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YINGLISH
On Language and Spirit
By Simon Jacobson
 

 

Amongst the many comments we received about our new design and layout, I would like to address one important issue and allay any concerns that our readers may have.
Most of the reactions were very positive and encouraging. People voiced their approval and support for our fresh approach and direction. We cherish your kind words your appreciation infuses us with motivation to continue our efforts and growth.
Yet, to be transparent, as a newspaper should be, some of our readers voiced apprehension. “Are you forsaking the battle for Yiddish?” “Will your new direction compromise the essential ‘brand’of the Algemeiner, which from it inception continued the long tradition of Der Tog Morgen Zhurnal (the Yiddish daily, The Day Jewish Journal, which closed its doors in 1972)?” These were some of the questions posed to us by some of our most loyal and long-time readers.
Full disclosure is therefore necessary:
During World War II the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, wittingly said: “In times of war the truth is so precious, that you have to surround and protect it with an army of lies.”
The same can be said of Yiddish: “Mamme-loshon” is a treasure that captures – as the term implies – the beauty and the agony, the warmth and the laughter, the tears and the sadness, of our mothers and fathers. Yiddish is much more than a shprach, a mere language; it is a life – a soul – which cradles in its embrace over a thousand years of Jewish life, culture and tradition. In contrast to other languages that describe and communicate human experience, Yiddish was born out of experience, its every word dripping with the very guts of life itself. Its soothing words were shaped by singing children to sleep amidst the terror around them; its sighs were conceived from the pains of daily existence; its humor was birthed from attempts to cope with a world gone mad; its passion created from the quintessential Jewish yearnings for transcendence.
Yiddish, in this sense, is therefore eternal. Like the spirit it contains, it can never die.
What do we then do when the soul-language, which is Yiddish, is threatened? We surround it with armies that can protect and preserve its survival. Over the centuries of the Diaspora Jews have adapted to the languages and customs of each nation they inhabited, while maintaining the integrity of their spirit. The sages explain that this is not compromise; quite the contrary: It demonstrates the breadth and latitude of Yidden and Yiddishkeit – their ability to elevate and refine each culture with the uniqueness of the Jewish experience. For this reason Moses translated the Torah into seventy languages.
Today, most Jews do not speak actual Yiddish. The Algemeiner is however of the belief that though they cannot articulate Yiddish words, Jews can understand, appreciate and convey the Yiddish spirit. Today, our challenge is to “dress” up Yiddish and what it represents in the “garments” and language of our times – without in any way diminishing the spirit of the original. Indeed, translating a message into a foreign language often draws out its deepest essence. Like technology, language is a tool to widen the reach of our spirit.
The Algemeiner is committed to continue publishing our newspaper in its original Yiddish, and retain the beauty and power of this rich language, even as we surround the newspaper with articles, advertisements, announcements and anything else that can help preserve our Yiddishe neshomo. This is not an attempt to abandon our roots, G-d forbid; no tree can survive and grow without its deep roots. Our ongoing efforts are the Jewish – Yiddishe – way to ensure that the Yiddishe tree in all its glory and spirit – its soul – expands and perpetuates to the next generations.
Lest anyone feel offended, I am not suggesting that English is a pack of lies, only meant to protect the truth of Yiddish within (though my grandfather would tell me that everything in a newspaper is a lie, even the date, since today’s paper was printed last night…). I am only using Churchill’s idiom as an example of the need to adapt to the times in order to preserve the precious original. To paraphrase Picasso: Art is a lie that reveals a deeper truth.
See this as the first ever “Yinglish” newspaper. Not as in a compromised mutation of a tzubrochene Yiddish or a broken English -- but as a fusion of the best of both worlds: Vintage and soulful Yiddish, punctuated by high quality, content-rich English, rendering our treasured spirit and history in contemporary language.
On behalf of all our dedicated staff, thank you for your vote of confidence and please continue to send us your comments, critique, and feedback. Please use our pages as a platform to report your activities. Support us financially, advertise in our paper and encourage other to do the same. Help us grow. We see our newspaper as a sacred public trust; you, dear readers, are our true partners. As such, it is critical to hear your voice, and we in turn will try to live up to your highest expectations of us.
 

 

 

 

Posted on September 18, 2009
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