The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
(A Companion to MENDELE)

Contents of Vol. 12.012 [Sequential No. 203]
Date: 30 June 2008

1) This issue of TMR (ed.).
A Century of Yiddish, Czernowitz 1908 to Jerusalem 2008: An International Conference at the Hebrew University [Prof. Yechiel Szeintuch].
3) Reading an American Yiddish medical advertisement
4) An American Yiddish dental advertisement and the secularization of a Hebrew text
5) Rina Yosifon [see TMR 12.004] reads her Yiddish translation [see TMR 12.004] of the Lucky monologue in Beckett's Waiting for Godot

Date: 30 June 2008
From: ed.
This issue of TMR

*** We are pleased to assist the Dov Sadan Project in announcing a timely conference at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem on "A Century of Yiddish." *** In this issue of TMR we reproduce two advertisements that appeared originally in the American Yiddish press of a century ago and that have a special interest for us today. (We have not yet identified their exact sources.) These illustrations were selected by David Goldberg to further enliven his remarkably lively second- and third- year Yiddish grammar Yidish af yidish published twelve years ago by Yale University. Students who complete this graphically imaginative grammar will have few difficulties reading Yiddish literature.

(click on image to enlarge)

*** Rina Yosifon [see TMR 12.004] reads her Yiddish translation [see TMR 12.004] of the Lucky monologue in Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

2) ----------------------
Date: 30 June 2008
From: Prof. Yechiel Szeintuch
A Century of Yiddish, Czernowitz 1908 to Jerusalem 2008: An International Conference at the Hebrew University

Organizing Committee:

Prof. Yechiel Szeintuch, Yiddish Department and Dov Sadan Project
Prof. Eli Lederhendler, Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry
Prof. Aharon Maman, Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies
Prof. Shaul Stampfer, Jewish History Department

Preparations are currently being made for an international conference on the roles of Yiddish language and culture over the past century. The century of Yiddish to be celebrated is, of course, intrinsically bound to a 700-year linguistic and cultural tradition that preceded it. About a hundred years ago, following the rapid rise of a modern Jewish culture that considered Yiddish a national treasure, a group of writers gathered in Czernowitz to plan a broadly based effort to acknowledge and deliberate on the meteoric rise of both a folk and a highly sophisticated modern Yiddish culture literature, press, folklore and theater.

Today, after millions of Yiddish speakers in Europe have been murdered and their educational and cultural institutions destroyed, it is time to assess what Yiddish endured, how it battled (before, during, and after the Second World War) and survived. The foci of the planned conference will range from Yiddish culture as an anchor for the consolidation of a Jewish and self-identity, to Yiddish as an abandoned ship withstanding a struggle for existence following the relocation of millions of Yiddish-speakers and their descendants -- in an independent Jewish state and in the Diaspora.

The Jerusalem Conference is being organized by three institutes at the Hebrew University: The Dov Sadan Project, the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, and the Jewish History Department of the Mandel Institute of Jewish Studies. Other institutions in Israel and abroad that engage in research and teaching of Yiddish language and culture will be invited to participate. The conference will be open to the general public and indeed to all individuals interested in any or all of the following facets of our large subject:

1.              Modern Yiddish literature

2.              International Yiddish press

3.              Yiddish theater

4.              Yiddish cultural history and creativity during the Holocaust

5.              The postwar revival of Yiddish language and literature

6.              Yiddish education in the Diaspora and in Israel

7.              Research on Yiddish in academic institutions such as the Hebrew University and the YIVO Institute, and others

8.              The significance of Yiddish and its culture for Jewish Studies

The last two generations have seen a growing interest in Yiddish language and culture despite the sharp decrease in the number of its speakers. This increased interest has developed in a rapidly changing society in which new media particularly the internet are powerful forces. The internet is a cultural field beyond any given time or place, skirting communication barriers of the past, exposing near-limitless knowledge in seconds. Entering the word Yiddish in the Google search engine in order to check the extent of interest in Yiddish in the world, one finds more than ten million hits. This is tangible evidence that Yiddish is embedded in the real world and testifies to the widespread interest in Yiddish today.

The history of teaching Yiddish in Jewish school systems in Europe, the Americas, and Israel over the last 100 years will also be dealt with at the Jerusalem Conference. Today Yiddish and its culture are being taught in most universities in Israel and in many universities all over the world, mainly in Europe and the United States. Summer courses are offered in Vilna (Vilnius), New York, Tel-Aviv, Birobidzhan, Paris, Oxford, Warsaw, Toronto, California, Strasbourg and elsewhere. Non-Jewish students often constitute a significant percentage of the student body, and Yiddish language and Jewish history are increasingly regarded as constituent parts of European culture.

Many years ago the author, poet and critic Yankev Glatshteyn stated that by the end of the 20th century Yiddish would have a lebediker untergang. No one understood this prediction as signifying diminishment accompanied by a hope for renewal. The Jerusalem Conference will examine the Glatshteyn prophecy by reviewing the modern history of Yiddish, the awareness of its unique quality, and the role it plays today as a central resource in Jewish studies.

The conference will take place at the Hebrew University in the Fall/Winter of 2008. For more information about the planned conference, including ways of supporting it both morally and materially, write to the Dov Sadan Project at the following email address: .

Jerusalem Conference: Projected Sessions or Panels

Yiddish in Jewish Education in the 20th Century

Yiddish in Lithuania and the Soviet Union

The Czernowitz Conference and its Aftermath

Yiddish and Yiddish Activity among Holocaust Survivors

Yiddish and Jewish Studies in the 21st Century

Dov Sadan Yiddish and Jewish Studies for the 21st Century

The Academic Status of Yiddish in Europe and the U.S.

