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For Atheists of Jewish origin and others interested in Jewish history and culture.
Latest Activity: May 18
Started by Diana D. Last reply by Alan Perlman Apr 15.
Started by Cecilia. Last reply by Michael Pianko Mar 20.
Started by Yaakov. Last reply by E Gross Mar 20.
Interesting family history, Michael! Maybe you ARE related to the rabbi, who knows??
Yiddish will not go extinct as long as there are ultra-orthodox Jews such as those who live in New York, and Jerusalem and some settlements. Not that I agree with their religious views (I emphatically don't!), but they ARE preserving the language. And then there are efforts in the US -- can't remember the name of the organization at the moment, but there is a library in Amherst devoting to preserving Yiddish books.
Hebrew did, indeed, morph into Aramaic, but happened far earlier than 200 CE. Even by the time of Jesus, Hebrew was strictly liturgical and literary, much as classical Arabic is, today.
Hebrew was a good choice for Israel, simply because the majority of Israelis are of Middle-Eastern descent, having fled from the Arab countries in 1948, although some came earlier. Yiddish and Ladino, to a lesser extent, simply have no meaning to them, whereas they were just as literate in Hebrew as the Ashkenazi Jews were. Hebrew is a unifier of the WHOLE Jewish people, whereas Yiddish is strictly Ashkenazi.
I do agree that there was a strong desire after the pogroms in Russia in the 1880's to return to the land of Palestine (as it was called then -- the first to actually call themselves "Palestinians" were the native-born Jews of the late 19th/early 20th century). And to throw off the shackles of European anti-Semitism by creating the proud "new Jew", who spoke Hebrew, and farmed the land (not allowed in European countries), and defended himself.
If you consider the majority of today's Jews, we do NOT belong in Europe, even though some of us have European roots. Everyone knows about the Arab refugees of the "Naqba" but no one mentions all the refugees who fled or were ejected from the Arab countries at the time. These people and their descendants don't tend to be among the upper classes in Israel, but they're there, and they're actually the strongest force in favor of many of Israel's stances.
I think it's great that you want to explore your Ashkenazi heritage! :-) I'm a little broader in my interest -- I'm drawn to the history of the Jews of Spain, and one of my hobbies is learning Ladino songs, although I can't sing them in public, LOL!! Because I studied Spanish and Hebrew, I understand about 90-95% of the words of the songs -- if you studied German, it would give you a good basis for understanding Yiddish.
A couple of years ago, I visited Poland, hosted by the family of a former student of mine. It was good to see the countryside where my people lived, although I also had the sensation of it being peopled by ghosts (yes, I know this isn't rational, and I'm not proposing it as a serious reality!). In Krakow, there are tons of souvenirs in the form of little statuettes of Jewish klezmer bands -- all made by Christians, who are cashing in on Jewish nostalgia. Auschwitz was a disappointment, because the Poles are far more interested in THEIR martyrs than in anything that happened to the Jews or Roma (Gypsies). They really don't miss the Jews (who made up approximately 30% of the total pre-war population, and were more than 50% of some cities), nor do they even much think about them. Germany is much more enlightened and cognizant of the Holocaust.
And just for fun: My maternal grandparents were from Grodno province, now in Belarus, but formerly variably disputed between Russia and Poland, my paternal grandmother was from Kovno (Kaunas) province in Lithuania, and my paternal grandfather was from Georgia, the country, not the state. All in the pale of settlement. I had my DNA tested: mitochondrial DNA is Germanic (which I spoke of previously), and Y-chromosome (from my brother) is Turkic. Which really surprised me -- maybe I'm a descendant of the Khazars (no proof of ANY descendants historically)! But I'm sure there's semitic Jewish roots in my other DNA. Just a mutt, like everyone else! :-)
I realize that technically Yiddish doesn't matter, but then Hebrew matters even less. I'm not going to be religious about maintaining a spoken Yiddish. I think Ben Yehuda was able create modern spoken Hebrew because of a propaganda campaign promoting Hebrew and bashing Yiddish. The Jewish who wanted a Jewish state in Israel needed Hebrew to help transform the Jews into a semetic people who belong in Israel and not Europe.
