February 1, 2023

Susan Bronson responds to Rokhl Kafrissen on Yiddish

To the Editors: 

I applaud Rokhl Kafrissen’s important article, “The Jewish Future Needs Yiddish,” but would suggest that the challenge should be posed somewhat differently. The need goes beyond the question of whether and how the Yiddish language might or should be included in Jewish day school education. The culture that was lived in Yiddish, the totality of Ashkenazi Jewish history and lived experience, is largely absent from the American Jewish narrative except as represented by nostalgia and kitsch. 

Jewish education for those Jews in America who experience any Jewish education rests on three pillars: religion, Israel, and the Holocaust. While many lament the lack of Jewish engagement among a younger generation, our experience at the Yiddish Book Center suggests that there is tremendous opportunity to foster that deeper connection not only through learning the Yiddish language, but by creating opportunities to engage with the literature and culture even without knowledge of the language. Yiddish literature and culture provide more than “oxygen” for Jewish religion. They can be foundational for a generation of young Jews seeking ways to connect to and deepen their identity.

Susan Bronson

Amherst, MA