Heroic efforts to preserve the Yiddish language in Israel

Did you know that there is a little-known group of intellectuals who labor to keep alive “Mameloshn“,  the tongue of their Yiddish-speaking ancestors? To find it, just go to Tel Aviv and look for the Leyvik House.

Since 1970 Leyvik House serves as home to the Association of Yiddish Writers and Journalists in Israel and to the H. Leyvik Publishing House. Known in Yiddish as Leyvik Hoyz, it is located in the heart of Tel-Aviv. It serves as a stage for fruitful dialogues between generations, ages and ethnic groups around issues of society, language, culture and identity. It convenes hundreds of events of Yiddish writers, journalists, translators and scholars. Its activities inspire young families and their children, more and more of whom choose to revive their ancestors’ mother tongue Yiddish.

On 14 January 2016 Leyvik House hosted an exquisite scholarly conference on communication, culture and education. The conference was organized by David Ben-Nahum, Professor Ghil’ad Zuckermann, Dr Gitit Holzman and Daniel Galay, the latter being the Beit Leyvik Chairman. It focused on language teaching and cultural heritage transmission. It featured the film pensyon prakht, directed by Tamar Yarom and based on Aharon Appelfeld’s novel layla veod layla (‘a night and another night’).

Several weeks ago, at the very end of 2015, poet Rivkah Basman Ben-Hayim (92), member of the Leyvik House Board, was awarded the highest Prize for her life-long literary achievements.

Unlike many other Yiddish specialists in Israel who treat the Yiddish language as an archaic niche, Leyvik House always seeks the relevance of Yiddish to contemporary Israeli society, analysing, for example, the survival of Yiddish beneath ‘Revived Hebrew’.

Leyvik House, a non-profit organization (reg. no. 58-004-472-5), was founded in Israel in the late 1960s under the leadership of Mordechai Tsanin, Yiddish writer, journalist and author of the world-renowned Complete Yiddish-Hebrew Dictionary (1982).

Further particulars are available at www.leyvik.org.il/

Dr. Landau is a board member of the American Jewish International Relations Institute.

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