Yiddish language
Overview
 
Yiddish is a High German language
High German languages
The High German languages or the High German dialects are any of the varieties of standard German, Luxembourgish and Yiddish, as well as the local German dialects spoken in central and southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg and in neighboring portions of Belgium and the...

 of Ashkenazi Jewish
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 origin, spoken throughout the world. It developed as a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

, Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, Slavic languages
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

 and traces of Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

. It is written
Yiddish orthography
The Yiddish language is written using Hebrew script as the basis of a full vocalic alphabet. This adaptation uses letters that are silent or glottal stops in Hebrew, as vowels in Yiddish...

 in the Hebrew alphabet
Hebrew alphabet
The Hebrew alphabet , known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script, block script, or more historically, the Assyrian script, is used in the writing of the Hebrew language, as well as other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. There have been two...

.

The language originated in the Ashkenazi culture that developed from about the 10th century in the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 and then spread to Central
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 and Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 and eventually to other continents. In the earliest surviving references to it, the language is called (loshn-ashknez = "language of Ashkenaz") and (taytsh, a variant of tiutsch, the contemporary name for the language otherwise spoken in the region of origin, now called Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

).
Encyclopedia
Yiddish is a High German language
High German languages
The High German languages or the High German dialects are any of the varieties of standard German, Luxembourgish and Yiddish, as well as the local German dialects spoken in central and southern Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg and in neighboring portions of Belgium and the...

 of Ashkenazi Jewish
Ashkenazi Jews
Ashkenazi Jews, also known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim , are the Jews descended from the medieval Jewish communities along the Rhine in Germany from Alsace in the south to the Rhineland in the north. Ashkenaz is the medieval Hebrew name for this region and thus for Germany...

 origin, spoken throughout the world. It developed as a fusion of German dialects with Hebrew
Hebrew language
Hebrew is a Semitic language of the Afroasiatic language family. Culturally, is it considered by Jews and other religious groups as the language of the Jewish people, though other Jewish languages had originated among diaspora Jews, and the Hebrew language is also used by non-Jewish groups, such...

, Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, Slavic languages
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

 and traces of Romance languages
Romance languages
The Romance languages are a branch of the Indo-European language family, more precisely of the Italic languages subfamily, comprising all the languages that descend from Vulgar Latin, the language of ancient Rome...

. It is written
Yiddish orthography
The Yiddish language is written using Hebrew script as the basis of a full vocalic alphabet. This adaptation uses letters that are silent or glottal stops in Hebrew, as vowels in Yiddish...

 in the Hebrew alphabet
Hebrew alphabet
The Hebrew alphabet , known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script, block script, or more historically, the Assyrian script, is used in the writing of the Hebrew language, as well as other Jewish languages, most notably Yiddish, Ladino, and Judeo-Arabic. There have been two...

.

The language originated in the Ashkenazi culture that developed from about the 10th century in the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 and then spread to Central
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 and Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 and eventually to other continents. In the earliest surviving references to it, the language is called (loshn-ashknez = "language of Ashkenaz") and (taytsh, a variant of tiutsch, the contemporary name for the language otherwise spoken in the region of origin, now called Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

). In common usage, the language is called (mame-loshn, literally "mother tongue"), distinguishing it from Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic
Aramaic language
Aramaic is a group of languages belonging to the Afroasiatic language phylum. The name of the language is based on the name of Aram, an ancient region in central Syria. Within this family, Aramaic belongs to the Semitic family, and more specifically, is a part of the Northwest Semitic subfamily,...

, which are collectively termed (loshn-koydesh, "holy tongue"). The term "Yiddish" did not become the most frequently used designation in the literature of the language until the 18th century.

For a significant portion of its history, Yiddish was the primary spoken language of the Ashkenazi Jews and once spanned a broad dialect continuum
Dialect continuum
A dialect continuum, or dialect area, was defined by Leonard Bloomfield as a range of dialects spoken across some geographical area that differ only slightly between neighboring areas, but as one travels in any direction, these differences accumulate such that speakers from opposite ends of the...

 from Western Yiddish to three major groups within Eastern Yiddish, namely Litvish, Poylish and Ukrainish. Eastern and Western Yiddish are most markedly distinguished by the extensive inclusion of words of Slavic
Slavic languages
The Slavic languages , a group of closely related languages of the Slavic peoples and a subgroup of Indo-European languages, have speakers in most of Eastern Europe, in much of the Balkans, in parts of Central Europe, and in the northern part of Asia.-Branches:Scholars traditionally divide Slavic...

 origin in the Eastern dialects. While Western Yiddish has few remaining speakers, Eastern dialects remain in wide use.

Yiddish is written and spoken in a number of Orthodox Jewish
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

 communities around the world, although there are also many Orthodox Jews who do not know Yiddish. It is a home language in most Hasidic
Hasidic Judaism
Hasidic Judaism or Hasidism, from the Hebrew —Ḥasidut in Sephardi, Chasidus in Ashkenazi, meaning "piety" , is a branch of Orthodox Judaism that promotes spirituality and joy through the popularisation and internalisation of Jewish mysticism as the fundamental aspects of the Jewish faith...

 communities, where it is the first language learned in childhood, used in schools and in many social settings. Yiddish is also the academic language of the study of the Talmud according to the tradition of the great Lithuanian Yeshivohs.

Yiddish is also used in the adjectival sense to designate attributes of Ashkenazic Jewish culture (for example, Yiddish cooking and Yiddish music
Klezmer
Klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe. Played by professional musicians called klezmorim, the genre originally consisted largely of dance tunes and instrumental display pieces for weddings and other celebrations...

).

History

The Ashkenazi culture that took root in 10th century Central Europe
Central Europe
Central Europe or alternatively Middle Europe is a region of the European continent lying between the variously defined areas of Eastern and Western Europe...

 derived its name from Ashkenaz
Ashkenaz
In the Bible, Ashkenaz is Gomer's first son, brother of Riphath and Togarmah , thereby a Japhetic descendant of Noah. A kingdom of Ashkenaz is called together with Ararat and Minni against Babylon In the Bible, Ashkenaz (Heb. אַשְׁכֲּנָז) is Gomer's first son, brother of Riphath and Togarmah (Gen....

(Genesis 10:3), the medieval Hebrew name
Hebrew name
Hebrew names are names that have a Hebrew language origin, classically from the Hebrew Bible. They are mostly used by people living in Jewish or Christian parts of the world, but some are also adapted to the Islamic world, particularly if a Hebrew name is mentioned in the Qur'an. When...

 for the territory centred on what is now the westernmost part of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

. Its geographic extent did not coincide with the German Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 principalities; Ashkenaz included Northern France. It also bordered on the area inhabited by the Sephardim, or Spanish
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 Jews, which ranged into Southern France
Southern France
Southern France , colloquially known as le Midi is defined geographical area consisting of the regions of France that border the Atlantic Ocean south of the Gironde, Spain, the Mediterranean, and Italy...

. Ashkenazi culture later spread into Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

.

