Yiddish Studies

What is Yiddish?

Yiddish is the millennium-old language of the Jews of central and eastern Europe, a region known to its Jewish inhabitants as Ashkenaz. For a thousand years this language was the vehicle of Jewish culture and communal life; in modern times it spread to all inhabited continents, and it remains the mother tongue of contemporary traditionalist groups throughout the world.

Yiddish at Berkeley?

While the number of native speakers of Yiddish continues to dwindle, Yiddish at Berkeley is thriving. In addition to the esteemed annual conference on Yiddish Culture, we have a wide range of courses dealing with the life and culture of Ashkenazic Jewry, a diverse faculty committed to the preservation and scholarly investigation of Yiddish, and an ever-growing number of students who are pursuing academic futures exploring Jewish culture in the traditional languages of the Jewish people. Students interested in Yiddish at Cal can pursue their interests in the departments of German, Comparative LiteratureHistory, or through the program in Jewish Studies.

This section is dedicated to the memory of Eli Katz, who passed away on July 22, 2006.

Eli was the pioneer of Yiddish at Berkeley and paved the way for our Yiddish program. A scholar, an activist, a lover of Yiddish and a friend to all of us here, he will be missed always.

Yiddish Courses

Yiddish language courses have been offered through the Department of German at the University of California, Berkeley since the 1960s. Today, Dr Yael Chaver teaches Yiddish 101 and 103. The credits earned in Yiddish 101, 102, and 103 can be applied to the undergraduate major in German. Berkeley also offers a course in Yiddish literature in translation. Due to rapidly increasing enrollments in Yiddish language courses, we are currently developing a minor in Yiddish Studies!

Elementary Yiddish
Yiddish 101. Chaver. (5 units)
This introductory course focuses on the development of communication skills in reading, writing and speaking. The linguistic material is presented in the context of Yiddish culture.

Intermediate Yiddish
Yiddish 102. Staff. (5 units)
Prerequisites: Yiddish I, Yiddish 101, or equivalent. This course builds on the foundation established in Yiddish I, further developing communication skills in reading, writing, and speaking. More advanced linguistic material is presented in the context of Yiddish culture.

Readings in Yiddish
Yiddish 103. Chaver. (3 units)
Prerequisites: Yiddish II, Yiddish 102, or equivalent. Study of selected Yiddish texts including prose, poetry, and drama, from various periods and geographic areas, in the context of time and place. Review of relevant grammatical topics. Increased attention to the Hebrew/Aramaic component. Selections may vary from semester to semester.