yiddish as feminist

by tobybee

you might have noticed that amongst the pile of books that our friend up the top is reading is one by Isaac Bashevis Singer. But did you know that ol’ Mr Singer had a sister who was also a writer? Her name, I have learnt, was Esther Singer Kreitman, and she wrote novels and short stories in Yiddish. She died in 1954 in London.

It seems that her mother told her to destroy her works, because they would make her unmarriageable. (women with brains – we’re a bit troublesome and undesireable!)

check out more at http://www.lilith.org/yiddish.htm

while neither of your friendly bloggers speak yiddish, the language certainly has a place in our hearts. Ronit Lentin – a brilliant historian – describes a feminist relationship with yiddish – as the mame loshn, it needs to be reclaimed as feminist language. at an evening discussion about yiddish at the monash jewish studies centre earlier this year there were 3 amazing speakers who talked about the contributions yiddish literatures, religious texts and hiphop have made over the last century or so. while all provided much exciting food for thought, none of them spoke about the possibilities of yiddish as feminist. of yiddish as a language built on bringing together lots of different languages; as one which points to being at home, but being necessarily a bit different.

of course, yiddish is also a language that lots of people simply just speak, and always have, and (hopefully) always will. but, in what others have called this post-vernacular stage of yiddish, its also nice to think about the positive politics behind speaking this language, which is both old and new.