The first language of European Jews may have been Aramaic, the vernacular of the Jews in Roman-era Palestine
Iudaea Province
Judaea or Iudaea are terms used by historians to refer to the Roman province that extended over parts of the former regions of the Hasmonean and Herodian kingdoms of Israel...

 and ancient and early medieval Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

. The widespread use of Aramaic among the large non-Jewish Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n trading population of the Roman provinces, including those in Europe, would have reinforced the use of Aramaic among Jews engaged in trade. In Roman times, many of the Jews living in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and Southern Italy appear to have been Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

-speakers, and this is reflected in some Ashkenazi personal names (e.g., Kalonymus). Much work needs to be done, though, to fully analyze the contributions of those languages to Yiddish.

Nothing is known about the vernacular
Vernacular
A vernacular is the native language or native dialect of a specific population, as opposed to a language of wider communication that is not native to the population, such as a national language or lingua franca.- Etymology :The term is not a recent one...

 of the earliest Jews in Germany, but several theories have been put forward. It is generally accepted that it was likely to have contained elements from other languages of the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

 and Europe, absorbed through dispersion. Since many settlers came via France and Italy, it is also likely that the Romance-based Jewish languages of those regions were represented. Traces remain in the contemporary Yiddish vocabulary: for example, (bentshn, to bless), from the Latin ; and the personal name Anshl, cognate to Angel or Angelo. Western Yiddish includes additional words of Latin derivation (but still very few): for example, orn (to pray), cf. Latin "orare."

Members of the young Ashkenazi community would have encountered the myriad dialects from which standard German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 was destined to emerge many centuries later. They would soon have been speaking their own versions of these German dialects, mixed with linguistic elements that they themselves brought into the region. These dialects would have adapted to the needs of the burgeoning Ashkenazi culture and may, as characterizes many such developments, have included the deliberate cultivation of linguistic differences to assert cultural autonomy. The Ashkenazi community also had its own geography, with a pattern of relationships among settlements that was somewhat independent of its non-Jewish neighbors. This led to the consolidation of Yiddish dialects, the borders of which did not coincide with the borders of German dialects.

Apart from the obvious use of Hebrew words for specifically Jewish artifacts, it is very difficult to determine the extent to which the Yiddish spoken in any earlier period differed from the contemporary German. There is a rough consensus that by the 15th century Yiddish would have sounded distinctive to the average German ear, even when restricted to the Germanic component of its vocabulary.

Written evidence

The oldest surviving literary document in Yiddish is a blessing in the Worms Mahzor, a Hebrew prayer book from 1272 (with a scalable image online at the indicated reference; described extensively in Frakes, 2004 and Baumgarten/Frakes, 2005):
Yiddish
Transliterated gut tak im betage se vaer dis makhazor in beis hakneses trage
Translated May a good day come to him who carries this prayer book into the synagogue.


This brief rhyme is decoratively embedded in a purely Hebrew text. Nonetheless, it indicates that the Yiddish of that day was a more or less regular Middle High German into which Hebrew words – makhazor
Mahzor
The mahzor is the prayer book used by Jews on the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Many Jews also make use of specialized mahzorim on the three "pilgrimage festivals" of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot...

 (prayer book for the High Holy Days) and beis hakneses (synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

) – had been included. The pointing appears as though it might have been added by a second scribe, in which case it may need to be dated separately and may not be indicative of the pronunciation of the rhyme at the time of its initial annotation.

Over the course of the 14th and 15th centuries, songs and poems in Yiddish, and also macaronic pieces in Hebrew and German, began to appear. These were collected in the late 15th century by Menahem ben Naphtali Oldendorf. During the same period, a tradition seems to have emerged of the Jewish community's adapting its own versions of German secular literature. The earliest Yiddish epic poem of this sort is the Dukus Horant
Dukus Horant
Dukus Horant is a 14th-century narrative poem in Judeo-German .-Importance:Dukus Horant is the best known of a number of works which survive in the famous Cambridge Codex T.-S.10.K.22. This manuscript was discovered in the Cairo Geniza in 1896, and contains a collection of narrative poems in a...

, which survives in the famous Cambridge Codex T.-S.10.K.22. This 14th-century manuscript was discovered in the geniza of a Cairo synagogue
Cairo Geniza
The Cairo Geniza is a collection of almost 280,000 Jewish manuscript fragments found in the Genizah or storeroom of the Ben Ezra Synagogue in Fustat, presently Old Cairo, Egypt. Some additional fragments were found in the Basatin cemetery east of Old Cairo, and the collection includes a number of...

 in 1896, and also contains a collection of narrative poems on themes from the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

 and the Haggadah.

Printing

The advent of the printing press
Printing press
A printing press is a device for applying pressure to an inked surface resting upon a print medium , thereby transferring the ink...

 resulted in an increase in the amount of material produced and surviving from the 16th century and onwards. One particularly popular work was Elia Levita's
Elia Levita
Elia Levita , also known as Elijah Levita, Elias Levita, Élie Lévita, Eliahu Bakhur was a Renaissance Hebrew grammarian, scholar and poet. He was influential in helping to create the Yiddish language...

 Bovo-Bukh
Bovo-Bukh
The Bovo-Bukh , written in 1507–1508 by Elia Levita, was the most popular chivalric romance in the Yiddish language. It was first printed in 1541, being the first non-religious book to be printed in Yiddish. For five centuries, it endured at least 40 editions...

, composed around 1507–08 and printed in at least forty editions, beginning in 1541. Levita, the earliest named Yiddish author, may also have written Pariz un Viene (Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

). Another Yiddish retelling of a chivalric romance, Vidvilt (often referred to as "Widuwilt" by Germanizing scholars), presumably also dates from the 15th century, although the manuscripts are from the 16th. It is also known as Kinig Artus Hof, an adaptation of the Middle High German romance Wigalois by Wirnt von Gravenberg. Another significant writer is Avroham ben Schemuel Pikartei, who published a paraphrase on the Book of Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

 in 1557.

Women in the Ashkenazi community were traditionally not literate in Hebrew, but did read and write Yiddish. A body of literature therefore developed for which women were a primary audience. This included secular works, such as the Bovo-Bukh, and religious writing specifically for women, such as the Tseno Ureno
Tseno Ureno
The Tseno Ureno , sometimes called the Women's Bible, was a 1616 Yiddish-language prose work whose structure parallels the weekly portions of the Pentateuch and Haftorahs used in Jewish worship services...

and the Tkhine
Tkhine
Tkhines were Yiddish-language prayer books, first compiled in the 17th century, for use by Ashkenazic Jewish women who, unlike the men of the time, typically could not read Hebrew, the language of the established synagogue prayer book...

s
. One of the best-known early woman authors was Glückel of Hameln
Glückel of Hameln
Glückel of Hameln was a Jewish businesswoman and diarist, whose account of life provides scholars with an intimate picture of German Jewish communal life in the late-17th-early eighteenth century Jewish ghetto...

