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Kit Belgum, Chair 2505 University Avenue, Burdine Hall 336, Mailcode C3300, Austin TX 78712-1802 • 512-471-4123

Yiddish Language and Culture

Yiddish is a Germanic language, usually written in Hebrew characters, which contains many words borrowed from Hebrew and Slavic. For over one thousand years, Yiddish was spoken as a vernacular by Ashkenazi Jews living in Central and Eastern Europe. As such, Yiddish was the language of Jewish social and economic life, and later also came to represent a vibrant literary and cultural life. When in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century millions of Jews emigrated from Europe, they spread the Yiddish language all over the world, with the United States becoming one of the major new centers of Yiddish and Jewish life and culture. Whereas the Holocaust, Soviet repression of Jewish cultural life and linguistic assimilation in the United States, Israel, and other countries have led to a dramatic reduction of the number of Yiddish speakers in the world, Yiddish remains relevant for all those interested in Jewish history and literature written in Yiddish, as well as for those interested in Germanic linguistics.

The Department of Germanic Studies offers Yiddish language courses as well as courses in Yiddish literature, theater, film, and culture in English translation. The English-language courses are cross listed as Jewish Studies courses. Yiddish studies at UT has a unique profile in stressing intercultural contacts --- from Russia and Galicia, all the way through to Broadway, with many other way stations in the German-speaking world. The Perry-Castañeda Library contains a sizable collection of Judaica in Hebrew, Yiddish and modern languages. Also available on campus are rare holdings at the Harry Ransom Center for the Humanities such as early texts, periodicals, and the papers of Isaac Bashevis Singer; an extensive collection of videos and audio recordings is distributed among the University's many specialized libraries.

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