (Wilno, modern Vilnius, in Yiddish forever Vílne): readings reflecting the unique cultural character and concrete achievements of Jewish Vilna over the centuries, with emphasis on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. After a brief look at earlier centuries, excerpts will be read (in the Yiddish reading circle tradition of taking turns reading) from works selected from those of Daniel Charney, Esther Frumkin, A. I. Goldshmid, Chaim Grade, Sofye Markovne Gurevitsh, Avrom Karpinovitsh, Israel Klausner, Meyshe Kulbak, Chaikel (Khaykl) Lunski, Kalmen Marmor, Leyzer Ran, and Max Weinreich. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

Participants interested in pre-course background reading are invited to read selections from Leyzer Ran’s three volume illustrated masterpiece Jerusalem of Lithuania (N.Y. 1974). The course itself will include excerpts from Ran’s book, Vilne: Ash fun Yerusholáyim d’Lite (N.Y. 1959). Participants are also invited to look at several of the instructor’s works online: Windows to a Lost Jewish Past: Vilna Jewish Book Stamps, Seven Kingdoms of the Litvaks, and his Lithuanian Jewish Culture (selections available on his Lithuania page). Those who enjoy artefacts may also wish visit the virtual Mini Museum of Old Jewish Vilna.


Winter-Spring 2022

January 2022:

History of the Yiddish Language [in English] Six-session online seminar course taught in English  at the Yivo-Bard Winter Program on Ashkenazi Civilization. Choice of afternoon or evening sections. Details and registration information here.

March-May 2022:

Online courses in the New York Workmens Circle Yiddish Studies program [in Yiddish]. Registration information. Details can be obtained as needed from the program’s director, Nikolai Borodulin (nborodulin@circle.org), or its coordinator, Baruch Blum (bblum@circle.org). The five ten-session courses offered are held entirely in Yiddish, but folks who follow Yiddish, are passionate about the texts being read and analyzed, are welcome to sign up even if not (yet) personally fluent in Yiddish. Course titles, dates and times, and brief descriptions follow in sequence of days of the week.

Sundays: 1:00 – 2:30 PM: Current Hasidic Yiddish Publications

Readings from diverse genres of current (and recent) Hasidic Yiddish publications with emphasis on magazines. The goal is to acquaint participants from the “wider world of modern Yiddish” with current Published Hasidic Yiddish. Emphasis on stylistic, linguistic, cultural, religious, historical and societal nuance. NOTE: Readings will not repeat those of previous courses. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

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

March 6, 13, 20, 27; April 3, 10, 24; May 1, 8, 15.

Mondays 1:00 – 2:30 PM: Readings in New York’s Daily Fráyhayt (Freiheit) from the 1930s

Read and analyze original pages of New York’s leftist daily newspaper, the Fráyhayt (later the Morgn Fráyhayt) with emphasis on 1930s Yiddish creativity (including now-forgotten writers, particularly women writers) on New York City’s Lower East Side. NOTE: Readings will not repeat those of previous courses. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

The course is offered thanks to the generous support of S. Chic Wolk (Santa Monica, California) to whom the course is affectionately dedicated.

March 7, 14, 21, 28; April 4, 11, 25; May 2, 9, 16.

Tuesdays 2:00 – 3:30 PM: Readings in Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Shorter Fiction

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. Emphasis on cultural, Talmudic, and Kabbalistic references and on stylistic detail. Note that some of the texts may contain material of an explicit erotic nature. NOTE: Readings will not repeat those of previous courses. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

March 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; April 5, 12, 26; May 3, 10.

Wednesdays 3:00 – 4:30 PM: Introduction to Ashkenazic Hebrew with Dovid Katz

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 modern Hebrew poets of the 19th and 20th 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 some working proficiency in any form of Hebrew (knowledge of Yiddish helpful but not required). Participants are urged to become acquainted with the online manual (and slowly evolving dictionary), both of which grew out of the spring WC’s online Spring and Summer 2021 programs. Conducted in Ashkenazic Hebrew (with occasional explanations/translations as needed in Yiddish, English, or Israeli Hebrew).

March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; Apr. 6, 13, 27; May 4, 11.

Thursdays 1:00 – 2:30 PM:  Chaim Grade’s Fiction and Old Jewish Vilna 

Each of the ten sessions will comprise two components: (a) a close, detailed reading from a Chaim Grade novella set in old Jewish Vilna (Yiddish Vílne) and (b) presentation of a select aspect of (or artefact from) Vilna Jewish culture. 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. NOTE: Readings will not repeat those of previous courses (but some of the cultural artifacts may have been displayed in earlier courses). Conducted entirely in Yiddish.

March 3, 10, 17, 24, 31; Apr. 7, 14, 28; May 5, 12.

April 2022:

Lecturer [in English] in Vilnius for the Hebrew Union College (Jerusalem) study trip in Lithuania under the direction of Jeremy Leigh.

May 2022:

Scholar on Board [in English] for the Lithuania component of the Workmens Circle Yiddishland trip to Lithuania and Poland 22-31 May 2022. Details here. UPDATE: POSTPONED & RESCHEDULED FOR 21–30 MAY 2023. 


AUTUMN-WINTER 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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