אַן אימפּעריע פֿון צעװאָרפֿענע ,שײן־בליענדינע אינזלען, איז די אידישע קולטור
“An empire of scattered, beautiful blossoming islands, is the Yiddish Culture…”
– A. Almi
Following the exile of the Jewish people from Israel it did not take long for us to find ourselves inhabiting lands in each corner of the world. One such land was the region of the Rhineland “roughly between Cologne and Speyer”. It was there, approximately 1,000 years ago that the Yiddish language began to emerge. A member of the Germanic family of languages, Yiddish incorporated aspects of Middle High German, Rabbinic Hebrew, Aramaic, Laaz (Judeo-French/Italian), Slavic, Russian, and more recently English into its vocabulary. As Jews began to migrate east, they brought their burgeoning vernacular with them. In the lands of present day Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Ukraine, and Russia Yiddish came into it own. Soon enough Yiddish came to be spoken by over 75% of the world’s Jewry. Yiddish, meaning Jewish, like most other Judeo-languages, was and still is written with letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Unlike most other Judeo-languages, however, Yiddish has established itself as respected and recognized language, not a mere Jewish dialect of another language.
But Yiddish is so much more than a language, it is our language. It represents a way of life and thought that has distinguished our nation for a millennium. From its roots as a jargon, to the mellifluous language of Peretz and Almi, Yiddish has been the narrative of our lives. A truly international language, it has followed us through Europe and the world beyond, reaching the shores California and even Japan. From its linguistic roots it gave birth and continues to beget a beautiful and strong culture.
The Jewish people are bound together through our remarkably long history. History however, is not enough. Following horrors of the Holocaust, and the continuing horrors of full assimilation, we need to work hard to keep Yiddish and Yiddish culture alive and well. Reclaiming our language and culture are ways by which we can ensure a Jewish future in the Diaspora. After all, it is important that we establish ourselves as a nation that not only has a history, but one which can continue to make history in a positive way for generations to come.