, whose memoirs are still in print.
The segmentation of the Yiddish readership, between women who read mame-loshn but not loshn-koydesh, and men who read both, was significant enough that distinctive typeface
Typeface
In typography, a typeface is the artistic representation or interpretation of characters; it is the way the type looks. Each type is designed and there are thousands of different typefaces in existence, with new ones being developed constantly....

s were used for each. The name commonly given to the semicursive form used exclusively for Yiddish was (vaybertaytsh = "women's taytsh," shown in the heading and fourth column in the adjacent illustration), with square Hebrew letters (shown in the third column) being reserved for text in that language and Aramaic. This distinction was retained in general typographic practice through to the early 19th century, with Yiddish books being set in vaybertaytsh (also termed mesheyt or mashket — the construction is uncertain).

An additional distinctive semicursive typeface was, and still is, used for rabbinical commentary on religious texts when Hebrew and Yiddish appear on the same page. This is commonly termed Rashi script
Rashi script
Rashi script is a semi-cursive typeface for the Hebrew alphabet. It is named for the author of the most famous rabbinic commentary on the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud, Rashi, and is customarily used for printing his commentaries. The typeface is based on 15th century Sephardic semi-cursive...

, from the name of the most renowned early author, whose commentary is usually printed using this script. (Rashi is also the typeface normally used when the Sefardi counterpart to Yiddish, Ladino
Judaeo-Spanish
Judaeo-Spanish , in Israel commonly referred to as Ladino, and known locally as Judezmo, Djudeo-Espanyol, Djudezmo, Djudeo-Kasteyano, Spaniolit and other names, is a Romance language derived from Old Spanish...

, is printed in Hebrew script.)

Secularization

The Western Yiddish dialect - sometimes pejoratively labeled Mauscheldeutsch
(from Moischele-Deutsch or "Moses German") - began to decline in the 18th century, as the Enlightenment and the Haskalah
Haskalah
Haskalah , the Jewish Enlightenment, was a movement among European Jews in the 18th–19th centuries that advocated adopting enlightenment values, pressing for better integration into European society, and increasing education in secular studies, Hebrew language, and Jewish history...

led to the view of Yiddish as a corrupt dialect. Owing to both assimilation to German and the incipient creation of Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew , also known as Israeli Hebrew or Modern Israeli Hebrew, is the language spoken in Israel and in some Jewish communities worldwide, from the early 20th century to the present....

, Western Yiddish survived only as a language of "intimate family circles or of closely knit trade groups" (Liptzin 1972). Farther east, the response to this force took the opposite direction, with Yiddish becoming the cohesive force in a secular culture (see Yiddish Renaissance
Yiddish Renaissance
The Yiddish Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement which began among Jews in Eastern Europe during the latter part of the 19th Century. Some of the leading founders of this movement were Mendele Moykher-Sforim , I.L...

).

The late 19th and early 20th century are widely considered the Golden Age of secular Yiddish literature. This coincides with the development of Modern Hebrew as a spoken and literary language, from which some words were also absorbed into Yiddish. The three authors generally regarded as the founders of the modern Yiddish literary genre were born in the 19th century, but their work and significance continued to grow into the 20th. The first was Sholem Yankev Abramovitch, writing as Mendele Mocher Sforim
Mendele Mocher Sforim
Mendele Mocher Sforim , December 21, 1835 = January 2, 1836 , Kapyl — November 25, 1917 = December 8, 1917...

. The second was Sholem Rabinovitsh, widely known as Sholem Aleichem, whose stories about (tevye der milkhiker = Tevye the Dairyman
Tevye
Tevye the Dairyman is the protagonist of several of Sholem Aleichem's stories, originally written in Yiddish and first published in 1894. The character became best known from the fictional memoir Tevye and his Daughters , about a pious Jewish milkman in Tsarist Russia, and the troubles he has with...

) inspired the Broadway musical and film Fiddler on the Roof
Fiddler on the Roof
Fiddler on the Roof is a musical with music by Jerry Bock, lyrics by Sheldon Harnick, and book by Joseph Stein, set in Tsarist Russia in 1905. It is based on Tevye and his Daughters by Sholem Aleichem...

. The third was Isaac Leib Peretz
I.L. Peretz
Isaac Leib Peretz , also known as Yitskhok Leybush Peretz and Icchok Lejbusz Perec or Izaak Lejb Perec , best known as I.L. Peretz, was a Yiddish language author and playwright. Payson R. Stevens, Charles M...

.

20th century

In the early 20th century, especially after Socialist October Revolution
October Revolution
The October Revolution , also known as the Great October Socialist Revolution , Red October, the October Uprising or the Bolshevik Revolution, was a political revolution and a part of the Russian Revolution of 1917...

 in Russia, Yiddish was emerging as a major Eastern European language. Its rich literature was more widely published than ever, Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre
Yiddish theatre consists of plays written and performed primarily by Jews in Yiddish, the language of the Central European Ashkenazi Jewish community. The range of Yiddish theatre is broad: operetta, musical comedy, and satiric or nostalgic revues; melodrama; naturalist drama; expressionist and...

 and Yiddish film
National Center for Jewish Film
The National Center for Jewish Film is a non-profit motion picture archive, distributor, and resource center. It houses the largest collection of Jewish-themed film and video outside of Israel...

 were booming, and it even achieved status as one of the official languages of the Belarusian and the short-lived Galician SSR
Galician Soviet Socialist Republic
The Galician Soviet Socialist Republic existed from July 8, 1920 to September 21, 1920 during the Polish-Soviet War within the area of the South-Western front of the Red Army...

. Educational autonomy for Jews in several countries (notably Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

) after World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 led to an increase in formal Yiddish-language education, more uniform orthography, and to the 1925 founding of the Yiddish Scientific Institute, YIVO
YIVO
YIVO, , established in 1925 in Wilno, Poland as the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut , or Yiddish Scientific Institute, is a source for orthography, lexicography, and other studies related to the Yiddish language...

. Yiddish emerged as the national language of a large Jewish community in Eastern Europe that rejected Zionism
Zionism
Zionism is a Jewish political movement that, in its broadest sense, has supported the self-determination of the Jewish people in a sovereign Jewish national homeland. Since the establishment of the State of Israel, the Zionist movement continues primarily to advocate on behalf of the Jewish state...

 and sought Jewish cultural autonomy in Europe. It also contended with Modern Hebrew as a literary language among Zionists.

Yiddish changed significantly during the 20th century. Michael Wex
Michael Wex
Michael Wex is a Canadian novelist, playwright, translator, lecturer, performer, and author of books on language and literature. His specialty is Yiddish and his book Born to Kvetch was a surprise bestseller in 2005...

 writes, "As increasing numbers of Yiddish speakers moved from the Slavic-speaking East to Western Europe and the Americas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were so quick to jettison Slavic vocabulary that the most prominent Yiddish writers of the time—the founders of modern Yiddish literature, who were still living in Slavic-speaking countries—revised the printed editions of their oeuvres to eliminate obsolete and 'unnecessary' Slavisms." The vocabulary used in Israel absorbed many Modern Hebrew words, and there was a similar increase in the English component of Yiddish in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and, to a lesser extent, the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. This has resulted in some difficulty in communication between Yiddish speakers from Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 and those from other countries.

