Yiddish Language and Culture

The Australian Jewish community is of predominantly Ashkenazi, or Eastern European, background and Yiddish was the predominant language of the majority of Ashkenazi Jews. Yiddish evolved around Germany’s Rhine region about 1000 years ago as Yiddish Taitch, a local dialect spoken for the purpose of translating the scriptures and their Rabbinic commentaries, as well as for daily conversation. Affectionately known as Mame Loshn, or Mother Tongue, Yiddish uses the ancient Hebrew alphabet in its written and printed form. Most of the content is derived from Mittel Hoch Deutsch, or Middle High German, with elements of scriptural Hebrew or Loshn Kodesh, with Slavic, Romance and other linguistic elements integrated over time. Yiddish language and culture spread worldwide after the Middle Ages as Jews moved from Germany and eventually set up communities around the world. The largest of these were in Poland, the Baltic States, Russia, Romania, Argentina, the USA and what was then Palestine. Yiddish boasts a rich and varied literary, folkloric and lyrical tradition. The Yiddish language was a valuable link for the post-war migrant generation in Australia as well as the more recent ex-Soviet Union wave of Jewish migrants.

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