Yiddish and Consumers of Yiddish in Todays World

Research and Teaching of Yiddish Today (2 sessions)

Yiddish in Social Milieux, in Literary Life, Linguistics and International Discourse

The Future of Yiddish in Light of the 20th Century Experience

Jewish Creativity in the Holocaust Era

Modern Yiddish Language and its Characteristics

Yiddish in Secondary Education in Israel

The Israeli UNESCO Committee (Dir., Daniel Bar-Eli) will act as co-sponsor. The UN has designated 2008 the International Year of Languages. The UNESCO Committee will bring experts from abroad to participate in the Conference.

The conference will take place at the Hebrew University in the Summer or Fall of 2009. The exact date will be announced.

Date: 30 June 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Reading a
n American Yiddish medical advertisement

(click on image to enlarge)

Commentary: The Most Important of All Important Questions

The question which the young woman asks the young man in the above picture we are told is the most important that any young lady can ask a suitor who seeks her hand in marriage. Every man must ask himself this same question before he thinks of marrying. Hundreds of thousands of lives and the health and fortune of future generations are dependent on this most important of important questions:

"I want to know whether you are completely healthy," the woman asks the man. And just as her question is important, so is his answer full of anguish and pain. He loves the girl she is pretty, young, charming, attractive; he loves her truly, deeply and earnestly. But to her most important question he cannot reply "yes." Oh if he had only thought of A.V. Preventative five years before. A.V. Preventative comes in a small leather box with the label you see on this page. It can be bought in the following drugstores and in hundreds of other pharmacies. 50 cents a box.


This fascinating drawing accidentally encountered in David Goldberg's advanced Yiddish grammar (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996, p. 43) is not as easy to understand as one thinks at first glance. The textbook explains it as "An advertisement for a prophylactic medicine in an American Yiddish newspaper in 1909." We don't know the source of the advertisement nor can we deduce much about the medicine, one of many (anti-venereal?) concoctions of the day. The advertisement claims the product "iz a pozitiver meditsin tsu farhitn mener krankheytn" ('is a positive medicine to prevent men's diseases'). Could condoms being alluded to here? Even today the term "men's diseases" is in use, covering a wide field. Fifty cents a box would have been very expensive a century ago. The drawing suggests a connection between health and class (the wealthy are generally healthier than the poor). There is nothing Jewish-looking in the scene -- the young man stands 'hat in hand' and the woman is dominant. The source of the drawing is very likely a non-Jewish periodical. The bust scultpure in the upper right-hand corner could be of a distinguished family member or some famous world figure. What is remarkable about the drawing is the initiative and power it assigns the young woman. She has the temerity to raise an issue young ladies were not even supposed to know about, much less discuss with a male. This is of course the age of the suffragettes and our young lady may represent the new woman of the period.

Date: 30 June 2008
From: ed.
Subject: An American Yiddish dental advertisement and the secularization of a Hebrew text

(click on image to enlarge)

Commentary: ?

The above somewhat crude advertisement pits competent dentist against quack. This seems to be its essential message. But careful attention to its wording reveals a subtext that tells us something about immigrant life in New York City. The advertisement is not concerned simply with selling services. It is largely taken up with making sure that the potential client remember the addresses of the company's three branches. (At the bottom of the drawing the "company" has become a "parlor.") "Who knows three?" and "I know three!" are the headings to the introductory statement: "Dos zaynen di ofises [sic--ed.] fun di Pariz Dental Kompani." "Paris" adds to "Parlor" (and later "Parlors") to give these dentists class. They are obviously concerned with being found by the immigrants who must have constituted a large part of their clientele.

Playful use of the Hagode [Haggada] for secular, including commercial, purposes was not uncommon in the Yiddish of a century ago. From the Hagode comes the opening of the advertisement that parodies the famous Passover song beginning "Ekhod me yoydeye."  From the Hagode also come the two sons, the "Eynoy yoydeye lishol" [Eyno yodeya lishol] 'the one who does not know how to ask') coming first on the right side of the page and in the advertisement described as "der farblondzheter patsyent, er hot nit gedenkt gut dem adres, un er kumt op khibet ha-keyver oyf der velt -- in di hent fun a kalike" ('the lost patient, who did not know the address well, and suffers a beating at the hands of a cripple in this world').

Readers would have been fully familiar with the folk belief (khibet ha-keyver) that warns the newly deceased to remember their names upon entering the grave and being interrogated by the angels of destruction. The 'pitch' here is "If you get lost and do not find the Paris Dental Parlor you will be 'beaten up' (i.e. get inferior treatment) by a quack in this world." Of the khokhem, the Wise Son, on the other hand, we learn "der patsyent vos hot keyn misteyk [sic--ed.] nit gemakht in adres un hot getrofn rikhtik tsu di Pariz dental parlors -- in di hent fun a kinstler." ( 'the patient who made no mistake in the address and correctly found the Paris Dental Parlors -- in the hands of an artist'). The opposing characterizations both dwell on the principal matter of finding the right address, a real life problem for greenhorns  who knew little or no English and faced having to move about in a gigantic metropolis . The advertisement concludes in hype: "In everything that belongs to high-grade [sic--ed.] dentistry, fixing bad teeth or making new ones, when you want to be sure to get the best dental work in the world at the cheapest prices in New York, with written ten-year guarantee, then go to the Paris Dental Parlor Co."

Date: 30 June 2008
From: Rina Yosifon
Subject: Rina Yosifon [see TMR 12.004, Sec. 7] reads her Yiddish translation [see TMR 12.004, Sec. 8] of the Lucky monologue in Beckett's Waiting for Godot

Click on the gramophone to hear Rina Yosifon reading.

(Suggestion: Raising volume and wearing headset will improve hearing)



End of The Mendele Review Issue 12.012
Editor, Leonard Prager
Editorial Associate, Robert Goldenberg

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