Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
(A Companion to MENDELE)
Contents of Vol. 11.006 [Sequential No. 183]
1) This issue of TMR (ed).
2) Yiddish In Denmark (Morten Thing)
3) Takones fun yidishn oysleg – copies still available (ed)
Click here to enter: http://yiddish.haifa.ac.il/tmr/tmr11/tmr11006.htm
Subject: This issue of TMR.
this issue of TMR we present a free English translation of a somewhat shortened
version of Morten Thing's Danish Yidisher
druk in denemark
[Skriftserie Fra Roskilde Universitetsbibliotek Nr. 44]. The complete original booklet containing the full bibliography of books and serials can be viewed at http://www.rub.ruc.dk/rub/omrub/skrserie/skr44b.pdf.
*We press the importance of circulating widely the sixth (the latest) edition of Takones fun yidishn oysleyg [Rules of Yiddish Spelling]. These rules have been issued by Yivo and the League for Yiddish together with the late Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter's "Fun folkshprakh tsu kulturshprakh," a comprehensive survey of the history of the standardized Yiddish spelling. Copies of this fundamental work are still available and will be much appreciated by serious Yiddish-lovers.
From: Morten Thing
Subject: Yiddish in
1.0 Jews in
The first Jews entered
The absorption of the Jews was very successful, the
majority being integrated into the
From 1882 until 1914 Russian Jews migrated to
In the inter-war period (1933-1939) a small group of
German Jews were admitted into
1.1 Yiddish in
During the eighteenth century Yiddish speakers in
When the Russian Jews began settling in
The Danish Jews and the MT leadership urged the immigrants to forget their ‘false German’ and learn Danish as soon as possible. They didn’t recognize Yiddish as a Jewish language; only Hebrew and Aramaic were accepted as Jewish. The MT saw it as their task to bring all the children of the immigrants into the two Jewish schools to learn Danish (and religion and some Hebrew). The schools were private and paid for by the MT. The immigrants fought for Yiddish education in the schools, but it was only when they began to win voting rights in MT, in the beginning of the 1930s, that Yiddish lessons were allowed before or after ‘normal’ lessons, and paid for by the parents. This practice went on for 20 years.
1.2 What was the name of the language?
According to the newest scientific Danish dictionary, Yiddish (written ‘jiddisch’ in Danish) is a “German dialectal form of jüdisch ‘jødisk’ [Jewish]”. The same opinion is expressed by other scientific dictionaries. The language in question is not called ‘Jüdisch’ in German. In German the name of the language until the end of the 19th century was ’Jüdisch-Deutsch’, as in Gottfried Selig’s Kurze und gründliche Anleitung zur Erlernung der jüdisch-deutschen Sprache (Leipzig 1767) or his Lehrbuch zur gründlichen Erlernung der jüdisch-deutschen Sprache für Beamte, Gerichtsverwandte, Advocaten und inbesondere für Kaufleute; mit einem vollständigen ebräisch und jüdisch-deutschen Wörterbuche (Leipzig 1792). This term was also used in English as ‚Judæo-German’ and in French as ‚judéo-allemand’. For a short period the initially derogatory term ‘Jargon’ was used in German; the name zhargon was in Yiddish itself for a time used in a neutral manner. Present-day European use of the word ‘Jiddisch’ is a loan-word from English ‘Yiddish’ (with a German suffix). ‘Jiddisch’, then, is not a dialectal form of ‘Jüdisch’. If we search in www.compactmemory.de, the database of German-language Jewish periodicals from the eighteenth to the twentieth century, ‘Jargon’ (1887-1908, most around 1900) gets 54 hits, ‘Jüdisch-Deutsch’ (1889-1901) 26 hits, and ‘Jiddisch’ (1914-38) 28 hits. This shows ‘Jiddisch’ to be a newcomer.
Yiddish arose in
What was Yiddish called in Danish before the arrival
of the Russian Jews? The learned Danish author, Ludvig
Holberg (1684-1754), distinguishes between two kinds
of Jews. In his 1724 comedy Mascarade, Henrich in the third act dresses as a ‘Jøde-Præst’
[Jew-Priest] and speaks an improvised Hebrew, which Jeronimus
does not understand. When he turns to German, Jeronimus
grasps that he is no ‘Portugiser-Jude’ and bids him
goodbye with the words: “Adieu Smautz”. A ‘smaus’ or ‘smovs’ in Danish at
this time meant an Ashkenazi Jew, while a Portuguese Jew was a Sephardic one. Holberg knew both kinds from the streets of
Danish dictionaries from the early nineteenth century use the word ‘Jødesprog’ [Jew-language] for both Hebrew and Yiddish. The only guide to Yiddish printed in Denmark is in German and is called Nothwendiger Einblick ins sogenannte Juden-Ebräisch, oder Wörterbuch für die Gojim, die lernen solle zu sayn Chochum, und wollen begreifen schmußen als a Bargißrol. Hrsg. Von einem Occidentalen (Rendsburg 1833). The title can be translated: 'Necessary insight into the so-called Jew-Hebrew, or Dictionary for Non-Jews who want to be clever and understand how to speak as a real Jew, by an Occidental'. The title is enigmatic since it pretends to be written by a non-Jew but uses three Yiddish words (Gojim, Chochum og Bargißrol). Finally, the author uses the term ’Juden-Ebräish’, a term not known in German but which might have been in use in Denmark.
