ISBN is

978-0-345-44730-2 / 9780345447302

Yiddish: A Nation of Words

by

Publisher:Ballantine Books

Edition:Softcover

Language:English

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About the book:

"Positive, upbeat, practical, deeply rooted in Jewish history. That's our language. That's Yiddish." These words refer to the first recognizable Yiddish sentence extant, dated 1272, translated as "A good day will happen to the person who brings this mahzor [prayer book] to the synagogue." Yiddish: A Nation of Words is a popular history of this dying Jewish language, an amalgam of Hebrew and European languages, which dates to the early Middle Ages. Author Mariam Weinstein, a freelance journalist in Massachusetts who grew up in the Bronx when Yiddish could still be heard on almost any street corner, takes to her subject with enthusiasm. Her casual tone doesn't compromise her considerable intelligence, which shines especially in her discussion of the leading roles that women have played in the history of the language. (For centuries, women were not educated in Hebrew, so Yiddish became their particular idiom.) Another of the book's strengths is its account of the demise of Yiddish, which Weinstein attributes primarily to the trauma of the Holocaust and its aftermath of rapid assimilation. Perhaps the most pleasing and important thing about Weinstein's book, however, is that it does for Yiddish something like what, she argues, Yiddish did for Hebrew. "By letting words and phrases slip from the prayers of the older language into the younger, it kept the sacred tongue available to people who did not speak it every day." --Michael Joseph Gross

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