Special Issue

There’s a Jewish Way of Saying Things

Essays in Honor of David Roskies

Edit­ed by Avra­ham Rosen and Jil­lian David­son, this col­lec­tion of essays in hon­or of David Roskies con­sid­ers the res­o­nances between Jew­ish speech and Jew­ish texts. Draw­ing upon sources stretch­ing across the time and space of Jew­ish writ­ing and speech, these essays con­sid­er how uttered sound makes itself heard with­in writ­ten Jew­ish texts.


Editor's Introduction
I. Speaking Jewish Traditionally
II. Speaking in Jewish Tongues
III. Speaking Jewish and the Holocaust
IV. Speaking Anglo Jewish

Editor's Introduction


Introduction: There’s a Jewish Way of Saying Things

Avraham (Alan) Rosen

Rosen introduces There’s a Jewish Way of Saying Things: Essays In Honor of David Roskies by reflecting on how Jewish speech—the spoken word, the vibrating resonance of uttered sound—finds its way back into text.

I. Speaking Jewish Traditionally

Torah and Tal­mud — the bedrock texts of Jew­ish tra­di­tion — mod­el Jew­ish ways of speak­ing, while speak­ing with their own inim­itable voice.


Translating As Saying

Lawrence Rosenwald

Can Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig’s translation of the Hebrew Bible be considered a form of Jewish speech? When and how does translation become a Jewish way of talking?


The Choir and the Orchestra: Two Kinds of Divine Praise

George Savran

When read together, Psalms 148 and 150 instruct the reader to constantly shift between the universal and the particular, between praying for the welfare of the world and focusing on the people of Israel.


Talmud Talk and Jewish Talk

David Kraemer

What are the parallels between “Jewish conversation” and Talmudic discourse? Is there something inherently Talmudic about Jewish speech?


Critical Discourse as a Jewish Thing and Its Beginnings in the Bible

Edward Greenstein

The Biblical record provides a set of powerful models for critical discourse, creating narratives, laws, and prophetic modes that emphasize the practice of verbal critique.

II. Speaking in Jewish Tongues

Mod­ern Yid­dish lit­er­a­ture often begins from the attempt to cap­ture Jew­ish speech, con­fronting depths of emo­tion­al expres­sion, the bonds of inter­fa­mil­ial com­mu­ni­ca­tion, and the con­straints and pos­si­bil­i­ties of tra­di­tion and innovation.


Der Alter Tevye Lebt!: Speech and Communication

Ruth R. Wisse

Sholem Aleichem and Tevye depend on one another—for Wisse, their conversations form a miniature Jewish territory where together they reassert moral control.


Viva Voce: Vicissitudes of the Spoken Word in Hebrew Literature

Alan Mintz

Why does the Hebrew novel have a problem with speech? Alan Mintz on the non-dialogical and the monological in modern Hebrew literature.


Sholem Aleichem’s Stempenyu: Speaking through Song

Avraham Novershtern

Translation by Avi Steinhart

How does one write about romance in Yiddish? Sholem Aleichem’s 1888 novel Stempenyu poses this question through an examination of the gendered limitations on Jewish literary love.


Raysn: The Belarusian Frontier of Yiddish Modernism

Mikhail Krutikov

On the eve of World War I, poets Leyb Naydus, Moyshe Kulbak, and Elkhonen Vogler developed a sensitivity to nature in an attempt to reclaim the imaginary Jewish territories of Lite and Raysn.


Badkhones in Life and Cinema: A Reading of the Marshalik in the 1937 Dybbuk Film

Joel Rosenberg

The wedding bard of The Dybbuk is a paradoxical figure: a professional outsider who speaks into being the layered complexity of S. An-ski’s artistic project.


Hertz Grosbard’s Jewspeak: The Lost Art of Word Concerts

Agnieszka Legutko

Hertz Grosbard’s “word concerts” were an embodiment of “Jewspeak,” performances that sought to give life to the Yiddish literary tradition.


Nit dos dorf, nit di kretshme: Speaking About Jewish Taverns in the Works of Sholem Aleichem

Adi Mahalel

The tavern is a fixture of the shtetl universe—but it also exists on the margins, where, for Sholem Aleichem, you can also find the chaos of modernity.

III. Speaking Jewish and the Holocaust

How can one main­tain a Jew­ish way of say­ing things” in the face of disaster?


Orphaned Words: Yiddish, English, and Child Speech in Postwar Cinema

Hannah Pollin-Galay

Is there a Jewish way of not saying things? In facing crises in language during the immediate post-Holocaust years, filmmakers in English and Yiddish made choices about how to balance repair and critique.


The Fourth Child

Hillel Schwartz

The author reflects on his own experiences encountering David Roskies in the 1960s and collaborating with him in Holocaust remembrance at a very different time than our present context for the memory and commemoration of the Holocaust.


Double or Nothing: Jewish Speech and Silence in Georges Perec’s *W ou le souvenir d’enfance”

Marc Caplan

This article considers the phantom traces of Yiddish in Georges Perec’s W ou le souvenir d’enfance (1975).


Letters Without Addresses: Abraham Sutzkever’s Late Style

Saul Noam Zaritt

Abraham Sutzkever’s poetry is often read within the confines of “Holocaust literature”. This essays reads a selection of Sutzkever’s poetry against the Holocaust, against the apocalypse, and against the horizons of meaning that the label of “Holocaust literature” might impose.


Split Identity: Jewish Scholarship in the Vilna Ghetto

David E. Fishman

In this essay, David Fishman draws a comparison between yidishe visnshaft, or Jewish studies scholarship, and Judenforschung, the Nazi field of antisemitic Jewish studies used to justify the persecution and extermination of Jews in scientific terms.

IV. Speaking Anglo Jewish

Speak­ing Jew­ish can cre­ate a zone of iden­ti­ty that mas­tery of Eng­lish threat­ens to efface. Anglo-Jew­ish writ­ers both reflect and chal­lenge this state of affairs — includ­ing devis­ing a new slant­ed and mul­ti­di­rec­tion­al way of speaking.


Breaking Ground, Broken English: Abraham Cahan’s The Imported Bridegroom

Hana Wirth-Nesher

Cahan’s characters speak in broken languages, and in so doing find themselves unable to find stable ground in America.


Cod Yiddish From Across the Pond: Howard Jacobson’s Finklerspeak

Jillian Davidson

Howard Jacobson tests the limits and contours of a Jewish way of speaking, presenting an Anglo-Jewish dialogue with post-imperial culture.


Shylock’s Jewish Way of Speaking

Nahma Sandrow

What if Shylock spoke Yiddish? One experimental production of Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” did just that.