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A cultural language for the folk: the creation of a "popular" kulturshprakh in Yidish far ale, 1938-39.


This paper looks at the popular Yiddish language journal Yidish far ale, published by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, from 1938 to 1939. It treats the journal as part of YIVO's attempt to combat Polish linguistic acculturation by edifying its audience in a standardized language, while simultaneously drawing linguistic material from readers as holders of the national language. By looking at the relationship between the journal's editor, Noah Prylucki, and members of YIVO's philological section, as well as readers of the journal, it argues that the journal was instrumental in defining a standardized form of Yiddish as a national language and reconciling it with the folksshprahh, or language of the people. Yidish far ale represents YIVO's contradictory mandate as an institution that promoted scholarship in Yiddish and as representative of Polish Jewry, as well as its relationship with other Yiddishist institutions. The contradictory nature of a "popular" kulturshprakh was not lost on Prylucki and other contributors to the journal. Dialectical debates within the journal illuminate the tumultuous relationship between the Yiddishist intelligentsia and the Yiddish-speaking masses, as well as the very nature of a kulturshprakh. Yidish far ale represents an example of cultural continuity under a threat of linguistic acculturation into Polish society.

Prior to the Holocaust, Yiddish, the thousand-year-old Ashkenazic Jewish vernacular, was the lingua franca of the vast majority of Eastern European Jewry, (1) However, by the late 1930s, the largely traditional Jewish population of Poland was linguistically acculturating at a rapid rate. (2) Despite a bourgeoning modern Yiddish culture with Yiddish-language newspapers, theaters, and schools at the elementary and secondary levels, the economic and social realities of interwar Polish Jewry led to an increase in Polish linguistic acculturation at the expense of the Yiddish language and modern Yiddish culture. As Lucy Dawidowicz describes in her memoir on her fateful year spent in Vilna as an aspirantur at YIVO from 1938-39, "my bleakest thoughts centered on the viability of Yiddish as a self-sufficient, even autonomous culture in Poland ... I would never have predicted that in Vilna, the citadel of Yiddish, I would come to realize that Yiddish was an insufficient basis on which to maintain one's Jewish identity, that it could not ensure Jewish continuity." (3) It was this very issue of Jewish continuity and national identity based upon the Yiddish language as a form of linguistic-based Jewish nationalism that most concerned champions of Yiddishism during this period. By 1938, the Yiddishist intelligentsia affiliated with the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO) in Vilna sought one final attempt at bridging what was perceived as a cultural gap between them and the majority of Yiddish speakers with the publication of the popular Yiddish language journal, Yidish far ale (Yiddish For All). Analyzing this journal throughout its short history sheds light on the reactions by those who promoted Yiddish as a high national culture and form of Jewish identity at a time when Jewish life in Poland was uncertain. For those who promoted Yiddishism as a form of secular Jewish nationalism, the Yiddish language itself was understood as the defining feature of Eastern European Jewry. Yiddishism's champions feared that the disappearance of the language would result in the disappearance of a Jewish identity, and thus the Jewish nation as a whole, in the modern world.

Yidish far ale was published in Vilna, Poland, present day Vilnius, Lithuania, from March 1938 until June 1939, as the popular organ of the philological section of the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research. (4) From the journal's foundation and throughout its 15-month publication, Yidish far ale was fraught by internal conflict and contradictions over the goal of the journal and intended role of its readers. Tension between the Yiddishist intelligentsia and Yiddish-speaking masses was brought to the fore on its pages through debates and discussions over Yiddish as a kultuishprakh, or language of high culture, and the appropriateness of providing such information in a journal intended for a popular audience. The two main personalities involved in this debate were the journal's editor and Yiddish linguist, Noah Prylucki (18821941), and YIVO founder and Yiddish historian Max Weinreich (1894-1969). Prylucki aimed to use Yidish far ale to bridge what was perceived as a cultural gap between the Yiddish-speaking masses and Yiddishist intelligentsia, by providing the journal's audience with an evolution from a folkshprakh, the language of the people, to a kulturshprakh. He hoped not only to draw dialectical materials from readers with the intention of standardizing a high national language, but also to awaken in readers a sense of what he called "philological excitement," which would inspire them to become involved in linguistic debates. (5) Weinreich and others associated with YIVO's philological section argued that the readers of Yidish far ale must be told how to think rather than involving them in a discussion of the kulturshprakh. For Weinreich, the linguists of the philological section possessed enough data to standardize the language as a national-cultural language, and thus the journal was to be used only as a form of mass dissemination.

