Aug 14, 2015
Seize and change—
Like a black cord,
Like an evil snake,
slithering through the years—
Like a mute lament
crying through the generations:
Never emptied, the goblet,
Never summited, the mountain
Never fully constructed, the tower
Never seen to the end, the dream.
אָן אַ שיעור געשטאַלטן,
אָן אַ צאָל גלגולים,
נעמט עס אָן און בײַט זיך –
ווי אַ שנור אַ שוואַרצע,
ווי אַ שלאַנג אַ בייזע,
קריכט עס דורך די צײַטן –
ווי אַ שטילער יאָמער,
וויינט עס דורך די דורות: –
ניט דערזופּט דעם בעכער,
ניט דערגרייכט דעם באַרג-שפּיץ.
ניט דערבויט דעם טורעם,
ניט דערטרוימט דעם חלום…
This is the first poem from In geveb (1919), a two-volume collection of poems written by Yehoash (Solomon Blumgarten, 1872–1927). Geveb is a Yiddish word meaning texture, fabric, or weave. By naming his volume In geveb, Yehoash expresses the belief that all of Jewish and Yiddish culture—past, present, and future—can be woven into poetry. In the case of this poem, Solomon’s ring is reclaimed from the past and transformed into a kind of sigil, an emblem for a culture that always endures yet continues to change even when it seems poised to disappear.
More practically and much more to the point: Geveb is also a word for web and in geveb is a roundabout way of saying “online.” Our aim is to create an online version of Yehoash’s dream, to use new tools and technologies to continue weaving the web of Yiddish culture. Print operates in words and still images. The web allows us to present texts, images, video, and audio, and to use dynamic design to enhance the experience of reading, hearing, and seeing Yiddish. The dual language capabilities of the site make it possible to publish in both the original Yiddish and in English, with the reader able to choose which—or both—she wants to read at once.
The idea for an online journal of Yiddish Studies germinated in 2010 at Ben-Gurion University. At a session devoted to the future of Yiddish Studies organized by David Roskies, scholars and students expressed what they considered to be the field’s most pressing need: a new way to share their work and engage in the essential conversations that enable new scholarship. The last journal solely devoted to Yiddish, Khulyot, ceased publication in 2008. Yiddish scholars have since been without a regularly published journal to share their research. Roskies approached the Naomi Foundation and asked them to support the creation of a new online journal of Yiddish Studies. After discussions about the project’s feasibility and direction, Roskies and the Naomi Foundation completed a search for committed young scholars of Yiddish to lead the project. We agreed to take on the project as coeditors.
In establishing a new journal of Yiddish Studies, our first goal was to create a site that presents the diversity of what Yiddish Studies might be—the study of Yiddish literature, theater, linguistics, history, anthropology, ethnomusicology, and beyond. We are committed to publishing high-quality, peer-reviewed academic articles that engage with past forms of Yiddish scholarship but that also seek out new conversations and connections with a variety of academic disciplines. We want to trace how Yiddish breaks away from its traditional disciplinary boundaries into larger academic discourses. In Fall 2014, the editors organized a panel on the future of Yiddish Studies at the Association for Jewish Studies Conference. A packed room of diverse stakeholders listened as younger scholars discussed the importance of refreshing Yiddish studies. Panelists argued that we need to incorporate new methodologies and theories—but that we also need to use the case of Yiddish to correct and refine these theories. Others discussed the future of language pedagogy and the need for continued archival work, reminding us that counter-theories of Yiddish cultural history emerge when we peer into the archive and open ourselves to topics that were once considered taboo. The response to the session was enthusiastic. Other scholars shared their visions of Yiddish studies with us. So now In geveb officially begins with a symposium on the state of Yiddish Studies, a series of short essays by a variety of scholars on the new questions facing the field. It is a topic we will return to every few years. The discussion of what Yiddish Studies can be should never end.
But In geveb was also born from the idea that the academic article is not the sole source of knowledge, nor the only way to learn about a culture. In geveb is open to publishing any kind of material that engages the audience in the world of Yiddish and makes it accessible. Besides academic articles, In geveb has three other sections: texts and translations, pedagogy, and the In geveb blog.
The texts and translations section features original translations of the work of well-known Yiddish writers—as in the first translations of David Bergelson’s novel Mides hadin (Harsh Judgment) and of a prose poem by Abraham Sutzkever. But we will also publish material that likely would not find any other publisher: a droshe (sermon) of Reb Aron of Karlin, an essay on the politics of translation by Chaim Zhitlowsky.
Our pedagogy section will give Yiddish language teachers a space to share strategies and methodologies, materials, and their own experiences in the classroom with other teachers: from discussions surrounding which textbooks a teacher uses to evaluating lesson plans for that difficult first day of class.
And finally, the In geveb blog. We want In geveb to be a locus of public scholarship. We believe in sharing our dynamic cultural discoveries with broader audiences and in writing in ways that are both intellectual and playful. Expect reports from international conferences and expect a listicle of the five best-dressed Yiddish writers. Expect essays, interviews, podcasts, and videos.
We worked with our design team to embed this range of topics and formats within a bold visual identity. With our guidance, the designers came up with imagery that reflects the dynamism of Yiddish, that echoes past forms of Yiddish intellectual culture—the modernist journal in particular—while signaling our commitment to new horizons for Yiddish Studies.
Our name recalls Yehoash’s vision of the fabric that weaves in all aspects of Yiddish culture. But we take as our sigil 1 1 Note: the editors perhaps watch too much Game of Thrones. the image of the golden peacock, di goldene pave, the symbol of Yiddish folk culture. The poet Itzik Manger explains:
די גאָלדענע פּאַווע איז אַ זעלטענער פֿויגל. איר קענט אויספֿאָרן אַ וועלט און איר וועט זי נישט באַגעגענען, איר וועט זי ערשט אָנטרעפֿן ווען איר וועט זיך באַקענען מיטן ייִדישן פֿאָלקסליד. דאָרט איז זי געבוירן געוואָרן.
The golden peacock is a rare bird. You can travel around the world and you will not encounter it. You’ll find it only if you make yourselves familiar with Yiddish folksong. There she is born.
This mythical creature has no country, but is alive everywhere that Yiddish is spoken and studied, and everywhere that Yiddish inspires. It is always moving through time, indeed a creature that does not rest and never completes its journey.
On that note, it is worth mentioning another deviation from print-media: the issue. We are able to publish material as soon as it is ready and to regularly engage with our readers. Rather than limit publishing to once every three months, we will post articles, translations, essays, and more two to three times a week.
In geveb has ambitious aims: to be the online home for Yiddish Studies; to catalyze new scholarship; to work with other Yiddish organizations on joint projects that highlight lost treasures; to cultivate the next generation of scholars/writers/teachers/thinkers on Yiddish cultural issues; and to host lively events that bring people together and, in so doing, learn that the Yiddish word oysgeputst may be translated as “trendy.” By embracing the possibilities of digital scholarship and pushing the boundaries of Yiddish Studies, In geveb is poised to be not only a repository for the forgotten archives of Yiddish culture but also, more importantly, a forum where these texts take on new forms and gain new readers and new audiences. Weaving together the voices and texts of Yiddish’s past, present, and future, our aim is to never summit the mountain and never empty the goblet—to never see this dream end.