Oy Vey! Yiddish Culture Day at the Knesset


yiddishOy gevalt! Yiddish has been uttered in the Knesset. Long disparaged in Hebrew-speaking Israel as the native tongue of Diaspora Jews, the centuries-old lingo made a comeback yesterday with the first ever Yiddish Culture Day. Marking 150 years since the birth of Sholem Aleichem, the secular Russian-Jewish author of Yiddish literature, and 20 years since the establishment of the secular Yiddish theater in Tel Aviv, lawmakers gathered to discuss ways to preserve and promote the language.

At the Knesset yesterday, organizers handed out a Yiddish handbook to lawmakers so they could study poignant Yiddishisms, and guests were treated to a Yiddish concert.

Sholem Aleichem’s Yiddish stories about Tevye the Milkman were the inspiration for the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof. The most notable Yiddish writer of recent years is Isaac Bashevis Singer.

“People have been eulogizing Yiddish for 500 years, but it is much too soon for that – Yiddish will live on forever,” said lawmaker Lia Shemtov, chairwoman of the parliamentary lobby for the preservation of Yiddish. “It is more than a language. It is the culture and the history of our people.”

Zevulun Orlev, a 63-year-old lawmaker, recalled how Yiddish was his mother tongue as a child in Israel before he and his older sister forced their Polish-born parents to adopt the local language.

“So my parents learned Hebrew, but we lost our Yiddish,” he said. “Today, I regret that very much. Only now, when we have shed our Diaspora complex, do we feel secure enough in our Israeli identity to appreciate this rich language.”

{AP/Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}


  1. The Israeli has not shed his “diaspora complex”. The galus is alive and well in Israel more than any place on earth, nebuch. Watch out for cars when you cross the streets on Shabbos and Yom Tov.