Numbers of speakers

On the eve of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, there were 11 to 13 million Yiddish speakers (Jacobs 2005). The Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

, however, led to a dramatic, sudden decline in the use of Yiddish, as the extensive Jewish communities, both secular and religious, that used Yiddish in their day-to-day life were largely destroyed. Around 85 percent of the Jews that died in the Holocaust – five million people – were speakers of Yiddish. Although millions of Yiddish speakers survived the war (including nearly all Yiddish speakers in the Americas), further assimilation in countries such as the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, along with the strictly monolingual stance of the Zionist movement, led to a decline in the use of Eastern Yiddish. However, the number of speakers within the widely dispersed Orthodox (mainly Hasidic) communities is now increasing. Although used in various countries, Yiddish has attained official recognition as a minority language only in Moldova
Moldova
Moldova , officially the Republic of Moldova is a landlocked state in Eastern Europe, located between Romania to the West and Ukraine to the North, East and South. It declared itself an independent state with the same boundaries as the preceding Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1991, as part...

, the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

and Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

.

Reports of the number of current Yiddish speakers vary significantly. Ethnologue
Ethnologue
Ethnologue: Languages of the World is a web and print publication of SIL International , a Christian linguistic service organization, which studies lesser-known languages, to provide the speakers with Bibles in their native language and support their efforts in language development.The Ethnologue...

 estimated in 2009 there were 1,762,320 speakers of Eastern Yiddish, of which over one-third lived in the United States. In contrast, the Modern Language Association
Modern Language Association
The Modern Language Association of America is the principal professional association in the United States for scholars of language and literature...

 reports fewer than 200,000 in the United States. Western Yiddish, which had "several tens of thousands of speakers" on the eve of the Holocaust, is reported by Ethnologue to have had an "ethnic population" of slightly below 50,000 in 2000. Other estimates are also given, for example, of a worldwide Yiddish-speaking population of about two million in 1996 in a report by the Council of Europe
Council of Europe
The Council of Europe is an international organisation promoting co-operation between all countries of Europe in the areas of legal standards, human rights, democratic development, the rule of law and cultural co-operation...

. Further demographic
Demographics
Demographics are the most recent statistical characteristics of a population. These types of data are used widely in sociology , public policy, and marketing. Commonly examined demographics include gender, race, age, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, and even location...

 information about the recent status of what is treated as an Eastern-Western dialect continuum is provided in the YIVO Language and Cultural Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (Language and Cultural Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry).

Status as a language

There has been frequent debate about the extent of the linguistic independence of Yiddish from the languages that it absorbed. There has been periodic assertion that Yiddish is a dialect of German, or even "just broken German, more of a linguistic mishmash than a true language". Even when recognized as an autonomous language, it has sometimes been referred to as Judeo-German, along the lines of other Jewish languages like Judeo-Persian or Judeo-French. A widely cited summary of attitudes in the 1930s was published by Max Weinreich
Max Weinreich
Max Weinreich was a linguist, specializing in the Yiddish language, and the father of the linguist Uriel Weinreich, who edited the Modern Yiddish-English English-Yiddish Dictionary.- Biography :Max Weinreich began his studies in a German school in Kuldiga,...

, quoting a remark by an auditor of one of his lectures: ( a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot—"A language is a dialect with an army and navy", facsimile excerpt at discussed in detail in a separate article). More recently, Prof. Paul Wexler, of Tel Aviv University in Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, has proposed that Eastern Yiddish should be classified as a Slavic language, formed by the relexification
Relexification
Relexification is a term in linguistics used to describe the mechanism of language change by which one language replaces much or all of its lexicon, including basic vocabulary, with that of another language, without drastic change to its grammar. It is principally used to describe pidgins, creoles,...

 of Judeo-Slavic dialects by Judeo-German.

Israel

The national languages of Israel are Hebrew and Arabic. The rejection of Yiddish as an alternative reflected the conflict between religious and secular forces. Many in the larger, secular group wanted a new national language to foster a cohesive identity, while traditionally religious Jews desired that Hebrew be respected as a holy language reserved for prayer and religious study. In the early twentieth century, Zionist immigrants in Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 tried to eradicate the use of Yiddish among their own population, and make its use socially unacceptable.

This conflict also reflected the opposing views among secular Jews worldwide, one side seeing Hebrew (and Zionism) and the other Yiddish (and Internationalism
Internationalism (politics)
Internationalism is a political movement which advocates a greater economic and political cooperation among nations for the theoretical benefit of all...

) as the means of defining emerging Jewish nationalism. In the 1920s and 1930s, gdud meginéy hasafá, "the language defendants regiment", whose motto was ivrí, dabér ivrít "Hebrew [i.e. Jew], speak Hebrew!", used to tear down signs written in "foreign" languages and disturb Yiddish theatre gatherings. However, according to linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann
Ghil'ad Zuckermann is an Israeli-Italian-British-Australian linguist, expert of language revival, contact linguistics, lexicology and the study of language, culture and identity...

, the members of this group in particular, and the Hebrew revival in general, did not succeed in uprooting Yiddish patterns (as well as the patterns of other European languages Jewish immigrants spoke) within what he calls "Israeli", i.e. Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew
Modern Hebrew , also known as Israeli Hebrew or Modern Israeli Hebrew, is the language spoken in Israel and in some Jewish communities worldwide, from the early 20th century to the present....

. Zuckermann believes that "Israeli does include numerous Hebrew elements resulting from a conscious revival but also numerous pervasive linguistic features deriving from a subconscious survival of the revivalists’ mother tongues, e.g. Yiddish.".

In religious circles, it is the Ashkenazi Haredi Jews
Haredi Judaism
Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

, particularly the Hasidic Jews and the Lithuanian yeshiva
Yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

 world (see Lithuanian Jews
Lithuanian Jews
Lithuanian Jews or Litvaks are Jews with roots in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania:...

), who continue to teach, speak and use Yiddish, making it a language used regularly by hundreds of thousands of Haredi Jews today. The largest of these centers are in Bnei Brak and Jerusalem. However, virtually all of these Yiddish speakers also speak Modern Hebrew.

There is a growing revival of interest in Yiddish culture among secular Israelis, with the flourishing of new proactive cultural organizations like YUNG YiDiSH, as well as Yiddish theater (usually with simultaneous translation to Hebrew and Russian) and young people are taking university courses in Yiddish, some achieving considerable fluency.

Former Soviet Union

In the Soviet Union during the 1920s, Yiddish was promoted as the language of the Jewish proletariat
Proletariat
The proletariat is a term used to identify a lower social class, usually the working class; a member of such a class is proletarian...

. It was one of the official languages of the Byelorussian SSR
Byelorussian SSR
The Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was one of fifteen constituent republics of the Soviet Union. It was one of the four original founding members of the Soviet Union in 1922, together with the Ukrainian SSR, the Transcaucasian SFSR and the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic...

