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VOS IZ? Yiddish Pedagogy in Twenty-First-Century Academia

Sun, December 18, 2:30 to 4:00pm, Sheraton Boston Exeter 3d Floor

Session Submission Type: Roundtable

Session Sponsor: In Geveb


Yiddish language instruction entered American colleges and universities at the beginning of the twentieth-century. The field of Yiddish pedagogy was established with the publication of the groundbreaking textbook, COLLEGE YIDDISH, by Uriel Weinreich in 1946. In 1952 the Atran Chair in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture was established at Columbia University. While the secular Yiddish-speaking population continued to decline in the post-war decades, the so-called “Yiddish revival” in the 1970s and 1980s brought back the interest in Yiddish language learning. A few textbooks appeared then, but Yiddish language teaching has been transformed by the 21st-century “digital turn” in language pedagogy. A new animated platform for teaching standard Yiddish was created online ( in 2013, and the access to authentic materials online (YouTube, online sound archives) increased. The establishment of the Pedagogy Section in IN GEVEB, an online JOURNAL OF YIDDISH STUDIES in 2015 was transformative in creating a scholarly discourse within the Yiddish teaching community. In 2020, the publication of the multimedia textbook, IN EYNEM, by Asya Vaisman Schulman and Jordan Brown, marked another milestone.

Reflecting on Yiddish pedagogy over the last hundred years, this roundtable seeks to address the following questions: What are the major methodological and pedagogical challenges of the college-level Yiddish instruction in the twenty-first century? What has changed in the last two decades with the “digital turn” in Yiddish language pedagogy? Who are the students and what is the size of the student population? What should be the primary learning outcomes for elementary courses in Yiddish in the post-method era? Should the proficiency model for language teaching and learning focusing on the communicative approach advocated by ACTFL be adopted by Yiddish programs? What is the college-level teaching experience in terms of administrative pressures, generation of new teaching materials, and collegial collaboration? How is the challenge of Yiddish dialectal variety resolved in the classroom? How does virtual globalization impact the Yiddish teaching?

The roundtable participants, who all share college-level Yiddish teaching expertise, will address the above questions, analyze the current state of the field of Yiddish teaching, and discuss the future.

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