Jews living in Israel are required to serve in the army for a certain amount of time, so I'm glas I don't live in Israel. I took a Yiddish class in Lithuania in 2007 (before I came out as an atheist). There is a small Jewish community in Vilnius, Lithuania (they maintain a community center that is a few rooms used for meetings and events, no fitness equiptment; a holocause museum in a house-sized building, and in two separate places, an art and exhibit exhibition galary, and placks about the vilnius ghetto). I would feel safe visiting the country again. I think in terms of hatred of Jews, E. Europe has improved since communism ended. I think that recently, Lithuanins have not been more anti-semetic than other countries in Europe, and they are hate us less than most of the middle east and North Africa and central Asia.
(You don't seem to hear much about Ladino/judezmo or dzhudezmo or a few other Jewish dialects that might or might not be extinct now). There was a conference in 1908 in a town called Cernowiz (the spelling varies depending on which article you read or which language) where they decided that Yiddish should be the Jewish national language. Hebrew went extinct as a spoken language by the 100's AD or CE when the Jews began to speak Armaic dialect(s). I have met native Yiddish speakers, but yeah, I know it has declined a lot. Yiddish is as in danger of going extinct as the world's other small languages that (now) have less than about a million speakers. My grandfather on my mother's side was Meyer Rothenberg and a great-great grandfather had the same name and there was a Rabbi Meyer of Rothenberg who lived in the 1200's in Germany and there is a town in Germany called Rothenberg but I have no evidence to indicate whether the rabbi is my ancestor.
Michael, I'm not really sure how to answer you, except to point out the parallel with Latin. It's not really spoken today, but the descendants of its speakers are clearly with us. Hebrew WAS preserved as a liturgical language, and the reason that Ben Yehuda managed to revive it was because so many of the Ashkenazi immigrants to Palestine had such a deep knowledge of it, not just for prayers, but also for reading the literature (much broader than the
We are CLEARLY mixed bloods -- during the Roman Empire, the Jews traded throughout the Mediterranean, and made their way up north to Eastern Europe. It's been genetically proven that they took Germanic wives, because Germanic mitochondrial DNA is common in Ashkenazi Jews. But Middle-Eastern Y-chromosomal DNA is also common, although not universal.
Since almost all of humanity is mixed-blood, there is no reason why you have to care about your Semitic roots -- if you identify more with Lithuania (which doesn't give a SHIT about you) so be it. You're a jigsaw puzzle just like the rest of us, and since none of us can be completely committed to any specific part of our own puzzles, why don't you just sit back and enjoy learning about the parts that DO intrigue you?
There is DNA research that proves that Jewish groups all over the world are more related to each other than to their surrounding communities, although, of course, there were conversions and intermarriage. Jews are an ethnic group -- a tribe, which happens to have its own religion. You DON'T have to believe in god in order to be Jewish, because Jews are born, not made (except through conversion). People of Japanese descent don't stop being Japanese, just because they were born here, and they are also a tribe with its own religion (Shinto), although most stop following it when they've been here for a few generations.
As far as the Torah and other Jewish writings -- we should accept them for just what they are: a picture of the thinking of primitive pre-scientific peoples who were trying to figure out the mysteries of life the universe and everything else. If every other culture has its mythology, the Jews have a right to theirs, too -- it's just that the Christians have perverted our mythology into something "holy" and "inerrant". But that's not OUR fault! What I like about the Jewish writings is the window into the past, mythology, genealogy, along with oral histories that gradually merge into provable histories, literature, sex poetry, moral and ethical arguments, mysticism, and all the ways the human mind tries to grapple with its environment. You don't have to believe in god to be interested in how humans have thought about their world. I enjoy having an ethnic and cultural heritage, and it has nothing to do with theism.
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