Page 90 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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T H E F U T U R E O F Y I D D I S H AND
Y I D D I S H L I T E R A T U R E *
B
y
I
saac
B
a s h e v i s
S
ing er
A
t
m y
l e c t u r e s
I am often asked: what will happen to
Yiddish literature if Jews in America, Israel and elsewhere
discontinue using Yiddish?
My answer is: no matter what happens to Yiddish, its creative
treasures can never be lost. The Ashkenazic Jew is a product
of Yiddish, whether he be orthodox or atheist, whether he still
speaks this language or no longer knows it. No less than six
hundred years of Jewish history in Eastern and Central Europe
are connected with Yiddish. We cannot conceive of an Old World
Yeshiva without Yiddish. Hasidism is a product of Yiddish. The
Enlightenment, which often scorned Yiddish, arose among Yid-
dish-speaking Jews. Moreover, sad it may sound, even assimi-
lationism began in Yiddish. Yiddish was the air breathed by
many generations of Jews. Yiddish was the language of the
Lovers of Zion and of most Zionists. “Congress-Deutsch,” the
so-called German spoken at Zionist congresses, was really a
dressed-up Yiddish.
Many young Hebraists forget that the creators of the neo-
Hebrew literature were also the classicists of Yiddish literature.
Some of the Hebraists who repudiated and hated Yiddish still
thought, spoke, dreamed, and often wrote in Yiddish. Indeed,
they used Yiddish to deprecate Yiddish. For many
maskilim
Yiddish became the symbol of backwardness, provincialism,
superstition, spiritual petrifaction, in short, the symbol of the
shtetl. But where did the
maskilim,
Zionists, Jewish socialists,
halutzim,
and even the present “Canaanites” come from if not
from the shtetl? And was not the shtetl also the original home
of most Jews now in America, England, France and Soviet
Russia?
The tremendous importance of Yiddish literature, from the
Bovo-Bukh
until the present, has not yet been appreciated.
* Translated by Sol Liptzin.
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