The standardization of Yiddish, the thousand-year-old Ashkenazic vernacular, and its elevation to a language of national prestige was central to the Yiddishist endeavor. As a national-cultural ideology, Yiddishism viewed the Yiddish language as the binding feature of the Jewish people as a nation in nonreligious terms. It sought to place Yiddish on a cultural level analogous to other European languages and cultures and provided Eastern European Jewry with an alternative to the Hebraist and territorial-oriented ideology of Zionism, while calling for the preservation of Jewish linguistic distinctiveness and cultural creations, as part of a struggle for Jewish national survival in the Diaspora. (6) Its ideologues drew heavily from German Volkism, with romantic notions of the people and their intrinsic language and culture. (7) What Yiddishism as a secular culture entailed was not always clear, nor was the role of the "folk," who, for the Yiddishist intelligentsia, represented the simplistic and romantic holders of Yiddish as the Jewish national language through the folkshprakh, and whose national spirit Yiddishism was intended to represent. However, for the majority of Yiddish speakers, despite using the language in everyday speech, the notion of a high culture in Yiddish was not necessarily considered natural. (8) The intelligentsia felt it was their job to harvest the folkshprakh from the people and turn it into a kulturshprakh, which included the standardization of its dialect, lexicon, and orthography, which was then to be passed back to the people themselves.

By the mid to late nineteenth century, the status of Yiddish began to change from a vernacular to one of prestige, after writers such as Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh (Mendele, 1835-1917), Sholem Aleichem (Sholem Rabinovitsh, 1859-1916), and Y. L. Peretz (1852-1915) sought to elevate the language through literature. In 1908, the Czernowitz Yiddish language conference debated the status of Yiddish as a national Jewish language, and called for the creation of a standardized language with dictionaries and grammatical texts, seeking to elevate the language to the level of any other national European language. (9) This call was reiterated in Ber Borchov's 1913 article "The Tasks of Yiddish Philology," which also called for the creation of scholarship on and in Yiddish. (10) After Nokhem Shtif's memorandum calling for the creation of a Yiddish academic institution, the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research was founded in 1925 in Vilna and assumed a state-like role in its creation and dissemination of a modern secular Yiddish culture and scholarship. As Cecile Kuznitz has explained, YIVO committed itself to representing Eastern European Jewry by championing Yiddish and the needs of Polish Jewry. (11) When Poland reemerged after WWI, its leaders signed a minorities treaty granting national minorities cultural autonomous rights and state support. Jews were treated as a national minority within this treaty, with an overwhelming majority who spoke Yiddish. (12) As a scholarly institution, YIVO sought to raise the status of Yiddish from the traditional Jewish vernacular to that of a high culture. Creating a cultural standardized language, or kulturshkraith, while concurrently educating the masses of Yiddish-speakers in this language, would therefore serve to simultaneously raise the status of the language itself and the cultural level of the people, while also bridging the cultural gap between the Yiddish-speaking masses and the Yiddishist intelligentsia. However, based on the content of the journal, it is clear that even by 1938, those of YIVO's philological section were unsure of the role of a cultural and standardized language, as well as the role of the majority of those who spoke Yiddish as a vernacular language.

It should be noted that the secular Yiddishists of this period were not the only ones attempting to standardize Yiddish and Yiddish orthography. In the late 1920s, the Soviet Union formally created a standardized Yiddish orthographic system and sought to standardize the language's lexicon and grammar. (13) Simultaneously, Solomon Birnbaum championed his own orthographic system that sought to accommodate dialectical differences in the language. Birnbaum's system was used by the Orthodox school system for girls, Beys Yankev. (14) While Yiddishists and pedagogues involved with the secular Yiddish school systems in Poland had called for orthographic and linguistic standardization and reforms as early as 1920, by the late 1930s, teachers continued to complain of lexical and orthographic chaos. (15) At the same time, Polish Jewry was increasing its linguist acculturation. According to the 1931 Polish census, 79.9% of Polish Jewry declared Yiddish as its mother tongue, (16) However, as Chone Shmeruk has noted, by the mid 1930s, Polish Jewry was pursuing a course of Polish linguistic acculturation. (17) This is further corroborated by data on Jewish student attendance in schools. By the late 1930s, the Yiddish secular schools boasted just over 15,000 students throughout Poland, which was down from 24,000 ten years earlier, while the vast majority of Jewish students in Poland attended Polish public schools. (18) There was a keen sense among the Yiddishist intelligentsia that solely educating youth was insufficient, especially for a stateless language, and that new methods of dissemination were required to reach larger audiences. (19) They expressed a profound fear that Polish-Jewish society was assimilating at an alarming rate, and that the only way to ensure the survival of a Jewish nation in a modern secular world, where religion was viewed as archaic, was through the Yiddish language as the only remaining distinguishing Jewish feature. Its proponents hoped that standardizing the language through a kulturshprakh would force the Polish government to recognize the language and provide it with state-supported cultural autonomy.

