A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language by Aya Elyada

By Aya Elyada

This e-book explores the original phenomenon of Christian engagement with Yiddish language and literature from the start of the 16th century to the past due eighteenth century. by means of exploring the motivations for Christian curiosity in Yiddish, and the differing ways that Yiddish was once mentioned and handled in Christian texts, A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish addresses a big selection of matters, so much particularly Christian Hebraism, Protestant theology, early sleek Yiddish tradition, and the social and cultural historical past of language in early glossy Europe.

Elyada’s research of quite a lot of philological and theological works, in addition to textbooks, dictionaries, ethnographical writings, and translations, demonstrates that Christian Yiddishism had implications past its simply linguistic and philological dimensions. certainly, Christian texts on Yiddish exhibit 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

Example text

Paulus Fagius, for example, published his Yiddish translation of the Bible (1544) in two editions, with two different titles and introductions: one in German, the other in Yiddish, addressed respectively to Christian and Jewish readers. Unlike the German edition, the Yid- Yiddish in the Judenmission dish one contained no details regarding the translator and publisher of the work. Moreover, the anti-Jewish introduction of the German edition was replaced in the Yiddish edition by a Jewish-friendly one, which addressed the readers in the first-person plural in order to give the impression that it was a Jewish work.

The image of Yiddish as the Jews’ “secret language,” used to conceal Jewish affairs from Christian eyes, made familiarity with Yiddish an important tool for Christians, who wished to effectively expose and censor all Jewish blasphemies against the Christian religion and its adherents. Finally, while the above motivations for the interest of Christian scholars in 11 12 Introduction Yiddish should be seen as part of their concern with Jews and Judaism, the fourth chapter presents the Protestant ambition to utilize the Jewish language for intra-Christian purposes, specifically for supporting theologians in their attempt to gain proficiency in Hebrew and an accurate reading and understanding of the Hebrew Bible.

44 In the second stage, when going out to spread the Christian message among the Jews, the missionaries intentionally used their competence in Yiddish to conceal, or at least obscure, their Christian identity for as long as possible. 46 In some cases, missionaries used Yiddish to attract the attention of Jews and lure them into conversation. We hear, for example, of missionaries sitting in taverns and inns who, when a Jew entered the room, would start speaking Yiddish with each other, or pretend to be reading a Yiddish book.

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