as part of the online Yiddish program at the New York Workmens Circle
SUMMER SESSION 2021
Information on registration at the Workmens Circle website. Scholarships may be available for participants in parts of Eastern Europe. Information on this page is tentative. Definitive listings are on the W.C. website only.
SPRING SESSION 2021
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.
(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.