The decision to publish Yidish far ale was led by YIVO's philological section and those affiliated with the modern secular Yiddish schools in Poland, Tsentrale Yidishe shul organizatyse, or Tsisho. The first issue of the journal was published in March 1938, yet the decision to publish a popular journal dedicated to "regulating" the Yiddish language began much earlier. In 1925, YIVO established a terminological commission and a year later a linguistic commission under the auspices of YIVO's philological section. These commissions assumed the task of collecting terminology for creating Yiddish-language dictionaries and grammars as part of a project to standardize the language. However, by the time Yidish far ale was first published in 1938, no such dictionary had been published by YIVO and the commission's work had come to little fruition, mostly due to financial constraints. (20) In 1936, YIVO issued Takones fun Yidishn oysleg or The Rules of Yiddish Spelling, which was the institution's first significant attempt at standardizing the language through orthography and based largely on Zalmen Reyzen's 1920 Yiddish grammar pablication. (21) These rules were supposed to be implemented by Tsisho, but Khayim Shloyme Kazdan (1883-1979), Tsisho's Chair, was adamant that any standardization required further debate and should not be dictated by the intelligentsia alone. (22) The linguistic commission's earlier commitment to a journal about "questions of practical knowledge" seems to have finally come to fruition in 1938 with the publication of Yidish fir ale. (23) However, the journal's editor, Noah Prylucki, claimed that he led the initiative for YIVO to publish the journal in 1934, yet he failed to elaborate on what this initiative entailed. (24) Despite this, the final impetus seems to have come from members of Tsisho.

In 1935, YIVO held its second international conference in Vilna to review the institution's achievements over its first decade. At the conference, Tsisho representatives complained that YIVO had abandoned its role of standardizing Yiddish grammar and orthography and providing textbooks intended for the Yiddish secular schools. Tsisho delegate Gershon Pludermakher (1876-1942) pointed out that prior to 1925, Tsisho and TsBK (Tsentraler bildungs komitet or the Central Educational Committee) in Vilna dictated grammatical and orthographic reforms through its journals. When YIVO was founded in 1925, it agreed to take over this role and supply textbooks to the schools. (25) However, only one year later, Tsisho held a conference on Yiddish language standardization, where Tsisho pedagogues from Warsaw sought to distance themselves from those in Vilna affiliated with YIVO and Vilbig, over a disagreement regarding language standardization and its intended audience. (26) Following this, those in Vilna worked apart from those based in Warsaw. However, Pludemakher and Shloyme Bastomski (1881-1941), both natives of Vilna, accused YIVO at the 1935 language conference of failing to implement language reforms. (27) Two years later at a Yiddish teacher's conference held in Vilna, representatives of Tsisho and members of YIVO's philological section agreed to jointly publish a monthly journal for the "practical usage" of the Yiddish language with the participation of Tsisho. The intended program of the journal was outlined in a letter sent by Tsisho to all pedagogical councils in December 1937, in which the overwhelming majority of topics dealt with every day uses of the language, including lexicon and orthography, and addressed pedagogical needs of the Yiddish secular schools. (28) Although this letter served as the basis for the publication of Yidish far ale, a separate letter composed by Prylucki outlined alternative goals and uses of the journal, with more of an ethnographic slant. (29) For Prylucki, the inclusion of dialectical differences was intended to educate the journal's readers, the masses of Yiddish speakers, including teachers of Yiddish secular schools, who might use these dialectical differences in their everyday speech.

Although Prylucki was merely a representative of the philological section, the first few issues demonstrate that he had free rein over the content of the journal. Furthermore, the first issue praises Prylucki's previous scholarly work on Yiddish linguistics. (30) In time, however, disagreements over the role of the journal's readers and the appropriateness of including information of a dialectical nature in the journal caused a rift between Prylucki and those of the philological section in Vilna. In an effort to replace him as editor after only three issues, Zelig Kalmanovitch (1881-1944) accused Prylucki of destroying the language in a private letter addressed to New York-based Yiddish Linguist Yudl Mark (1897-1975). (31) However, the popular nature of the journal was a disincentive for others to step in as editor. In April 1938, the executive members of the philological section decided to no longer allow Prylucki to edit their articles for the journal. They suggested that he coedit the journal with Yudl Mark, yet Prylucki refused and continued to demand final say over all articles in the journal while berating philological section members for failing to send him articles. (32) In the mean time, YIVO moved the publication of the journal from Warsaw to Vilna. Prylucki understood this as a threat to his role as editor and accused the YIVO executive of attempting to pry the journal out from under his control. (33) Whatever the actual reason, the administration of YIVO's philological section felt that Prylucki was providing too much scholarly and ethnographic information for the journal's intended popular audience. Although Kalmanovitsh and Reyzen communicated their concerns about Prylucki privately, Weinreich aired his grievances directly on the pages of Yidish far ale.

