Tuesday, December 12, 2006

History will be made at this KlezKamp

We choose a theme for KlezKamp each year around which we organize many of our classes. This year's theme, Hasidish Yiddish, is particularly apt as so much of the future of Yiddish language and culture is tied to its use in the Hasidic community. There need not be a divide between the religious and secular Yiddish worlds. We hope at this KlezKamp to explore the ways in which Yiddish culture survives in all aspects of the Yiddish-speaking and Yiddish-loving community.

One of our special guests at KlezKamp will be Y.Y. Jacobson, the young editor of the Algemeiner Journal (Algemeyner Zhurnál),דער אלגעמײנער זשורנאל, the main Yiddish newspaper geared for the Hasidic community, but which is of interest to all Yiddish speakers. He will give a lecture in the forshpayz period before dinner on Wednesday. His joining us at KlezKamp is a truly historic event, a bridging of what should not be, but is, a gulf between Yiddish communities.

We were put in contact with Rabbi Jacobson through my former Yiddish teacher, Prof. Dovid Katz, who is now research director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at the University of Vilnius in Vilne, Lithuania (see www.judaicvilnius.com and www.dovidkatz.net). This was truly fortuitous for all of us. Dovid writes:

Dear Henry and Sabina,

I was honored to be invited this year and was so sorry I couldn't be in the States for these dates, but wanted you to know how much I appreciate your thinking of me, and look forward to working together in years to come.

And, I wanted to extend warm congratulations on your wonderful program. Given the very timely topic (Hasidic Yiddish), I was particularly thrilled that the brilliant 34 year old Y. Y. Jacobson, editor of a major international Yiddish weekly that reaches tens of thousands of Yiddish readers, has been included in the program as a featured speaker. Actually, he is the sensation of the world of Yiddish today: When Gershon Jacobson (1934-2005), the founding editor of the Algemeyner Zhurnál (Algemeiner Journal), passed away in the spring of 2005, folks were kind of sure that his death would mean the end of the Zhurnál (itself heir to the Tog - Morgn Zhurnal). Instead, the youngest of his five children, Yosef Yitschok (“YY”), not quite 33 at the time, rapidly took over as editor-in-chief (and older brother Simon stepped in as publisher) and never has a week been missed. In the year and a half since then, Y.Y. Jacobson has emerged as (for me) the most inspiring personality, writer, and editor in the world of Yiddish of the last generation. It’s been an exquisite pleasure to write for the Zhurnál on a near weekly basis and to be in touch with such an authentic, substantial and sharp readership.

Under Y.Y. Jacobson’s editorship, the paper has been publishing an increasing number of authors from the secular world of Yiddish, including (to take some examples from recent weeks) Mordechai Bauman (Boston), Sholem Berger (New York), Khariton Berman (Kiev), Daniel Galay (Tel Aviv), Dobke Jonis (Vilnius), Dov-Ber Kerler (Bloomington), Moyshe Loyev (NY), and Simkhe Simkhovitsh (Toronto). Moreover, in partnership with the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, the Zhurnál has been publishing (and putting up on its website in digital form, for the use of Yiddish teachers, students and readers everywhere) classic works of modern Yiddish literature. Authors published to date include Sholem Aleichem, Shmerke Katsherginski, Moyshe Kulbak, Leyb Naydus and Y. L. Peretz, whose writing is being enjoyed by tens of thousands of living, current Yiddish readers. And, contrary to some popular misconceptions, much of the new haredi writing published is itself dynamic, daring, youthful, internally diverse, vibrant with the authentic living Yiddish spirit of our new century, one that is eerily a direct heir to our beloved Yiddish classics of the last century and a half.

So, my warmest congratulations to the organizers for extending to the youngest (and I’d say, most talented) Yiddish editor in the world today the reciprocal hand of friendship in the common cause of serious Yiddish language, literature and culture. I’m confident that this event at KlezKamp, in a spirit of mutual respect and frank and open dialogue, will be a date of historic note in the contemporary history of Yiddish, coming as it will to symbolize the long-overdue secular-haredi Yiddish junction.

With warmest regards from the already freezing Vilna
and every good wish for a wonderful, successful event


I, for one, can't wait.