The Story of Yiddish by Neal Karlen
How a Mish-Mosh of Languages Saved the Jews

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 6 Critic Reviews

unrated

Synopsis

Yiddish—an oft-considered "gutter" language—is an unlikely survivor of the ages, much like the Jews themselves. Its survival has been an incredible journey, especially considering how often Jews have tried to kill it themselves. Underlying Neal Karlen's unique, brashly entertaining, yet thoroughly researched telling of the language's story is the notion that Yiddish is a mirror of Jewish history, thought, and practice—for better and worse.

Karlen charts the beginning of Yiddish as a minor dialect in medieval Europe that helped peasant Jews live safely apart from the marauders of the First Crusades. Incorporating a large measure of antique German dialects, Yiddish also included little scraps of French, Italian, ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, the Slavic and Romance languages, and a dozen other tongues native to the places where Jews were briefly given shelter. One may speak a dozen languages, all of them Yiddish.

By 1939, Yiddish flourished as the lingua franca of 13 million Jews. After the Holocaust, whatever remained of Yiddish, its worldview and vibrant culture, was almost stamped out—by Jews themselves. Yiddish was an old-world embarrassment for Americans anxious to assimilate. In Israel, young, proud Zionists suppressed Yiddish as the symbol of the weak and frightened ghetto-bound Jew—and invented modern Hebrew.

Today, a new generation has zealously sought to explore the language and to embrace its soul. This renaissance has spread to millions of non-Jews who now know the subtle difference between a shlemiel and a shlimazel; hundreds of Yiddish words dot the most recent editions of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Story of Yiddish is a delightful tale of a people, their place in the world, and the fascinating language that held them together.

 

About Neal Karlen

See more books from this Author
Neal Karlen, who has written for the New York Times, Newsweek, and Rolling Stone, is the author or co-author of six books.
 
Published October 13, 2009 by HarperCollins e-books. 338 pages
Genres: History, Education & Reference, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Story of Yiddish

Kirkus Reviews

See more reviews from this publication

He attempts, with easygoing chutzpah (you know, “nerve”) to draw apt lessons in linguistics and philology from history, philosophy, sports, literature and showbiz in the old countries as well as here in the goldene medina (“golden country”).

| Read Full Review of The Story of Yiddish: How a M...

Publishers Weekly

See more reviews from this publication

Karlen (Shanda: The Making and Breaking of a Self-Loathing Jew ) offers an often pleasant but clunkily written romp through Yiddish and Yiddishkeit (the culture of Ashkenazic Jews) in America.

| Read Full Review of The Story of Yiddish: How a M...

BC Books

See more reviews from this publication

But then you also have the stories of people like Irving Berlin, the composer of “White Christmas”, who in his early career as Israel Isodor Baline wrote and published Yiddish songs.

Aug 31 2008 | Read Full Review of The Story of Yiddish: How a M...

BC Books

See more reviews from this publication

Karlen seeks to give his reader a sense of the old world origins of Yiddish, the sounds of Yiddish, the life and soul of Yiddish.

Aug 31 2008 | Read Full Review of The Story of Yiddish: How a M...

BookIdeas.com

Privacy Policy: This site is read-only at the user level, and thus collects no information on it's users.

| Read Full Review of The Story of Yiddish: How a M...

AuthorsDen

Reviewed By Norm Goldman Of Bookpleasures.com - 3/4/2010 4:37:00 AM Crossroads Reviewd By Norm Goldman Of Bookpleasures.com - 2/28/2010 4:48:00 PM The Book of Eli Reviewed - 2/19/2010 1:30:00 PM Myrtle Beach Reviewed By Norm Goldman Of Bookpleasures.com - 2/17/2010 5:51:00 AM Review: When Can...

May 09 2008 | Read Full Review of The Story of Yiddish: How a M...

Reader Rating for The Story of Yiddish
42%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 18 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×