Saturday, November 17, 2012

The guttural tongue of their ancestors

Memes of the Yiddish Atlantis: As stated in the fine print of the Geneva Convention, journalists may not discuss new Yiddish entertainment or Yiddish academic news without invoking at least one meaningless cliche about the language and culture. 
Here's the thing. These little nuggets of common wisdom aren't just filler. They're signals that the writer has nothing to say on the subject and not the smallest bit of curiosity about it. Reciting the memes substitutes for any real context for the story and relieves the writer from the work of making something like a real historical, artistic or aesthetic judgment. After all, that would require actual knowledge of Yiddish language and history and, c'mon, that's just meshugene.
Grapevine: It’s Yiddish revival,  Jerusalem Post

Yiddish culture appears to be enjoying a revival in many parts of the world, including Eastern Europe, where it was stifled for so long; Western Europe, where it all but disappeared; and even Israel, where, under David Ben- Gurion, it was publicly banned.Now it is being taught in Israeli universities and other institutions, and in fact has been for some time.....

[Legendary Yiddish theater artists Mike Burstyn, Shmuel Atzmon and Bar Ilan University President Moshe Kaveh] will be part of strategic planning team proposed by Kaveh, with the aim of advancing Yiddish language and culture within and beyond academia.
Yiddishspiel, the Israeli Yiddish theater, has been in operation since 1987, 25 years. Yung Yidish (the Tel Aviv bus station based Yiddish organization run by Mendy Cahan) has been around for almost 20 years. What was arguably the most important Yiddish literary journal of the second half of the twentieth century, di goldene keyt, was published from Israel until 1995. The State of Israel is, and has been for decades, an important center of Yiddish culture and publishing. The new (and really interesting) partnership at Bar Ilan and the Rena Costa Center for Yiddish Studies is part of that long history. Why are we not allowed to recognize it as such?

Making Yiddish Theatre Matter in 2012, TDF Stages: a Theatre Magazine

From a review of the Folksbiene's new mainstage production, The Golden Land:
Although American Jews are arguably more assimilated than ever before, Yiddish—and by extension Yiddish culture—is enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Young Jews are increasingly studying the guttural tongue of their ancestors and seeking out live Yiddish entertainment in an attempt to reconnect with their immigrant heritage.
Just. Ugh. Guttural tongue? Really?

Bonus points, though, for working in a bunch of our other favorite memes. This includes the passive (aggressive) invocation of unspecified 'critics,' the ones who think anyone who does anything with Yiddish is fighting a losing battle rather than, oh, fulfilling an artistic mission or trying to make a buck. 
Yet Mlotek admits that some critics think he’s fighting a losing battle trying to keep a dying language and culture alive. “I have that argument all the time,” he says. “It’s no longer the lingua franca of American Jews, so what’s the point? The answer is simple: It’s not about reviving something that was popular once upon a time. It’s about bringing this culture to new audiences in a way that they can appreciate.

 Joe Berger would be proud.

1 comment:

  1. There's two Gs in "aggressive." She's a very lucky girl.