The Danish Jewish author Meïr Aron Goldschmidt (1819-87) in his short stories and novels has Jews using both Yiddish and Hebrew expressions, which he translates in footnotes. In Avromche Nattergal [Avromche Nightingale] (1871) Reb Schaie “paid his debt, gave Avromche a sum of money and said in low voice, in German-Hebrew [da: Tydsk-Hebraisk], that with its mysterious tone, pregnant with malediction had a power, which the words in Danish aren’t able to express: “Go out of my house […].”” ‘Tydsk-Hebraisk’ is a reversed form of the Yiddish ‘ivre-taytsh’, and is a possible term for Yiddish in the late nineteenth century. But in his Maser (1868) Goldschmidt writes of “the jargon, the mixture of German and Hebrew, which is called “Mauscheln””. Jargon’ is at this time a rather pejorative word, and ‘Mauschel’ means in German something like ‘kike’; ‘mauscheln’ means to talk in a Jewish manner, to gesticulate. Also the Danish Jewish critic Georg Brandes (1842-1927) uses the word ‘Jargon’ in his essay on Goldschmidt: “[…] he made himself and it [i.e. Judaism] interesting by displaying its Jargon with notes under the text.”
The only example of a fixed name for Yiddish before or at the time of the immigration of the Russian Jews is in Ordbog for Folket [Dictionary for the People] (1907), where ‘Jødetysk’ [Jew-German] is "used among German and Polish Jews for their mixed language of High-German and germanised Hebrew words.” We can actually follow the establishment of the word ‘jiddisch’ in Danish through the Danish-language Jewish periodicals such as Jødisk Tidsskrift [Jewish Journal] 1907-08. Here the term ‘Jargon’ is used objectively, as in German some years earlier. This journal, for instance, announces the first Yiddish theatre performance as ‘Jargon-Teaterforestilling’ [Jargon-Theatre-play]. In 1914 the journal Jødisk Samfund [Jewish Society; the Danish part of a Danish-Yiddish journal] writes of the immigrants: “Yiddish [Da: Yiddisch] is their only means of communication. Hebrew which the boys learn in the cheder, is not used as an everyday language…. Yiddish [da: Yiddisch] is understood and spoken by everyone. Russian, Polish, Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian is spoken and understood by some from these provinces, but is read and written only by a minority.” In Mosaisk Samfund of the same period, we read that "
“many … children speak correct Danish, being among
Danes; in their homes they speak Yiddish [da: Jeddisch] […].” The orientalist dr. Hermann Strack
argued that the language ought to be called Jewish [Jødisk]: “The
expression Yiddish comes from
The Yiddish paper Idishe
velt and its editor Y. Shayak,
when writing in Danish, used the term ‘Jødisk’ [Jewish] for Yiddish, and
even among some of the immigrants this is still in use, but never among Danes.
