Language as Fate: Reflections on Jewish Literature in America

Ezra Mendelsohn

in Studies in Contemporary Jewry: XII: Literary Strategies: Jewish Texts and Contexts

Published in print April 1997 | ISBN: 9780195112030
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854608 | DOI:

Series: Studies in Contemporary Jewry

Language as Fate: Reflections on Jewish Literature in America

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This chapter discusses the fate of Yiddish in America which points to an essential difference between Jewish experience in the new country and the old. It further discusses that Yiddish was the European Jewish vernacular, created in about the 12th century to express and safeguard a distinctive Jewish way of life in the midst of surrounding peoples, in contrast to Jews in America which created no language of their own, and almost without exception, no Jewish writer born there ever wrote in a Jewish language. It further notes that some American Yiddish writers who were T. S. Eliot's contemporaries came to understand language as the repository of religious, cultural, and political Jewish values. These writers realized that since the vitality of a language depends on the survival of its speakers, any threat to Yiddish threatened their own future.

Keywords: Yiddish; America; European Jewish vernacular; 12th century; Jews; American Yiddish writers; T. S. Eliot; language

Chapter.  10396 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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