For Weinreich, a kulturshprakh denotes a language that demands the same respect as any other national language and needs to be standardized. (34) Although Weinreich articulated this definition in 1950, and thus after Yidish far ale was published, he and other contributors to the journal often used the terms kulturshprakh and klal-shprahh, or the standardized language, interchangeably. According to linguist Neil Jacobs, Yudl Mark coined the term klal-shprakh on the very pages of Yidish far ale. (35) The term includes a standardized grammar, orthography, and a supradialect and is directly linked to the modernization process. However, moving from a folkshhprakh, which was represented in the journal by Prylucki's inclusion of dialectical differences, towards a kulturshprakh created tension among those involved with the journal, but also served to alienate rather than unite the intelligentsia and the majority of Yiddish speakers. Dialect speech increasingly became viewed as less prestigious than the standardized language and was stigmatized. (36)

Prylucki was adamant that the journal include discussions of a folksy nature for its own sake, but also in an attempt to demonstrate its perceived incorrect nature as part of the kultursphrakh to the journal's audience. Prylucki expressed in the second issue of the journal the importance of teaching a "correct" Yiddish in the schools. He argued that Yiddish-speaking adults and children were continuing to speak Yiddish improperly, which was perpetuating language chaos. Both he and Zalman Reyzen noted that literature on the language of children was sorely lacking in Yiddish scholarship and upheld the importance of such literature for Yiddish pedagogy. (37) Despite this, Prylucki refused to enlist the aid of teachers affiliated with the schools, who were viewed as the journal's main readers. Furthermore, it is perplexing that, despite the insistence that Tsisho teachers use the journal for their own edification and to bring the information into the classroom, YIVO often sent Tsisho copies of the journal months late, and sometimes not at all, despite prepayment of 75 copies per issue. (38)

For Max Weinreich, the creation of a kulturshprakh was directly linked to a desire to move away from what were perceived as Germanisms in the language. As a Germanic language, Yiddish is a fusion language derived from Middle High German. Proponents of the Jewish Enlightenment in the nineteenth century attempted to demonstrate similarities between the two languages through lexicon and orthography and through parodies in the language itself. This lexical and orthographic style was adopted by Alexander Tseyderboym, editor of the first Yiddish periodical in the Tsarist Empire, Kol Mevaser, and was continued in the Yiddish press of the twentieth century. Yehoshua Mordechai Lifshitz attempted in the nineteenth century to rid the language of New High German overtones, a practice later promoted by Zalmen Reyzen and other Yiddishists. (34) As a native German speaker, Weinreich was acutely aware of Germanic influences in the language, and sought to distance Yiddish from these influences in order to move away from accusations that Yiddish is a German dialect rather than a language in its own right, as this would of course lessen any national prestige associated with the language.

Weinreich's article "Daytshmerish toyg nit" (Germanisms are not good!) elucidates his definition of a kulturshprakh in Yidish far ale. The article was written in response to a previous article written by Aron Tseytlin and edited by Prylucki. Tseytlin instructed readers that the words farikt and also are permissible in the kulturshprakh. (40) However, according to Weinreich, these words were considered blatant Germanisms. Fearing that such words would show deficiency of the language, he warned readers that they themselves might harbor similar Germanisms in their speech. Unlike Prylucki, who sought to educate readers in dialectical differences, Weinreich was more militant and argued that not every word said among a group of Yiddish speakers could be considered a Yiddish word, and not every word found in a Yiddish dialect was an element of the kulturshprakh. (41) While Prylucki promoted the kulturshprakh as a living language, Weinreich did not trust the masses with such decisions and publically accused Prylucki of hijacking the journal from the hands of the philological section. (42)

