For the Love of Yiddish (in Israel)

Published: 
January 17, 2016

Source: Jerusalem Post

 

In 1996 The National Authority for Yiddish Culture was founded to develop, nurture and enable the continuation of Yiddish culture. Five years ago, with the Authority mired in debt, then Minister of Culture and Sport, Limor Livnat appointed Dr. Sara Ziv, a respected educator, to chair the organization with the mission of putting the Authority back in order. Ziv studied Yiddish at Bar Ilan University before going on to do her doctorate, which dealt with Yiddish at the time of the early settlement of the Land of Israel. She also holds a second PhD in teacher training, and continues to head the International Channel at the MOFET Institute for Teacher Training, a nonprofit supported by the Ministry of Education. With the Authority’s books now balanced, Ziv says it is now going “full steam ahead in reaching for its goals and it has already made some impressive achievements.”

The Authority works in several directions, explains Ziv. It awards an annual prize for Yiddish culture which last year was awarded to Shmulik Atzmon-Wircer, the founder of the Yiddishshpiel Theater, for life achievement in the field of Yiddish theater and this year is awarded to Rivka Basman Ben Haim, a Yiddish poet who also insists in translating her work to Hebrew and connects the past and the present.

The Authority held an event last year to mark 100 years to the death of the great Polish Yiddish author, I.L. Peretz and this year will mark 100 years since the death of the Russo-American Yiddish novelist and playwrite Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, better known under his pen name Shalom Aleichem, the author of Tevye and his Daughters, which was adapted to the play and movie Fiddler on the Roof.

The Authority also conducts events on Holocaust Day and runs 12 clubs around the country aimed mostly at middle-aged people who heard Yiddish growing up and want to strengthen their connection to the language and culture, and for the elderly who grew up in a Yiddish-speaking environment.

Ziv though has no illusions that "we will wake up tomorrow morning and everyone will be speaking Yiddish." The goal of the Authority, she says, is to try to ensure that “there will be a continuation to this language and culture and that we will see works translated into Hebrew so that the youth of today can get to know writers and artists past and present and will get to know the cultural assets of the Jewish people.”

To that end, she says, the Authority provides support for institutions to create works of music, art and literature in Yiddish and providing a translation into Hebrew.

The Authority also gives scholarships to students researching Yiddish language and culture and works to promote Yiddish among youth by supporting schools that have a Yiddish track for matriculation.

Read more at the Jerusalem Post.

Updated: Jan. 28, 2016
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