Page 110 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 51

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102
JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
WIDER HORIZONS
Although during the 17th and 18th centuries most Yiddish
books were published in Western Europe, the intended audi­
ence included Eastern European Jews as well. The publishers
retained the older conventions of written Yiddish during those
critical years even as the spoken language was becoming increas­
ingly different from the printed work. Thus could the publish­
ers accommodate their far-flung readers.18 As the number of
Yiddish speakers declined in German-speaking lands, Eastern
Europe became the major site for the publishers and the au­
dience of the
Tsene-rene.
However, the
Tsene-rene
maintained its hold over German­
speaking traditional Jews for many years as historian Steven
M. Lowenstein points out. “The last known literary Yiddish
book in Germany was the Sulzbach
Tse’ena Ure’na
of 1836. Al­
though the book was no longer printed in Yiddish thereafter,
it long continued to enjoy remarkable popularity.” Lowenstein
notes that while the title page is in High German with some
Hebrew, the body of the book “is virtually unchanged from
18th century editions.” He cites the title page: “An educational
book of great use both for the male and female sex, who desire
to occupy their hours of leisure on Sabbath and Holidays in
religious meditation; they find it sufficient entertainment and
can learn many scholarly things almost useful for everyone. And
so that even the man without any financial resources can now
own this (formerly so expensive) book, we have decided to re­
print it with much better paper and better discount (?) than
previously. 19 In another context Lowenstein cites a reference
to the
Tsene-rene
in one of the many dialect satires that were
popular in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries
where Yiddish was used for comic purposes. One such has the
bride’s father advising his daughter about proper reading hab­
its: “Keep away from non-kosher, impure German reading
[treyfe daytche
]. We have nice books in Jewish too. Read the
Tse’ena Ure’ena nicely every Sabbath afternoon....20
Lowenstein’s personal experiences also attest to the contin­
uing impact of the
Tsene-rene.
His grandmother, who was born
18. Shmeruk,
For Max Weinreich,
334.
19. Lowenstein, 186 n.
20. Lowenstein, 198 n.