, as well as several agricultural districts of the Galician SSR. A public educational system entirely based on the Yiddish language was established and comprised kindergartens, schools, and higher educational institutions (technical schools, rabfak
Rabfak
Rabfak was the Workers' Faculty in the Soviet Union. It prepared Soviet workers to enter institutions of higher education....

s and other university departments). At the same time, Hebrew was considered a bourgeois language and its use was generally discouraged. The vast majority of the Yiddish-language cultural institutions were closed in the late 1930s along with cultural institutions of other ethnic minorities lacking administrative entities of their own. After the Second World War, growing anti-Semitic
Anti-Semitism
Antisemitism is suspicion of, hatred toward, or discrimination against Jews for reasons connected to their Jewish heritage. According to a 2005 U.S...

 tendencies in Soviet politics drove Yiddish from most spheres. The last Yiddish-language schools, theaters and publications were closed by the end of the 1940s. It continued to be spoken widely for decades, nonetheless, in areas with compact Jewish populations (primarily in Moldova, Ukraine, and to a lesser extent Belarus).

In the former Soviet states, presently active Yiddish authors include Yoysef Burg (Chernivtsi
Chernivtsi
Chernivtsi is the administrative center of Chernivtsi Oblast in southwestern Ukraine. The city is situated on the upper course of the River Prut, a tributary of the Danube, in the northern part of the historic region of Bukovina, which is currently divided between Romania and Ukraine...

 1912-2009) and Aleksander Beyderman
Olexander Beyderman
Olexander Abramovytsch Beyderman is a Soviet-Ukrainian writer of Jewish descent...

 (b. 1949, Odessa
Odessa
Odessa or Odesa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 .The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement,...

). Publication of an earlier Yiddish periodical , was resumed in 2004 with (der nayer fraynd; lit. "The New Friend", St. Petersburg).

Jewish Autonomous Oblast of Russia


The Jewish Autonomous Oblast was formed in 1934 in the Russian Far East
Russian Far East
Russian Far East is a term that refers to the Russian part of the Far East, i.e., extreme east parts of Russia, between Lake Baikal in Eastern Siberia and the Pacific Ocean...

, with its capital city in Birobidzhan and Yiddish as its official language. The intention was for the Soviet Jewish population to settle there. Jewish cultural life was revived in Birobidzhan much earlier than elsewhere in the Soviet Union. Yiddish theaters began opening in the 1970s. The newspaper (Der Birobidzhaner Shtern
Birobidzhaner Shtern
The Birobidzhaner Shtern is a newspaper published in both Yiddish and Russian. in the Jewish Autonomous Oblast of Russia. It was set up in the November of 1930 in Birobidzhan to cater for the newly arrived Jewish immigrants. Henekh Kazakevich was first editor of the newspaper. Emmanuil Kazakevich...

; lit: "The Birobidzhan Star") includes a Yiddish section. Although the official status of the language was not retained by the Russian Federation, its cultural significance is still recognized and bolstered. The First Birobidzhan International Summer Program for Yiddish Language and Culture was launched in 2007.

Council of Europe

Several countries which ratified the 1992 European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages is a European treaty adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe...

 have included Yiddish in the list of their recognized minority languages: the Netherlands (1996), Sweden (2000), Poland (2009), Romania (2008), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2010). In 2005, Ukraine did not mention Yiddish as such, but "the language(s) of the Jewish ethnic minority".

Sweden

In June 1999, the Swedish Parliament enacted legislation giving Yiddish legal status as one of the country's official minority languages
Minority languages of Sweden
In 1999, the Minority Language Committee of Sweden formally declared five minority languages of Sweden: Finnish, Sami language, Romani, Yiddish, and Meänkieli ....

 (entering into effect in April 2000). The rights thereby conferred are not detailed, but additional legislation was enacted in June 2006 establishing a new governmental agency, The Swedish National Language Council, the mandate of which instructs it to, "collect, preserve, scientifically research, and spread material about the national minority languages", naming them all explicitly, including Yiddish. When announcing this action, the government made an additional statement about "simultaneously commencing completely new initiatives for ... Yiddish [and the other minority languages]".

The Swedish government publishes documents in Yiddish, of which the most recent details the national action plan for human rights. An earlier one provides general information about national minority language policies.

On 6 September 2007, it became possible to register Internet domains with Yiddish names in the national top-level domain .SE
.se
.se is the Internet country code top-level domain for Sweden . The top domain is operated by .SE , but domains must be registered through one of the approved registrars. .SE is a foundation and is managed on the basis of its charter of foundation and its statutes...

.

United States

At first, in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 most Jews were of Sephardic
Sephardi Jews
Sephardi Jews is a general term referring to the descendants of the Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsula before their expulsion in the Spanish Inquisition. It can also refer to those who use a Sephardic style of liturgy or would otherwise define themselves in terms of the Jewish customs and...

 origin, and hence did not speak Yiddish. It was not until the mid to late 19th century, as first German, then Eastern European, Jews arrived in the nation, that Yiddish became dominant within the immigrant community. This helped to bond Jews from many countries. (forvertsYiddish Forward
The Forward
The Forward , commonly known as The Jewish Daily Forward, is a Jewish-American newspaper published in New York City. The publication began in 1897 as a Yiddish-language daily issued by dissidents from the Socialist Labor Party of Daniel DeLeon...

) was one of seven Yiddish daily newspapers in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, and other Yiddish newspapers served as a forum for Jews of all European backgrounds. The Yiddish Forward still appears weekly and is available in an online edition. It remains in wide distribution, together with (der algemeyner zhurnalAlgemeiner Journal
Algemeiner Journal
The Algemeiner Journal is a New York-based Jewish, Yiddish and English weekly newspaper.- History :The Algemeiner Journal was founded in 1972 by Gershon Jacobson . The Algemeiner is currently owned and operated by the Gershon Jacobson Jewish Continuity Foundation...

; algemeyner = general) a Lubavitcher newspaper which is also published weekly and appears online. The widest-circulation Yiddish newspapers are probably the two prominent Satmar weekly issues (Der Blatt; blat = newspaper) and (Der Yid = The Jew). Several additional newspapers and magazines are in regular production, such as the monthly publications (Der Shtern; shtern = star) and (Der Blick; blik = view). (The romanized titles cited in this paragraph are in the form given on the masthead of each publication and may be at some variance both with the literal Yiddish title and the transliteration rules otherwise applied in this article.)

Interest in klezmer
Klezmer
Klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazic Jews of Eastern Europe. Played by professional musicians called klezmorim, the genre originally consisted largely of dance tunes and instrumental display pieces for weddings and other celebrations...

 music provided another bonding mechanism. Thriving Yiddish theater, especially in New York City, kept the language vital. Many "Yiddishisms," like "Italianisms" and "Spanishisms," continued to enter the spoken New York dialect, often used by Jews and non-Jews alike, unaware of the linguistic origin of the phrases (described extensively by Leo Rosten
Leo Rosten
Leo Calvin Rosten was born in Łódź, Russian Empire and died in New York City. He was a teacher and academic, but is best known as a humorist in the fields of scriptwriting, storywriting, journalism and Yiddish lexicography.-Early life:Rosten was born into a Yiddish-speaking family in what is now...

 in The Joys of Yiddish
The Joys of Yiddish
The Joys of Yiddish is a book containing the lexicon of common words and phrases in the Yiddish language, primarily focusing on those words that had become known to speakers of American English due to the influence of American Ashkenazi Jews...