For Prylucki, the goal of including the masses of Yiddish speakers in linguistic debates over a kulturshprakh was riot intended to provide them with agency over the language, but instead was meant to ensure that a word used by 90 percent of speakers would not be omitted from the standardized language just because a minority of scholars felt that it should not be included. In the eighth issue, Prylucki publicly criticized Weinreich's methodology in his article "Daytshmerish toyg nit." He argued that much of what Weinreich considers Germanisms are merely based on "feelings" rather than dialectical research. Prylucki turned to Ukrainian Yiddish, where words of Slavic origin were often included, which may not have been recognizable to the majority of Yiddish speakers; but to those who used them, they were still "clean Yiddish words." (43) However, this hypothetical example ignores the ideological nature of Germanisms and potential problems that Weinreich feared if they were to be included in the kulturshprakh. Furthermore, this example contradicts an earlier article by Prylucki. In the second issue of the journal, he complained that the speech of Yiddish-speaking children was being influenced parents with the use of Ukrainian endings in Yiddish. He argued that a journal like Yidish far ale was therefore required to combat this trend, rendering his arguments often contradictory. (44) Although Prylucki's point is clear, that more dialectical research was needed before the language could be formally standardized, his choice of example is odd. While attacking Weinreich's methodology, he curiously argued that Ukrainian Slavicisms are potentially permissible. (45)

Further perplexing is the fact that Prylucki published in a different issue of the journal an article that agreed with Weinreich's assessment of Germanisms as an ideological element designed to demonstrate the language's perceived degenerate tendencies. In separate articles, Prylucki and Kalmanovitsh discussed their negative ideological impact and concluded that a word of international origin was preferred when an equivalent word did not exist in Yiddish. While a Germanism served to portray the language as illegitimate, an internationalism was intended to place Yiddish on the same level as other European languages. (46)

This dialogue was furthered when Weinreich attacked Prylucki's role as editor of Yidish far ale by taking stock of his work in the first seven issues. He argued that the philological section of YIVO had intended for the journal to promote the "practical usage of the Yiddish language" and help Yiddish speakers normalize the kulturshprakh in their own speech and writing. However, for Weinreich, that is where the purpose of the journal ended. He criticized Prylucki's inclusion of dialectical materials, which often compared old Yiddish to German dialects, and accused him of being unable to see the difference between philological collections that belonged in an archive and a popular journal like Yidish far ale. (47) Weinreich did not feel that nonintellectual Yiddish speakers were capable of comprehending and absorbing such information provided by Prylucki.

Prylucki aimed to make the journal more accessible to readers with sections allowing readers to pose linguistic and dialectical questions to which Prylucki himself provided answers. For him, this was intended to show readers the "inner work" of the philological section, including how it operated and its methodologies. As such, readers were to be brought into the discussions and debates on language standardization. (48) However, this alleged purpose was only stated later by Prylucki in his rebuttal to Weinreich. Although Prylucki suggested in the first issue that lay readers would be able to partake in discussions in the journal, he never actually allowed readers to do so. In sections such as "fraynd shraybn--mir entfern" (friends write--we answer) and "tsvishn verter" (between words), both of which appeared in most issues, Prylucki preferred to inform readers that their use of vocabulary or grammar was incorrect and could not be used in the kulturshprakh, rather than facilitate a discussion on the matter. Nonetheless, these sections simultaneously provided Prylucki with additional dialectical materials. According to Prylucki, Weinreich was attempting to create a premature klal-shprakh by forbidding this dialogue. For him, dialectology was a significant aspect of language standardization and needed to be explored further. It is significant that Prylucki's attempt to draw information directly from lay readers was similar to projects initiated by YIVO and even Weinreich himself on collecting materials. However, Prylucki accused those of YIVO's philological section of not seriously devoting time to language standardization in its thirteen years of existence, arguing that even Yivo bleter, YIVO's major scholarly publication, had not published one article on language standardization by 1938. (49) For Prylucki, the purpose of the journal was to elicit Yiddish dialectology from readers, with the ultimate goal of a standardized Yiddish language. The role of the Yiddish-speaking masses was merely to submit dialectical differences rather than debate them. (50)

Prylucki seems to have misunderstood some of Weinreich's criticisms. Weinreich agreed that dialectical research was needed for the creation of a kulturshprakh. However, his main criticism was that such information was inappropriate for the general public and felt that it would only confuse them. And indeed, it does seem as though the public did not always appreciate Prylucki's inclusion of such elements. Readers expressed a desire to learn a "proper" Yiddish, but were not happy with the information that was presented. In one letter addressed to the editor, a reader complained that the journal published too much "complicated" grammar. The reader felt that the editors created too many additional words and asked Prylucki to make the language of the journal more "accessible" to Yiddish speakers. (51) This demonstrates an inability by the general readership of Yidish far ale to understand the kulturshprakh. However, Prylucki responded negatively to the reader by arguing that the content was already accessible since it was published in a "popular" journal. For Prylucki, bringing the journal down to the level of the readers would no longer entail a kulturshprakh. Therefore, one needs to question who her the Yiddishist intelligentsia actually expected readers to comprehend a kulturshprakh and utilize it rather than the folksshprakh. This further shows the curious contradiction of creating a popular Yiddish-language journal to teach a nonintellectual public the specifics of the kulturshprakh. (52)

