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The Yiddish Renaissance was a cultural and artistic movement which began among Jews in Eastern Europe during the latter part of the 19th Century.[1] Some of the leading founders of this movement were Mendele Moykher-Sforim (1836- 1917)[2], I.L. Peretz (1852-1915), and Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916).[3]

In 1861, Yehoshua Mordechai Lifshitz, who is considered the father of Yiddishism and Yiddish lexicography, circulated an essay entitled “The Four Classes” in which he referred to Yiddish as a completely separate language from both German and Hebrew and the mother tongue of the Jewish people. He contended that the refinement and development of Yiddish were indispensable for the humanization and education of Jews. He also proposed Yiddish as a bridge linking Jewish and European cultures. [4]

In 1908, a conference proclaiming Yiddish a modern language with adeveloping high culture gathered in the Austro-Hungarian city of Czernowitz, Bukovina. The organizers of this gathering expressed a sense of urgency to the delegates that Yiddish as a language and as the binding glue of Jews throughout Eastern Europe needed help. They proclaimed that the status of Yiddish reflected the status of the Jewish people. Thus only by saving the language could the Jews as a people be saved from the onslaught of assimilation. [5]

Due in large part to the efforts of this movement, Yiddish became one of the great languages of the world, spoken by over 11,000,000 people. As many Eastern European Jews began to emigrate to the United States, the movement became very active there, especially in New York City.[6] One aspect of this became known as Yiddish Theatre,[7] and involved authors such as Ben Hecht and Clifford Odets.[8]


  1. ^ Mendelsohn, Ezra (1970). Class Struggle in the Pale: The Formative Years of the Jewish Workers' Movement in Tsarist Russia. CUP Archive. p. 118. ISBN 0521077303. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  2. ^ Fried, Lewis; Brown, Gene; Chametzky, Jules; Harap, Louis (1988). Handbook of American-Jewish Literature. Genewood Press. p. 155. ISBN 0313245932. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  3. ^ Keller, Mary (2002). The Hammer and the Flute. JHU Press. p. 213. ISBN 0801881889. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  4. ^ Goldsmith, Emanuel S. (1997). Modern Yiddish Culture: The Story of the Yiddish Language Movement. Fordham University Press. p. 47.  
  5. ^
  6. ^ Sollors, Werner (1998). Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature. NYU Press. p. 64. ISBN 0814780938. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  7. ^ Cohen, Sarah Blacher (1983). "From Hester Street to Hollywood: The Jewish-American Stage and Screen". Indiana University Press. p. 233. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  
  8. ^ Schecter, Joel (2008). Messiahs of 1933: How American Yiddish Theatre Survived Adversity Through Satire. Temple University Press. p. 210. ISBN 1592138721. Retrieved 2008-10-08.  

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