). However, native Yiddish speakers tended not to pass the language on to their children, who assimilated and spoke English.

Most of the Jewish immigrants to the New York metropolitan area during the years of Ellis Island
Ellis Island
Ellis Island in New York Harbor was the gateway for millions of immigrants to the United States. It was the nation's busiest immigrant inspection station from 1892 until 1954. The island was greatly expanded with landfill between 1892 and 1934. Before that, the much smaller original island was the...

 considered Yiddish their native language. For example, Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000...

 states in his autobiography, In Memory Yet Green
In Memory Yet Green
In Memory Yet Green, In Memory Yet Green: The Autobiography of Isaac Asimov, 1920-1954, is the first volume of Isaac Asimov's two-volume autobiography. It was published in 1979. This first volume covers the years 1920 to 1954, which lead up to the point just prior to Asimov becoming a full time...

,
that Yiddish was his first and sole spoken language and remained so for about two years after he emigrated to the United States as a small child. By contrast, Asimov's younger siblings, born in the United States, never developed any degree of fluency in Yiddish.

In 1976, the Canadian-born American author Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow
Saul Bellow was a Canadian-born Jewish American writer. For his literary contributions, Bellow was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the National Medal of Arts...

 received the Nobel Prize in literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

. He was fluent in Yiddish, and translated several Yiddish poems and stories into English, including Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Gimpel the Fool".

In 1978, the Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

-born Yiddish author Isaac Bashevis Singer
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Isaac Bashevis Singer – July 24, 1991) was a Polish Jewish American author noted for his short stories. He was one of the leading figures in the Yiddish literary movement, and received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978...

, a resident of the United States, received the Nobel Prize in literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

.

Legal scholars Eugene Volokh
Eugene Volokh
Eugene Volokh is an American legal commentator and the Gary T. Schwartz Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law...

 and Alex Kozinski
Alex Kozinski
Alex Kozinski is Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, an essayist, and a judicial commentator.-Biography:...

 argue that Yiddish is “supplanting Latin as the spice in American legal argot.” Note: an updated version of the article appears on Professor Volokh's UCLA web page.

Present U.S. speaker population

In the 2000 census
United States Census, 2000
The Twenty-second United States Census, known as Census 2000 and conducted by the Census Bureau, determined the resident population of the United States on April 1, 2000, to be 281,421,906, an increase of 13.2% over the 248,709,873 persons enumerated during the 1990 Census...

, 178,945 people in the United States reported speaking Yiddish at home. Of these speakers, 113,515 lived in New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 (63.43% of American Yiddish speakers); 18,220 in Florida
Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...

 (10.18%); 9,145 in New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

 (5.11%); and 8,950 in California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 (5.00%). The remaining states with speaker populations larger than 1,000 are Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 (5,445), Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 (1,925), Michigan
Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

 (1,945), Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 (2,380), Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 (2,125), Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

 (3,510), Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

 (1,710), and Arizona
Arizona
Arizona ; is a state located in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the western United States and the mountain west. The capital and largest city is Phoenix...

 (1,055). The population is largely elderly: 72,885 of the speakers were older than 65, 66,815 were between 18 and 64, and only 39,245 were age 17 or lower.
In the six years since the 2000 census
United States Census, 2000
The Twenty-second United States Census, known as Census 2000 and conducted by the Census Bureau, determined the resident population of the United States on April 1, 2000, to be 281,421,906, an increase of 13.2% over the 248,709,873 persons enumerated during the 1990 Census...

, the 2006 American Community Survey
American Community Survey
The American Community Survey is an ongoing statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, sent to approximately 250,000 addresses monthly . It regularly gathers information previously contained only in the long form of the decennial census...

 reflected an estimated 15 percent decline of people speaking Yiddish at home in the U.S. to 152,515.

There are a few predominantly Hasidic communities in the United States in which Yiddish remains the majority language. Kiryas Joel, New York
Kiryas Joel, New York
Kiryas Joel is a village within the town of Monroe in Orange County, New York, United States...

 is one such; in the 2000 census, nearly 90% of residents of Kiryas Joel reported speaking Yiddish at home.

United Kingdom

There are well over 30,000 Yiddish speakers in the United Kingdom, and several thousand children now have Yiddish as a first language. The largest group of Yiddish speakers in Britain reside in the Stamford Hill
Stamford Hill
Stamford Hill is a place in the north of the London Borough of Hackney, England, near the border with Haringey. It is home to Europe's largest Hasidic Jewish and Adeni Jewish community.Stamford Hill is NNE of Charing Cross.-History:...

 district of North London, but there are sizeable communities in Golders Green
Golders Green
Golders Green is an area in the London Borough of Barnet in London, England. Although having some earlier history, it is essentially a 19th century suburban development situated about 5.3 miles north west of Charing Cross and centred on the crossroads of Golders Green Road and Finchley Road.In the...

, Stoke Newington
Stoke Newington
Stoke Newington is a district in the London Borough of Hackney. It is north-east of Charing Cross.-Boundaries:In modern terms, Stoke Newington can be roughly defined by the N16 postcode area . Its southern boundary with Dalston is quite ill-defined too...

, Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester is a metropolitan county in North West England, with a population of 2.6 million. It encompasses one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United Kingdom and comprises ten metropolitan boroughs: Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, Wigan, and the...

 (in parts of Salford; mainly in the Broughton
Broughton
-Places:Canada* Broughton, Nova Scotia* Broughton Archipelago, British ColumbiaEngland* Broughton, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire* Broughton, Cambridgeshire* Broughton, Craven, North Yorkshire* Broughton, Cumbria* Broughton, Greater Manchester...

 and Kersal
Kersal
Kersal is an inner city area of Salford, in Greater Manchester, England. The centre of Kersal is northwest of Manchester city centre, and north-northwest of Salford's conventional centre at Greengate....

 areas, North Manchester and in the north Manchester suburb of Prestwich
Prestwich
Prestwich is a town within the Metropolitan Borough of Bury, in Greater Manchester, England. It lies close to the River Irwell, north of Manchester city centre, north of Salford and south of Bury....

) and Gateshead
Gateshead
Gateshead is a town in Tyne and Wear, England and is the main settlement in the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead. Historically a part of County Durham, it lies on the southern bank of the River Tyne opposite Newcastle upon Tyne and together they form the urban core of Tyneside...

.
The Yiddish readership in the UK is mainly reliant upon imported material from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 for newspapers, magazines and other periodicals. However, the London-based weekly Jewish Tribune, has a small section in Yiddish called Idishe Tribune.

Religious communities

The major exception to the decline of spoken Yiddish can be found in Haredi
Haredi Judaism
Haredi or Charedi/Chareidi Judaism is the most conservative form of Orthodox Judaism, often referred to as ultra-Orthodox. A follower of Haredi Judaism is called a Haredi ....

 communities all over the world. In some of the more closely knit such communities Yiddish is spoken as a home and schooling language, especially in Hasidic, Litvish or Yeshivish
Yeshivish
Yeshivish , refers to a sociolect of English spoken by yeshiva students and other Jews with a strong connection to the Orthodox yeshiva world.-Research:Only a few serious studies have been written about Yeshivish...

 communities such as Brooklyn
Brooklyn
Brooklyn is the most populous of New York City's five boroughs, with nearly 2.6 million residents, and the second-largest in area. Since 1896, Brooklyn has had the same boundaries as Kings County, which is now the most populous county in New York State and the second-most densely populated...