Those affiliated with YIVO's philological section in the late 1930s did not have a clear sense of the terms kultursphrakh and klal-shprakh throughout the years of Yidish far ale's publication. The journal itself helped crystallize the definitions of these terms and the role of the masses within the standardized language, but never came to a definitive conclusion. Despite the interchangeable usage of these terms, they seem to differ conceptually in later issues, especially regarding the journal's readership. The kulturshprakh represents a language of high culture, yet the role of the masses within this culture was unclear, as was the popular nature of the language itself. Prylucki argued that dialectical research was needed for the kulturshprakh to represent the spoken language, while Weinreich, on the other hand, seems to have had a clearer sense of a difference between a kulturshprakh and a klal-shprakh, namely, that the kulturshprakh cannot be representative of a popular language. Prylucki and Weinreich disagreed, then, on the core concept of a kulturshprakh and the role of the masses in the language. Despite their inability to coherently explain a kulturshprakh as something more than a culturally prestigious language capable of representing high cultural functions, both agreed that a standardized language with a common orthography, lexicon, and supradialect was required for Yiddish to acquire the prestige of a kuiturshprakh. The only dissenting voice present in the journal was the Orthodox anti-Yiddishist Solomon Birnbaum, who argued that Yiddish should not be made into a kulturshpretkh and instead should focus on cultural aspects of the language that highlight Judaism rather than European culture. (53) He felt that YIVO, as a secular institution devoted to Yiddish scholarship, was over-stepping its bounds by dictating language policies, and further criticized the YIVO intelligentsia for dictating a standard pronunciation unrepresentative of the majority of Yiddish speakers. However, Birnbaum's voice was an anomaly among contributors to Yidish far ale. (54) These debates highlight the tension that existed between YIVO's function as an institution devoted to scholarship and its devotion to the needs of the majority of Yiddish speakers in Eastern Europe.

In the final issue, Yudl Mark served as coeditor, despite Prylucki's previous objections. Mark diffused the published attacks between Prylucki and Weinreich, and steered the journal towards a more reader-friendly direction by acknowledging public sentiments regarding the information presented in the journal thus far. Readers had expressed dissatisfaction with debates on language questions and instead desired a simple journal dedicated to a definitive authority on language standardization. Although it is clear that this is similar to what Weinreich intended for the journal, Mark suggested that debates among the linguists showed that presenting a standardized language would be premature. Ultimately, Mark felt that the journal should be used as a forum for language standardization, which was Prilutski's intention, rather than the definitive source on a klal-shprakh, which Weinreich preferred. (55)

Yiddish far ale ceased publication in the summer of 1939 after less than two years and only fourteen issues. When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, Prylucki and other members of the Yiddishist intelligentsia fled Nazi-ruled Warsaw to a seemingly safer Vilna, then under Soviet followed by Lithuanian control. (56) With Weinreich overseas and members of the philological section geographically scattered, (57) the YIVO intelligentsia turned to more pressing matters. (58) By May 1940, no further issues had been published and it was instead decided to wait for an announcement from Weinreich on the future of the journal. (59) Once YIVO reestablished itself in New York City, Weinreich and others began pursuing a panicked course of documenting the language of a now destroyed community, while Prylucki was shot by the Nazis in 1941. (60) Later on, Weill reich articulated in his History of the Yiddish Language that a kulturshprakh should not be a popular endeavor and was not intended for every Yiddish speaker. (61) In the mean time, YIVO altered the course of its linguistic journal for a popular audience with its publication of Yidishe shprakh beginning in 1941, intended to replace the plagued Yidish far ale. (62) Ultimately, Yidish far ale was a final but failed attempt at reconciling the Vilna YIVO's ambitions as a scholarly institution with its commitment to the Yiddish-speaking Eastern European Jewish masses.


Archival Collections

Lithuania Central State Archives (LCVA), Vilnius, Lithuania LCVA 287, YIVO collection

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO), New York

RG 1.1, YIVO Vilna administration

RG 11, Vilbig collection

RG 540, Yudl Mark collection

RG 584, Max Weinreich collection

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Weinreich, Max. "A vort frier funem redaktor." Der oyster fun der yidisher shprakh, ix-xii. New York: yidisher visnshaftlekher institut, 1950.

--. History of the Yiddish Language. New Haven: Yale. University Press, 2008.

Weiser, Kalman. "Mother-tongue, Mame-loshn, and Kulturshprakh." In Czernowitz at 100: The First Yiddish Language Conference in Historical Perspective, 55-74. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2010.

--. "Noah Pryhicki." The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. New haven: Yale University Press, 2008. 2:1480.

