Why Yiddish? Yiddish has been the everyday voice of the Ashkenazic Jewish people
for around one thousand years. Mixing Hebrew, High German, Slavic, and Romance languages, Yiddish was spoken in Jewish daily
life in Central and Eastern Europe from medieval times. In the 19th century, the language reached its "Golden Age"
in the literature of such internationally renowned writers as Sholom Aleichem, Y. L. Peretz, Itzik Manger, and Isaac Bashevis
Singer. Throughout that time, many Yiddish speakers also emigrated to cities and towns in North and South America, Africa,
Australia, and Asia. In New York City, Yiddish was the mame-loshn or "mother tongue" that Jewish immigrants spoke
with their children, heard in Second Avenue theatres, and read in newspapers like the Forverts (Forward) and the Frayhayt.
Although Yiddish was almost silenced in the 20th century by the Holocaust and assimilation, this rich, vibrant
voice of Jewish history and culture is growing stronger day by day. Written in Hebrew script, Yiddish today is a living language,
pronounced with great expression and musical cadence. Almost a million people around the globe speak Yiddish – 250,000
in the United States and 60,000 in New York State alone. Today more than 60 universities worldwide offer classes in Yiddish,
and New York City itself boasts a Yiddish degree program at New York University, as well as courses at the YIVO Institute
for Jewish Research, Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Workmen's Circle. The past twenty years has seen a rebirth of interest
in Yiddish music, literature, and arts, and in Yiddish itself, a vital symbol of Jewish identity which once approached extinction.