's Borough Park, Williamsburg
Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Williamsburg is a neighborhood in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, bordering Greenpoint to the north, Bedford-Stuyvesant to the south, Bushwick to the east and the East River to the west. The neighborhood is part of Brooklyn Community Board 1. The neighborhood is served by the NYPD's 90th ...

 and Crown Heights
Crown Heights, Brooklyn
Crown Heights is a neighborhood in the central portion of the New York City borough of Brooklyn. The main thoroughfare through this neighborhood is Eastern Parkway, a tree-lined boulevard designed by Frederick Law Olmsted extending two miles east-west.Originally, the area was known as Crow Hill....

, and in the communities of Monsey
Monsey, New York
Monsey is a hamlet , in the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County, New York, United States located north of the state of New Jersey; east of Suffern; south of Airmont and west of Nanuet...

, Kiryas Joel
Kiryas Joel, New York
Kiryas Joel is a village within the town of Monroe in Orange County, New York, United States...

 and New Square
New Square, New York
New Square is an all-Hasidic village in the Town of Ramapo, Rockland County, New York, United States located north of Hillcrest; east of Viola; south of New Hempstead and west of New City...

 in New York State (over 88% of the population of Kiryas Joel is reported to speak Yiddish at home.) Also in New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

  Yiddish is widely spoken mostly in Lakewood but also in smaller towns with yeshivos such as Passaic, Teaneck and elsewhere. Yiddish is also widely spoken in the Antwerp Jewish community
Jewish Community of Antwerp
The history of the Jews in Antwerp, Belgium goes back at least eight hundred years. Presently, The Jewish community of Antwerp consists of around 15,000 Jews.- History :...

 and in Haredi communities such as the ones in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, Manchester
Manchester
Manchester is a city and metropolitan borough in Greater Manchester, England. According to the Office for National Statistics, the 2010 mid-year population estimate for Manchester was 498,800. Manchester lies within one of the UK's largest metropolitan areas, the metropolitan county of Greater...

 and Montreal
Montreal
Montreal is a city in Canada. It is the largest city in the province of Quebec, the second-largest city in Canada and the seventh largest in North America...

. Yiddish is also spoken in many communities throughout Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

. Among most Ashkenazi Haredim, Hebrew is generally reserved for prayer, while Yiddish is used for religious studies as well as a home and business language. In Israel, however, Haredim commonly speak Hebrew, with the notable exception of many Hasidic communities. However, some Haredim who use Modern Hebrew also understand Yiddish. There are some who send their children to schools in which the primary language of instruction is Yiddish. Members of movements such as Satmar
Satmar (Hasidic dynasty)
Satmar is a Hasidic movement comprising mostly Hungarian and Romanian Hasidic Jewish Holocaust survivors and their descendants. It was founded and led by the late Hungarian-born Grand Rebbe Yoel Teitelbaum , who was the rabbi of Szatmárnémeti, Hungary...

 Hasidism, who view the commonplace use of Hebrew as a form of Zionism, use Yiddish almost exclusively.

Hundreds of thousands of young children around the globe have been, and are still, taught to translate the texts of the Torah
Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...

 into Yiddish. This process is called (taytshn)—"translating" . Most Ashkenazi yeshiva
Yeshiva
Yeshiva is a Jewish educational institution that focuses on the study of traditional religious texts, primarily the Talmud and Torah study. Study is usually done through daily shiurim and in study pairs called chavrutas...

s' highest level lectures in Talmud and Halakha
Halakha
Halakha — also transliterated Halocho , or Halacha — is the collective body of Jewish law, including biblical law and later talmudic and rabbinic law, as well as customs and traditions.Judaism classically draws no distinction in its laws between religious and ostensibly non-religious life; Jewish...

 are delivered in Yiddish by the rosh yeshiva
Rosh yeshiva
Rosh yeshiva, , , is the title given to the dean of a Talmudical academy . It is made up of the Hebrew words rosh — meaning head, and yeshiva — a school of religious Jewish education...

s as well as ethical talks of mussar
Mussar movement
The Musar movement is a Jewish ethical, educational and cultural movement that developed in 19th century Eastern Europe, particularly among Orthodox Lithuanian Jews. The Hebrew term Musar , is from the book of Proverbs 1:2 meaning instruction, discipline, or conduct...

. Hasidic rebbe
Rebbe
Rebbe , which means master, teacher, or mentor, is a Yiddish word derived from the Hebrew word Rabbi. It often refers to the leader of a Hasidic Jewish movement...

s generally use only Yiddish to converse with their followers and to deliver their various Torah talks, classes, and lectures. The linguistic style and vocabulary of Yiddish have influenced the manner in which many Orthodox Jews
Orthodox Judaism
Orthodox Judaism , is the approach to Judaism which adheres to the traditional interpretation and application of the laws and ethics of the Torah as legislated in the Talmudic texts by the Sanhedrin and subsequently developed and applied by the later authorities known as the Gaonim, Rishonim, and...

 who attend yeshivas speak English. This usage is distinctive enough that it has been dubbed "Yeshivish".

While Hebrew remains the language of Jewish prayer, the Hasidim have mixed some Yiddish into their Hebrew, and are also responsible for a significant secondary religious literature written in Yiddish. For example, the tales about the Baal Shem Tov were written largely in Yiddish. As well as the Torah Talks of the late Lubavitch leaders are published in their original form, Yiddish. In addition, some prayers, such as the Got fun Avrohom
God of Abraham
God of Abraham is a Jewish prayer in Yiddish, recited by women and girls in many Jewish communities at the conclusion of the Sabbath, marking its conclusion . In some Hasidic sects it is also recited by males before the Havdalah, service...

, were composed and are recited in Yiddish.

Moreover, some Hasidic girls in the Diaspora
Diaspora
A diaspora is "the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland" or "people dispersed by whatever cause to more than one location", or "people settled far from their ancestral homelands".The word has come to refer to historical mass-dispersions of...

 are not taught Hebrew at all, and therefore do not understand either ancient or modern Hebrew. Even those who are taught parts of the Bible
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 will still use prayer books with Yiddish translation and commentaries, as their comprehension of Hebrew is deficient.

Modern Yiddish education

There has been a resurgence in Yiddish learning in recent times among many from around the world with Jewish ancestry. The language which had lost many of its native speakers during WWII has been making somewhat of a comeback. In Poland, which traditionally had Yiddish speaking communities, a particular museum has begun to revive Yiddish education and culture. Located in Kraków, the Galicia Jewish Museum
Galicia Jewish Museum
The Galicia Jewish Museum is located in the historical Jewish district Kazimierz in Kraków, Poland. It focuses on the traces of Jewish life and culture that can still be found in the area of the historic Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia located in modern Poland.- History :The Museum was...

 offers classes in Yiddish Language Instruction and workshops on Yiddish Songs. The museum has taken steps to revive the culture through concerts and events held on site.
There are various Universities worldwide which now offer Yiddish programs based on the YIVO
YIVO
YIVO, , established in 1925 in Wilno, Poland as the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut , or Yiddish Scientific Institute, is a source for orthography, lexicography, and other studies related to the Yiddish language...

