By Aya Elyada
Elyada’s research of a variety of philological and theological works, in addition to textbooks, dictionaries, ethnographical writings, and translations, demonstrates that Christian Yiddishism had implications past its merely linguistic and philological dimensions. certainly, Christian texts on Yiddish display not just the ways that Christians perceived and outlined Jews and Judaism, but additionally, in a contrasting vein, how they seen their very own language, faith, and culture.
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Extra resources for A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany
In order to establish this point, the authors elaborate on what they refer to as the German Jews’ “great ignorance” of the Hebrew language, manifested in the Jews’ inability either to speak or to read the language in A Jewish Language in a Christian World a satisfactory manner. The chapter attempts to elucidate the complex matrix of motivations that stood behind the Christian discussions on this topic. Apart from the direct theological criticism of the Jews for failing to understand their Hebrew prayers or to read the Bible in its original tongue, the separation between the Yiddish-speaking Jews and the Hebrew language enabled the Christian authors to create a debased image of Jewish-Ashkenazi culture and religion, in contrast to which they could affirm and emphasize their own theological and cultural superiority.
The Jew explained that a Jewish rabbi would never have written this work, since the message is Christian; on the other hand, the Jew argued, “a true Christian [from birth] could not have written it either. If it were written entirely in Hebrew, I might have believed it; but not like this. 59 But apart from these extreme reactions, it seems that the overall Jewish stance was one of bewilderment as well as concern that these Christian works in the Jewish language would eventually succeed in their mission.
The various presentations of the Yiddish language in the Christian writings are discussed in the third part of the book. Chapter 7 focuses 13 14 Introduction on the attempts of the Christian authors to define and explain the Yiddish language vis-à-vis its relation to German. ” However, although the authors formulated their criticism on Yiddish within linguistic categories, extra-linguistic considerations relating to the users and uses of Yiddish as a distinct Jewish sociolect within German society decisively shaped the image of the language in these texts.
A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany by Aya Elyada