When the Russian Jews came to
1.3 Yiddish printing in
The Russian Jewish immigrants in
The immigrants began by 1907 to organize Yiddish
theatre performances and until the beginning of the 50's there were more than
270 Yiddish performances on small stages in
Litischevski’s Vokhn blats drukeray [Vokhn blat Printers] was of great significance for Danish-Yiddish
culture the following years. Hundreds of flyers for meetings were printed by
him. He also printed fiction: Shloyme Edelhayt’s (1882-?) play Der
eybiger shmerts [The
Eternal Pain] (1912) and Yankel Krepliak’s
(1885-1945) A seder in
When World War One broke out, the Zionist Organisation
(WZO) opened an office in
In November 1914 the third Yiddish daily appeared: Yudishe folks-tsaytung
[Jewish/Yiddish People’s Paper]. It was formally owned by a limited company,
but was to a certain degree controlled by WZO’s
Yudishe folks-tsaytung was printed at its own printing works, Jødisk Folketidendes Trykkeri [Printing
works of Jewish People’s Paper]. The same printings works produced its
successor, Yudishe folks-shtime [Jewish/Yiddish People’s Voice], a paper with Skorochod and Nachemsohn as
responsible editors, too. In fact it was edited by Simon Bernstein (1884-1962),
the well-known Zionist politician and Hebrew scholar. It was published twice a
There were other voices than that of Zionism. For a
long time the dominating trend among the immigrants was that of Bundist socialism. The Bund both in Eastern and
When Meir Grossman was fired from Yudishe
folks-tsaytung, he began (with Jabotinsky) to publish the journal Di tribune [The
Platform]. Twenty-one issues appeared before Grossman went to
Meir Grossman’s elder brother,
The author and journalist Yehuda-Hirsh
Shayak (1892-1958) in 1917 published one issue of the
journal Di idishe velt
however, were published. Simon Altschul continued to
print in Yiddish in
translated Meïr Aron
Goldschmidt from Danish into Yiddish. In 1919 Der
yid [En Jøde]
the author Felix Breschel (1885-1959) published
his Anyuta, a book of 126 pages, for the first
time printed outside
In the thirties
three Yiddish publications appeared. Two short stories written by the
revolutionary writer Y. Riv: Fun shtetlshe heymen in turme. Serie revolutsionere dertseylungen
1 [From Shtetl Homes to Prison. Series of
Revolutionary Stories 1] and Marek af der tlie. Serie
2 [Marek's Hanging]. They were both printed in
Hasomir survived until 1976, and when it had its 50th anniversary in 1962, the choir published Lui Beilin’s (1919- ) booklet Den jødiske sangforening Hasomir København 1912-1962 [The Jewish Choir Hasomir Copenhagen 1912-1962]. Two of the pages appeared in Yiddish, handwritten and copied in offset. From 1916-36 Hasomir recorded its own history in the hand-written journal Der muk/Myggen [The mosquito]. Among the songs sung by Hasomir were some by the immigrant and tailor Chaim Ritterband (1893-1944).
After WW2, Yiddish for a period
The celebrated rescue of the Danish
Jews in October 1943 inspired an interesting body of fiction. The Russian-Jewish tailor Pinches Welner (1893-1965) wrote about his own rescue.
After his return to
In 1958 a new
collection of short stories, Seks noveller [Six Short Stories], was published in Danish.
In 1960 Welner published his major work, a novel
titled Den brogede gade
[The Multicolored Street]. The original Yiddish title
Balut named the Łódz
district where Welner grew up. It’s a very
concentrated and fine depiction of Jewish life before WW1. In 1963 he published
his third collection of short stories, En hel verden [A WholeWorld]. The
year he died he published his memoir Fra polsk jøde til dansk [From Polish Jew to
Danish], about how the Jewish immigrants were integrated and assimilated.
Nearly all his books were written in Yiddish. Little by little he was able to
discuss the translation with his translator and he became at last an author in
Danish. In this way he came to epitomize Yiddish culture in
 Thyge Svenstrup & Vello Helk: Det mosaiske Troessamfund i København med nedlagte troessamfund i provinsen, Cph. 1993, p. 13.
 Martin Schwarz Lausten: Oplysning i kirke og synagoge. Forholdet mellem kristne og jøder i den danske Oplysningstid (1760-1814), Cph. 2002, p. 234-40.
 Supplement til Bibliotheca Danica. Hefte III. Bibliotheca Slesvico-Holsatica til 1840, Cph. 1945.
 Yeshayahu Vinograd: àåöø äñôø äòáøé/
ha-ivri. Reshimat sefarim she-nidpesu be-ot ivrit me-reshit
ha-dfus ha-ivri bi-shnat 1469 ad shnat 1863/
Thesaurus of the Hebrew Book,
 Den danske ordbog, pub. Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab, vol. 3, Cph. 2004.
 Selig was
a Yiddish-hating Jewish convert to Christianity, see Tudor Parfitt,
"Hebrew in Colonial Discourse," Journal of Modern Jewish Studies,
Vol. 2, No. 2, 2003, 169. "...in a Yiddish textbook of 1792, a Jewish
convert to Christianity, Gottfried Selig, observed of
Yiddish that it used Hebrew words in a
way that was 'so deformed that they appear to be parts of the Hottentot language'. As Gilman observes, Selig's was an attempt to put the locus of the language of
the Eastern Jews outside the pale of civilized
 îàÈãòøï òðâìéùÎééÄãéù ééÄãéùÎòðâìéù Ôòøèòøáåê àåøéàì ÔÖÇðøÖÇêÓ/ Uriel Weinreich: English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary, New York 1968; Bettina Simon: Jiddische Sprachgeschichte, Frankfurt/M 1993, s. 31f.
