Is a Yiddish revival on the cards?

Yiddish is a language which holds great importance to many in the older generations, but it has fallen out of favour in the previous few decades. Now, however, a resurgence in Yiddish teaching may indicate a Yiddish revival is gathering steam. In Canada, new classes are popping up to teach youngsters Yiddish – a language which was once as widely spoken in Canada as the current most widespread non-official language, Punjabi. Between the 1930s and today, the number of Yiddish speakers in Canada has dropped by around 90 percent.

But formal classroom teaching is not the only thing keeping Yiddish alive and well – modern music groups creating traditional Yiddish music are also on the rise. The Klezmatics are one example of this, bringing traditional klezmer music into the 21st Century and giving Yiddish speakers something to listen to in a language they can relate to in unique ways.

Back in the Old World, Yiddish is also seeing a resurgence in both Western and Eastern Europe, where the culture was largely stamped out in the middle of the 20th Century. Yiddish was even banned at one time in Israel itself, but is now being embraced and taught in Israeli universities, allowing Israelis Jews to enjoy a broader perspective on their history and heritage.

Universities and well-known Yiddish language actors are teaming up to create a program that will support and nurture the growing interest in Yiddish. So far this has included special workshops aimed at training and cultivating talented actors who want to perform in Yiddish.

Even in areas of the United States where Yiddish is no longer in practical use in every day life, groups are being formed which allow Yiddish speakers and those eager to learn to get together and soak up some time immersed in the language. In the Bay Area, an interest in the Yiddish language and klezmer music has been steadily growing. Although most conversation groups are still dominated by the older generation, younger faces are starting to appear more regularly. Formal Yiddish classes are also available at most of the major universities in the area.

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