Feb 27, 2018
Our esteemed readers often turn to us, the wise editors of In geveb, for advice and counsel. We cannot tell you how many dozens of email inquiries we receive every week: “Dear editors, what Yiddish book should I read next?” “Dear editors, why do you take so long to respond to my submissions?” “Dear editors, if two trains are 120 miles apart and are traveling toward each other at a constant rate of 30 miles per hour and 40 miles per hour, respectively, how far apart will they be 1 hour before they meet?” Since we are already your most trusted and esteemed advisor on matters both significant and mundane, from broken hearts to broken pencils, we are pleased to introduce a new advice column. In this occasional series we will answer questions from our readers (or make them up if your lives and quandaries aren’t quite interesting enough), then answer them with our sage and all-knowing advice. We feel that we are certain to expand our readership, further conflate and confuse the relationship between fiction and journalism, and foster community by printing real and fake stories and questions from your lives, right here on our illustrious digital pages. Please write to us — we look forward to heavily editing your questions and tantalizing our audiences with them!
Read on for a taste of our carefully meted advice.
I am confident that you will publish my letter in the Bintel Brief column, just as you have others. Please give me good advice, and I assure you that I will act accordingly.
Five years ago, when I was a youth of 18, I became close with a young woman who was a fellow student at my university. Living in the same dorm and always being together, we fell in love with a childish passion. Our love grew increasingly stronger and more intense, and our relationship became close. We used to take long walks on the quad. But there was a major impediment to our romance: She was studying German and I was studying Yiddish.
Once, on such a walk, I told her that I loved her, but that my commitment to Yiddish would keep me from her because she was not a Yiddish speaker. What would my Yiddish teachers and Yiddish community think if I dated someone who wasn’t studying Yiddish? How could I betray them in such a fashion?
She pledged to me that she would learn Yiddish so that nothing would keep us apart. Now, years later, I realize my big mistake. We remain a committed couple and our love for one another has only blossomed and grown. But her Yiddish is atrocious. I cannot tell you how it pains me when she answers my “tsi hostu mikh lib, tayerinke?” with “akh, vi libe ish dish, mayn shats!” Instead of “af or “uf” she insists on saying “auf”, and the endless waiting for verbs flung to the end of her sentences!
Worthy Editor, what can I do? I am overcome with despair at the struggle inside of me between my love for Yiddish and for my beloved. Can she be a good person, and worthy of my love, if she mispronounces Yiddish in this way? I await your answer with feverish impatience.
A Lover in Despair
If the writer reads In geveb, they know our opinion of mixed relationships. The writer should not fear in loving someone who speaks a different language. Are there not terrible experiences also among those who marry into their own language too? Does the writer think that among the thousands of millions of people in the world the only good ones are to be found among the Yiddish speakers? Among all peoples there are different individuals – there are good and bad people, and if they have found a good one, they should overlook the linguistic lapses. Nevertheless, we suggest that the writer attend a summer program with their beloved. Please click on this link to learn more.
Worthy Editor of In geveb!
A good, human heart shines out from your responses to the suffering of so many different people. Therefore, I hope that you will honor my situation with your good answer and advice.
My wife and I are Yiddish speakers who want to raise our children speaking Yiddish. But for years, we have been reading criticisms of contemporary Jewish nostalgia and the kind of cloying, sentimentalized way Jews today treat the Jews of the past. We have struggled with the role that Yiddish has to play in today’s secular Jewish world.
We are in the process of adopting our first child and we are hesitant to raise it to speak Yiddish because we do not want to be accused of Yiddish nationalism or nostalgia. We have therefore decided to raise the child with postvernacular Yiddish as its mother tongue.
We know that you publish pedagogical tools for the Yiddish language classroom, but we believe that you have never published resources for parents raising their children to speak postvernacular Yiddish. Please send us suggestions for reading groups, parenting classes, and children’s books to help us raise our children not to speak Yiddish, but to speak about it, and to use it pointedly though sparingly in their day-to-day lives.
The Careful Not-Yiddishists
The question of whether and how to raise children speaking Yiddish is a difficult one. We recommend this Vaybertaytsh podcast on the subject, if your Yiddish is up to it. We applaud your commitment to a postvernacular Yiddish household, though we are not entirely sure what that means, and look forward to psychoanalysing, that is to say, interviewing your child about their relationship to Yiddish when they come of age. And if we can understand them.
Dear Worthy and Esteemed Editor,
Please answer my plea for advice.
I am a graduate student and an activist, committed to the fight for progressive pedagogy and improved working conditions for graduate students and university staff. Together with fellow graduate students, I have marched, picketed, argued, and participated in strikes for livable wages, improved healthcare access, increasing the number of faculty of color, and fighting attacks on civil, political, and social rights. I am proud of this important work.
Yet, I am distraught over an issue that has arisen in my activism. No matter how many times I raise the issue, I cannot convince my university’s graduate student union to put my one, small request on the meeting agenda. What has become of union democracy in this day and age? I want our union to affiliate with the International Jewish Labor Bund. Why does the graduate student union refuse to prioritize the needs of the Jewish people? Why do they not see that it is essential that we support free, autonomous self-determination for Jews to maintain a secularized Jewish culture in the Yiddish language?
Worthy Editor, please tell me if I can continue to be involved in activism if Yiddish culture is not on the agenda.
An Agitated Agitator
We believe, without question, that your participation in the graduate student union is worthwhile, whether or not Yiddish is explicitly a part of the group’s agenda. We encourage you to take part in a movement far larger than the sectarian needs of Yiddish speakers, as generations of activists have done before you, even as you hold your love for Yiddish in your heart and wear it on your sleeve, perhaps with one of these stylish patches made by Tsibele.
אַ פֿריילעכן פּורים, לייענערס!
a freylekhn purim, leyeners!