 Martin Schwarz-Lausten: Oplysning i kirke og synagoge. Forholdet mellem kristne og jøder i den danske Oplysningstid (1760-1814), Cph. 2002, p. 276.
 Goyim is plural of goy 'non-Jew'; chochum is Western Yiddish for Eastern Yiddish khokhem 'clever'; bargißrol, German dialectical form for Western Yiddish ’bärchesrul’, composed of bar + yisroel 'son of Israel'. See Alfred Klepsch: Westjiddisches Wörterbuch. Auf der Basis dialektologischer Erhebungen in Mittelfranken, 1-2, Tübingen 2004.
 M.A. Goldschmidt: Noveller og andre fortællinger, Cph. 1994, p. 16.
 Ibid. p. 236.
 M. Goldschmidt, Georg Brandes: Æsthetiske Studier, 2. ed., Cph. 1888, p. 350.
 B.T. Dahl og H. Hammer: Dansk Ordbog for Folket, vol. 1, Cph. 1907.
 Jødisk Tidsskrift 1.11.07.
 Jødisk Samfund 24.4.14.
 Mosaisk Samfund 23.1.15.
 Jødisk Samfund 9.6.16.
 ”Bund’s” arbeyter-lezehal far ale in Kopenhagen. Katalog 1912. A new catalogue was printed in 1917, Katalog fun ”Bund’s” arbeyter leze-zal far ale in Kopenhagen yuni 1917 and again in 1922, Katalog un statuten fun Yudishe arbeyter leze-zal in Kopenhagen gegrindet 1907.
 No. 1-5 1917 came out. See Morton H. Narrowe: Jidische Folkschtime (Sic). Nordisk Judaistik, 1986 7/2, s. 92-103.
 Nokhum Sokolov: Vos mir vilen. Rede
geholten oyf der tsienistisher folks-konferents in London, Cph.
1916, Di ekonomishe lage
in Eresjisroel, Cph.
1916, Etlekhe verter
vegen tsienistisher politik fun a tsienist,
Cph. 1916, M. Usishkin un Yoysef Kloyzner: Palestina in der milkhome-tsayt, Cph. 1916 og Nokhum Sokolov: Har megido. A fortrog gehalten oyf troyer-ferzamlung
fun Hertsls yohrtsayt in
 Vladimir Grosman: Amol un haynt, Pariz 1955; Georg Brandes un Peter Krapotkin, Pariz 1961 and Mentshn und problemen. Zikhroynes un gedanken, Pariz 1964.
 Even though, the years are given in the Jewish calendar, Hasomir used the date 22.10.1912 as its founding day. In the Jewish calendar this is the 11. chesvan 5673; 22.10.1922 is however the 30. tischri 5683, while the 11. chesvan 5683 is 2.11.22. All anniversaries were celebrated October 22nd.
 His songs and tunes were also printed in Vilna: Khaym Riterband: Yidishe melodien, 56 p., Vilna 1935 and Chajim Ritterband: 20 forskellige Melodier/20 różnych melodii, 56 p., Vilna 1938.
 For a Yiddish presentation, see: Pinkhes Velner, I. Zilberberg-Kholewa: Mentshn un folk, Tel Aviv 1967, s. 158-62 [orig. Tog-Morgen-zhurnal, 1965]
Subject: Takones fun yidishn oysleg – copies still available (ed)
Oysleyg: Takones fun Yidishn Oysleyg. Zekster aroyskum, in eynem mit Mordkhe
Shekhters "Fun Folkshprakh
[The Standardized Yiddish Orthography. Sixth edition, together with Mordkhe Schaechter’s "Fun
Folkshprakh tsu Kulturshprakh" (The History of the Standardized
End of The Mendele Review Vol. 11.006
Editor, Leonard Prager
Subscribers to Mendele (see below) automatically receive The Mendele Review.
Send "to subscribe" or change-of-status messages to: firstname.lastname@example.org
a. For a temporary stop: set mendele mail postpone
b. To resume delivery: set mendele mail ack
c. To subscribe: sub mendele first_name last_name
d. To unsubscribe kholile: unsub mendele
*** Getting back issues ***
The Mendele Review archives can be reached at: http://yiddish.haifa.ac.il/tmr/tmr.htm
Yiddish Theatre Forum archives can be reached at: http://yiddish.haifa.ac.il/tmr/ytf/ytf.htm
Mendele on the web: http://shakti.trincoll.edu/~mendele/index.utf-8.htm