--. "The Orthodox Orthography of Solomon Birnbaum." Studies in Contemporary Jewry 20 (2004): 275-95.

--. "The Yiddishist Ideology of Noah Ptylucki." Polin 21 (2009): 363-400. Yidish far ale. (Vilna: Yidisher visnshaftlekher institut, 1938-39). Yidishe shprakh. (New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, founded 1941).


(1.) For a comprehensive history on the Yiddish language, see Weinreich, History of the Yiddish Language

(2.) On the linguistic acculturation of Polish Jewry, see Shmeruk, "Hebrew-Yiddish-Polish," 285-311.

(3.) Dawidowicz, From That Place and Time, 99-100.

(4.) On the history of YIVO in its Vilna period see Kuznitz, The Origins of Yiddish Scholarship.

(5.) Undated letter from Prylucki explaining the role of Yidish far ale. He describes the goal of a "philological excitement" in a private letter to Zalmen Rejzen, in which he discloses to Rejzen his goals as editor. Letter to Zalmen Rejzen, 3 September 1938, YIVO Collection, record group 287, inventory 1, file 29, LCVA, Vilnius, Lithuania.

(6.) Fishman The Rise of Modern Yiddish Culture, 99; Goldsmith. Modern. Yiddish Culture, 45; Weiser, "Mother-tongue," 58-59.

(7.) Cecile Kuznitz makes this connection in her unpublished doctoral dissertation. See The Qrigins, 8-11.

(8.) This is illustrated by the Polish census of 1931, where 79.9% of Polish Jewry declared Yiddish as their mother tongue, yet did not necessarily declare their national affiliation as Jewish. See Mendelsohn, The Jews, 31.

(9.) Goldsmith, Modern Yiddish Culture, 183-221.

(10.) Borochov, "Di ufgabn fun," 1-22.

(11.) Kuznitz, The Origins.

(12.) Mendelson, The Jews, 31.

(13.) On Soviet Yiddish see Estraikh, Soviet Yiddish.

(14.) Weiser, "The Orthodox Orthography," 275-95.

(15.) "Barikht fun undzer tsveyter shul-baratung," Di naye shul, no. 3, 1920, 42.

(16.) See Mendelsohn, The Jews, 31. However, as Mendelsohn notes, the 1931 Polish census did not ask for national affiliation. Therefore, various political movements in jewish communities throughout Poland launched campaigns urging those filling out the census to declare Yiddish or Hebrew, depending on political affiliation, as one's mother tongue in lieu of national affiliation. Therefore, while the data on Yiddish mother tongue in the 1931 census is more reliable than data on Hebrew mother tongue declaration, it still must be understood with some skepticism. Furthermore, this also cannot be compared to the 1921 Polish census since it did not include the territory of Vilna and the surrounding region, which was only annexed by Poland in 1922, and where a larger number of Yiddish speakers resided.

(17.) Shmeruk, "Hebrew-Yiddish-Polish," 285-311.

(18.) See Bacon, "National Revival," 71-92; Iram, "The Persistence of Jewish Ethnic Identity," 273-82.

(19.) Examples of this aside from the publication of Yidish far ale include programs intended to educate Polish-Jewish workers in a high Yiddish culture initiated by the Vilner bildungs gezelshaft (Vilna Educational Society), or Vilbig, in 1937. See Vilbig Collection, Record Group 111, box 2, folder 23, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.

(20.) Kuznitz, The Origins of Yiddish Scholarship, 167-69.

(21.) Reyzen, Gramatik fun der yidisher shprakh. See also Schaechter, Fun folksshprakh tsu kulturshprakh, 4.

(22.) kazdan to Weinreich, 1936, YIVO Vilna Administration, Record Group 1.1, Box 25, Folder 534, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.

(23.) Kuznitz, The Origins of Yiddish Scholarship, 169.

(24.) Prylucki, "A vort in a min general-diskusye," Yidish far ale 12 (February-March 1939).

(25.) Hutton, "What Was Going On," 34.

(26.) Di tsveyte yidishe, 17-25.

(27.) Hutton, "What Was Going On," 34.

(28.) "yedies un korespondents," Yidish far ale 1 (March 1938): 32.

(29.) Prylucki, undated letter, YIVO Vilna Administration, Record Group 1.1, Box 28, Folder 602, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.

(30.) Zalmen Reyzen, "Nokh 20 yor," Yidish far ale 1 (March 1938): 29.

(31.) Kalmanovitsh to Yudl Mark, 8 May 1938, Yudl Mark Collection, Record Group 540, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.

(32.) Prylucki to YIVO administration, 11 July 1938, YIVO Collection, Record Group 287, Inventory 1, File 29, LCVA, Vilnius, Lithuania.

