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Date: Wed, 26 Mar 97 23:48:26 ISTFrom: email@example.com
Subject: Yiddish Studies in Israel III
The Great Dictionary Debacle
A significant feature of the "Yiddish Literature" series is theirYiddish-Hebrew-English glossaries. Glossaries in foreign-languagetexts are hardly remarkable, yet these are. Their uniqueness stemsfrom their being virtually the only place students can find themeanings of many less common Yiddish words. They include words whichcannot be found in the two best and most widely used bilingual (andtrilingual) dictionaries, Uriel Weinreich's Modern Yiddish-EnglishEnglish- Yiddish Dictionary (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1968) andAlexander Harkavi's Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary (New York:Hebrew Publ. Co., 1927; repr. 1988). Strange as it may seem in anage when world Jewry spends millions of dollars in memorializing thevictims of the Shoa, ceaselessly building Holocaust Museums, theeffort to record for ourselves and for posterity the immense lexicalriches of the Yiddish language (the language of so many of themurdered millions) has so far largely failed. The story of thisfailure is international in scope, yet much of it is set in Israel.The task of extracting the true facts from clouds of accusations andcounter-accusations is beyond the scope of this essay. But we knowthat the Groyser verterbukh fun der yidisher shprakh:ehp1. ('GreatDictionary of the Yiddish Language') (New York: vol.1, 1961; vol. 2,1966; vol. 3, 1971; vol. 4, 1980), was conceived in New York and latermoved to Jerusalem, where it somehow expired. The non-native Yiddish-speaker/reader/writer is often dependent on dictionary help. The fourvolumes of the Groyser verterbukh cover the letter Alef ('A') andinclude about one-third of the Yiddish lexicon (since numerous wordshave prefixes beginning with alef, e.g. avek-, arum-). Two-thirds ofthe Yiddish word stock prepared for the Groyser verterbukh lingers incard catalogues.Nathan Susskind's English introduction to Vol. 4 is entitled "YudelMark's Dictionary." Mark died in 1975 in Israel. One of the greateststudents of Yiddish in the world, he was a central figure in thedictionary project. In 1968 the Yiddish Dictionary Committee in NewYork negotiated an agreement with the Hebrew University which enabledMark to settle in Jerusalem. Susskind writes: "The partnership withthe Hebrew University has proved a blessing in many ways. Mostimportantly it achieved what everybody hoped for: ensuring thecontinuation of the work." Unfortunately nothing has yet insured thecontinuation of Mark's work. We still lack a comprehensiveYiddish-Yiddish dictionary. Can there be a more pressing agenda forthe world Yiddishist community than the creation of such a dictionary?
Date: Mon, 16 Oct 2000 15:42:40 -0400 (EDT)From: Winer firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Yiddish Dictionary
As former board chairman of the Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language, Iregard it as an obligation to respond to the inquiry on the fate of thedictionary which appeared recently on Mendele.Since publication of the first volume in 1961, three more were produced, thelast in 1980. The four folio volumes include some 80,000 entries, all ofthem beginning with the letter Aleph, representing a third of the projectedpublication. The disproportion can be explained by the uniquecharacteristic of Yiddish where nearly all prefixes begin with the letterAleph, in contrast to other languages.In a Yiddish article which appeared in 1980, I expressed a pessimistic viewon the possibility of further volumes , hoping at the same time that I turnout to be a false prophet. 20 years later, I regret to report, that thereis little on the horizon to indicate that I was wrong. The official reasonis lack of funds. This is hardly plausible since the Hebrew University,copyright holder for the last two decades, has succeeded in financing otherYiddish projects of lesser significance. The real reason is with respect tothe very character of subsequent volumes, of which volume five, has beenjust about ready for publication for over a decade. Assistant editor HebrewUniversity Professor Wolf Moskovitz is in possession of all the materialaccumulated during the life and after the demise of the editor in chief, thelate Yudel Mark. The major issue is orthography.The facts are as follows: Early in 1959 the editorial board conducted asurvey among Yiddish writers, linguists, teachers, publishers, editors,printers and leaders of Yiddish cultural agencies on the question ofadopting the changes in Yiddish orthography introduced by YIVO in 1936. Of177 responses, over 90% responded in the negative and sanctioned the rightof the editors to follow the standard spelling of contemporary Yiddishwriters, the daily Yiddish press (that still existed at that time) and theYiddish school system. In compliance with the request of YIVO, the firstvolume printed a statement by YIVO disclaimed any responsibility orsponsorship.After the Trustees of the Yiddish Dictionary transferred the project to theHebrew University, the new Board decided to make major changes in subsequentvolumes, chief among them being the adoption of YIVO spelling. Manyidentified with Yiddish, regard such a radical operation on the life work ofits editor, Yudl Mark, as immoral, which in addition, would also reflectnegatively on his scholarship and academic stature.. This position has beenclearly stated on a number of occasions in print as well as in acommunication directed to the present acting editor. Fearing that plasticsurgery on the existing dictionary will evoke a wave of criticism in Israeland abroad, the present solution appears to be -- keeping the project indeep freeze. .Nevertheless, no one will question the right of the Trusteesto produce a new dictionary disconnected from Mark's work.The full story is available in articles that appeared in the Yiddish press.There is also a chapter on the subject in English in a book presently beingprepared for publication.
Gershon Winer, Jerusalem