Yiddish Lives - Yiddish in Schools

By Meyers, Nechemia | The World and I, February 2002 | Go to article overview

Yiddish Lives - Yiddish in Schools


Meyers, Nechemia, The World and I


Yiddish has long been used and taught in the semi-independent schools of the ultra-Orthodox. They have traditionally believed that Hebrew, the holy tongue, should be reserved for religious purposes. But in the last two decades the language has also been taught in a number of secular and modern Orthodox schools. It is even recognized as a matriculation subject. As of this year, Yiddish is being studied by some twenty-five hundred boys and girls in thirty-five government schools, where it is an elective. All children study Hebrew and English, and those learning a third language can choose between a number of other tongues, among them Yiddish. "There is interest, but it is not yet a mass phenomenon," says Vered Koppel, supervisor of Yiddish education in Israeli government schools.

Koppel was born in Israel to Holocaust survivors from Poland. Her home was bilingual: She spoke Hebrew to her parents, and they answered her in Yiddish. "My classmates," she recalls, "made fun of the fact that I spoke Yiddish. …

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