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

By Aya Elyada

This publication explores the original phenomenon of Christian engagement with Yiddish language and literature from the start of the 16th century to the overdue eighteenth century. via exploring the motivations for Christian curiosity in Yiddish, and the differing ways that Yiddish used to be mentioned and handled in Christian texts, A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish addresses a wide range of concerns, such a lot 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 show 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

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62 This learning process, and the role Yiddish played in it, did not end with conversion either. Although instruction in German and the Latin alphabet was usually part of the convert’s initiation process, in most cases the act of religious conversion did not mean an immediate linguistic one; Yiddish works, as well as Yiddish-speaking instructors, were still needed to aid the process of conversion and ease the convert’s adjustment to the new religion. Faced with the ever-present danger of converts relapsing from Christianity, Callenberg and his missionaries provided former Jews, some of them baptized years before, with missionary writings in the Jewish language.

The importance attached to the German language as a major constituent of German national consciousness, and the efforts to cultivate the language and purify it from foreign elements, were central motifs in the discourse on language in early modern Germany; this possible influence on the way German authors perceived the Jewish-German language should not be overlooked. The Christian concern with the relation between Yiddish and German was also manifested in the discussions regarding the use of Yiddish for the composition of missionary literature, explored in Chapter 8.

Thanks to a vast network of helpers and sympathizers stretching across and beyond the continent, missionary publications were taken to the remotest places and almost immediately distributed among the Jews, usually free of charge or at a very small price. The second field of activity was the training of well informed and highly qualified missionaries to work among the Jews. Some of these trainees were later employed by the institute as “traveling missionaries”: they were to travel among the Jewish populations, first of Germany and Eastern Europe and later of Northern Europe and the Levant; initiate conversations on religious matters; and distribute the books published by the institute.

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