 Yiddish standard. Many of these programs are held during the summer and are attended by Yiddish enthusiasts from around the world. One such school located within Vilnius University
Vilnius University
Vilnius University is the oldest university in the Baltic states and one of the oldest in Eastern Europe. It is also the largest university in Lithuania....

 (Vilnius Yiddish Institute) was the first Yiddish center of higher learning to be established in post-Holocaust Eastern Europe. Vilnius Yiddish Institute is an integral part of the four-century-old Vilnius University. Published Yiddish scholar and researcher Dovid Katz is among the Faculty. Other schools which offer Yiddish programs include Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University
Tel Aviv University is a public university located in Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, Israel. With nearly 30,000 students, TAU is Israel's largest university.-History:...

, Brandeis University
Brandeis University
Brandeis University is an American private research university with a liberal arts focus. It is located in the southwestern corner of Waltham, Massachusetts, nine miles west of Boston. The University has an enrollment of approximately 3,200 undergraduate and 2,100 graduate students. In 2011, it...

, Monash University, Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, University College London
University College London
University College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and the oldest and largest constituent college of the federal University of London...

, University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, University of Maryland
University of Maryland
When the term "University of Maryland" is used without any qualification, it generally refers to the University of Maryland, College Park.University of Maryland may refer to the following:...

, YIVO
YIVO
YIVO, , established in 1925 in Wilno, Poland as the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut , or Yiddish Scientific Institute, is a source for orthography, lexicography, and other studies related to the Yiddish language...

, New York University
New York University
New York University is a private, nonsectarian research university based in New York City. NYU's main campus is situated in the Greenwich Village section of Manhattan...

, Hampshire College
Hampshire College
Hampshire College is a private liberal arts college in Amherst, Massachusetts. It was founded in 1965 as an experiment in alternative education, in association with four other colleges in the Pioneer Valley: Amherst College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, and the University of Massachusetts...

 campus at Amherst (home of the National Yiddish Book Center
National Yiddish Book Center
The National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States, on the campus of Hampshire College. It is a cultural institution dedicated to the preservation of books in the Yiddish language. It is a member of Museums10 and is a non-profit institution, and its cultural programs are...

), Binghamton University
Binghamton University
Binghamton University, also formally called State University of New York at Binghamton, , is a public research university in the State of New York. The University is one of the four university centers in the State University of New York system...

, Harvard University
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

, Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

, University of Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania is a private, Ivy League university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. Penn is the fourth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States,Penn is the fourth-oldest using the founding dates claimed by each institution...

, Indiana University, Bloomington, The Ohio State University, University of Düsseldorf, University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

, Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, Vassar College
Vassar College
Vassar College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college in the town of Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States. The Vassar campus comprises over and more than 100 buildings, including four National Historic Landmarks, ranging in style from Collegiate Gothic to International,...

, UMass Amherst
University of Massachusetts Amherst
The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public research and land-grant university in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States and the flagship of the University of Massachusetts system...

, McGill University
McGill University
Mohammed Fathy is a public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. The university bears the name of James McGill, a prominent Montreal merchant from Glasgow, Scotland, whose bequest formed the beginning of the university...

, UCLA, Emory University
Emory University
Emory University is a private research university in metropolitan Atlanta, located in the Druid Hills section of unincorporated DeKalb County, Georgia, United States. The university was founded as Emory College in 1836 in Oxford, Georgia by a small group of Methodists and was named in honor of...

 in Atlanta, University of Virginia
University of Virginia
The University of Virginia is a public research university located in Charlottesville, Virginia, United States, founded by Thomas Jefferson...

, the University of Manitoba
University of Manitoba
The University of Manitoba , in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, is the largest university in the province of Manitoba. It is Manitoba's most comprehensive and only research-intensive post-secondary educational institution. It was founded in 1877, making it Western Canada’s first university. It placed...

, and the University of Sao Paulo
University of São Paulo
Universidade de São Paulo is a public university in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. It is the largest Brazilian university and one of the country's most prestigious...

, in Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

. Despite this growing popularity among many American Jews
American Jews
American Jews, also known as Jewish Americans, are American citizens of the Jewish faith or Jewish ethnicity. The Jewish community in the United States is composed predominantly of Ashkenazi Jews who emigrated from Central and Eastern Europe, and their U.S.-born descendants...

, finding opportunities for practical use of Yiddish is becoming increasingly difficult, and thus many students have trouble learning to speak the language.

See also

  • Yiddish dialects
    Yiddish dialects
    Yiddish dialects are varieties of the Yiddish language. These dialects are divided by originating region in Europe. Northeastern "Litvish" Yiddish was dominant in twentieth-century Yiddish culture and academia, while Southern dialects of Yiddish are now the most commonly spoken, preserved by many...

    —as spoken in different regions of Europe.
  • Yiddish morphology
    Yiddish morphology
    The morphology of the Yiddish language bears many similarities to that of German, with some influence from Slavic languages and Hebrew.-Nouns:Yiddish nouns are divided into three classes, or genders - masculine , feminine and neuter . On the whole, gender is assigned to nouns arbitrarily, though...

    —the structural detail of the language.
  • Yiddish orthography
    Yiddish orthography
    The Yiddish language is written using Hebrew script as the basis of a full vocalic alphabet. This adaptation uses letters that are silent or glottal stops in Hebrew, as vowels in Yiddish...

    —the written representation of the language.
  • Yiddish phonology
    Yiddish phonology
    There is significant phonological variation among the various dialects of the Yiddish language. The description that follows is of a modern Standard Yiddish that was devised during the early 20th century and is frequently encountered in pedagogical contexts...

    —the elements of the spoken language.
  • List of English words of Yiddish origin
  • List of Yiddish language poets
  • Yiddish Renaissance
    Yiddish Renaissance
    The Yiddish Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement which began among Jews in Eastern Europe during the latter part of the 19th Century. Some of the leading founders of this movement were Mendele Moykher-Sforim , I.L...

  • The Yiddish King Lear
    The Yiddish King Lear
    The Yiddish King Lear was an 1892 play by Jacob Gordin, and is generally seen as ushering in the first great era of Yiddish Theater, in which serious drama gained prominence over operetta.Gordin, a respected intellectual and...

  • Yiddish literature
    Yiddish literature
    Yiddish literature encompasses all belles lettres written in Yiddish, the language of Ashkenazic Jewry which is related to Middle High German. The history of Yiddish, with its roots in central Europe and locus for centuries in Eastern Europe, is evident in its literature.It is generally described...

  • Yinglish
    Yinglish
    Yinglish words are neologisms created by speakers of Yiddish in English-speaking countries, sometimes to describe things that were uncommon in the old country...



Periodicals


External links

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