(33.) Prylucki to YIVO, 11 July 1938, YIVO Collection, Record Group 287, Inventory 1, File 29, LCVA, Vilnius, Lithuania. It also seems that Prylucki had earlier agreed that the journal should be published in Vilna. Prylucki to YIVO, 24 November 1937, YIVO Collection, Record Group 287, Inventory 1, File 29, LCVA, Vilnius, Lithuania.

(34.) Weinreich, "A vort frier funem redactor," ix-xii.

(35.) Jacobs, Yiddish, 286. See also Yudl Mark, "A por gor vikhtike sfeykes," Yidish far ale 9 (1938): 233-44; 10 (1938): 265-72; 14 (1939): 97-100. Note that Yudl Mark also gave a paper by the same title at a general meeting of the philological section in October 1938: "Farbreytere zitsung fun der filologisher sektsye fun yivo, October 1938" YIVO Vilna Administration, Record Group 1.1, Box 29, Folder 609, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.

(36.) Jacobs, Yiddish, 290.

(37.) Prylucki and Zalmen Reyzen, "Yidishe kindershprakh," Yidish far ale 2 (1938): 55.

(38.) Unsigned letter from YIVO to Tsisho dated 2 February 1939. Kazdan had requested 100 copies of Di shvartse pintelekh for Tsisho schools and, evidently, YIVO used the money Tsisho had sent as their subscription to Yidish far ale to cover the cost of the books. Unsigned Letter YIVO to Tsisho, 2 February 1939, YIVO Vilna Administration, Record Group 1.1, Box 18, Folder 534, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research., New York.

(39.) See Schaechter, Fun folkshprakh tsu kulturshprakh, 4-5.

(40.) Aron Tseytlin, "tsvishn verter," Yidish Far ale 2 (April 1938): 56.

(41.) Weinreich, "Daytshmerist toyg nit," Yidish far ale 4 (june 1938): 2.

(42.) Weinreich, "zibn numern yidish far ale." Yidish far ale 10 (December 1938): 281.

(43.) Prylucki, "Metodologishe bamerkungen tsum problem daytshmerish," Yidish Jar ale 8 (October 1938): 206.

(44.) Prylucki, "Yidishe kindershprakh," Yidish far ale 2 (April 1938): 55.

(45.) Ibid., 55.

(46.) Zelig Kalmanovitsh, "Der shoresh fun dayishmerish," Yidish far ale 8 (October 1938): 209; Prilutski, "Internatsyonalism," Yidish far ale 5 (July 1938): 129.

(47.) Max Weinreich, "zibn numern yidish far ale," Yidish far ate 10 (December 1938): 281-90.

(48.) Prilutski, Yidish far ale 10 (December 1938): 290.

(49.) Prylucki, "A vont, in a min general-diskusye," far ale 'II (January 1939): 1-23.

(50.) Prylucki. "A vont in a min general-diskusye," Yidish Jar ale 13 (April-May 1939): 65.

(51.) Prylucki, "fraynt shraybn--mir entfern," Yidish far ale 3 (May 1938): 90.

(52.) Ibid., 90.

(53.) On Birnbaum's language ideology see Kalman Weiser, "The Orthodox Orthography," 275-95.

(54.) Solomon Birnbaum, "Shutvesdik shrayb-loslm un Shutvesdike khevre," Yidish far ale 9 (November 1938): 245-54.

(55.) Yudl Mark, "A pot gor vikhtike sfeykes," Yidish far ale 9 (1938): 233-44.

(56.) Weiser, "The Yiddishist Ideology," 394.

(57.) At a meeting of YIVO, Prylucki complained of the nonexistence of the philological section since its members were scattered throughout the world. Vilna YIVO minutes, 27 January 1939, Max Weinreich Collection, Record Group 584, Box 30, Folder 293 A, YIVO Insititutc for Jewish Research, New York.

(58.) Vilna YIVO minutes, 10 December 1939, Max Weinreich Collection, Record Group 584, Box 30, Folder 293 A, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.

(59.) Vilna YIVO minutes, 4 May 1940, Max Weinreich Collection, Record Group 584, Box 30, Folder 293 A, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York.

(60.) Weiser, "Noah Prylucki," 2:1480.

(61.) Weinreich, History of the Yiddish language, 721.

(62.) Yudl Mark, "Fun der redaktsye," Yidishe shprakn 1, no. 1 (1941): 1-2.

Shofar is pleased to join with the Midwest Jewish Studies Association in encouraging graduate work in Jewish Studies by publishing each year the paper chosen at the annual Midwest Jewish Studies Conference to receive the Graduate Student Paper Award. Jordana de Biome was the 2011 recipient.
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