https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Luke_5.1991

An Idea for the Yiddish Icon

I speak for many Duolingoers of Jewish and non-Jewish origin when I say that I am thrilled that a Yiddish course is in development here. As someone who speaks German, Yiddish is wonderfully simple to learn, and very easy to read and understand. I am ever more inspired by this professor's talk at the University of Washington about the importance of Yiddish in today's world. With the tragedy of the Holocaust and the subsequent founding of Hebrew-speaking Israel, Yiddish at first appears to many as a relic of a culture whose days have passed. Ironically, that was the attitude many took toward Hebrew before it became the daily language of several million people in Israel and beyond.

Duolingo will certainly play a powerful role in the Yiddish renaissance. I believe an icon for the language course should reflect the fact that the language of many of our ancestors, the language of most European Jews throughout history, is far from forgotten. In memory of the millions of Yiddish speakers who perished in the Holocaust, I think it is appropriate that we choose a monument that continues to exist only in memory, as they do, so we can remind the world of what once was. I believe the Great Synagogue of Warsaw is such a monument. It was strikingly beautiful, both Jewish and European in character, and at the very heart of the Yiddish-speaking world. Warsaw, before the war, was nearly half Jewish.

I realize many places in the world would represent this course well, including many places in the US and throughout Europe, perhaps even Israel as well. My wish is that this beautiful building can live on in some way. It was taken from humanity in a brutal manner, and we can do our part by bringing it back to life in this small way.

I'd like to hear your thoughts as well.

edit: A bit of historical background: the building was purposefully demolished by the Nazis along with most other buildings in Warsaw, Jewish-related or not, as retribution for the Warsaw and Warsaw Ghetto uprisings. Most buildings in Warsaw were rebuilt after the war (by means of paintings, photographs, and other printed materials like postcards), but the Great Synagogue was never rebuilt. A shiny blue office tower now stands in its place.

My hope is that this icon can shed some light on how much culture, brilliance, and love-of-life existed in Yiddish-speaking Europe before the Holocaust. Although Yiddish is a language in decline (hopefully not for long), its history is rich and so is its literature and cultural contribution to the global community. The history of the Jews in Europe is incredibly long, oftentimes tragic, but just as often, beautiful and magnificent. I hope that people will come to understand that.

February 17, 2015

20 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Medard

Great idea! I am polish and I have never seen it :(Thanks!

and have some lingLOTS

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/endios

Of course you've never seen it: "it was personally blown up by SS-Gruppenführer Jürgen Stroop on 16 May 1943" (from wiki)

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Medard

I mean, I have never seen it on photos.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Luke_5.1991

Thank you.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/volumniax

Excellent idea.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/harryclark17

Did you win the lingot lottery or something?

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ChristianofPeace

I agree with you my friend. It's a very beautiful building that should live on.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TatianaBoshenka

What a wonderful idea! Thanks for making the suggestion. I hope it's picked up.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/julesmGGF

I would love to see it as the monument. What a beautiful place it was.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Jsprwstr

What a beautiful idea.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ConorHoughton

A fine idea; as an alternative I was thinking about Isaac Bashevis Singer, the Yiddish writer who, among many claims to greatness, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978. There are some very fine illustrations to his books, like this from Maurice Sendak:

Zlateh and the Goat

or this from Ira Moskowitz

Dance with kerchief

Though, of course, there'd be copyright problems with all these.

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TheWiseTurtle

I've never heard of Yiddish, but I'm always happy to hear that another language is being added to Duolingo! ;)

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Barzun

I like this idea!

February 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/finn.fr

A beautiful and touching idea :)

February 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SteveLando

Very good idea!

February 17, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/oskalingo

My counter-argument is that the Jewish people and their languages should be seen as a culture and not a religion. Yes, religion is a part of culture but only a part and culture is the greater whole. The Jewish people in Europe have a long and enlightened history of secularism and I think a lot of the many famous European secular Jews would not be so thrilled to have a religious building, however beautiful, representing their language.

I'm also going to restate my opinion that using a 'monument' to represent a language is unnecessary, culturally simplistic and Oy vey, so kitsch! I feel the same way about using flags. But I understand this is an unpopular opinion.

Finally on the language itself, I'm very happy to see Yiddish being added to duolingo. It is a wonderfully expressive language.

February 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Luke_5.1991

As a secular Jew myself, I see and understand your argument. Many Yiddish-speakers were secularists, and some of the earliest and most influential atheists/agnostics of modern times. My reasoning for why I believe a synagogue best represents Jewish identity is not religious at all.

The word "synagogue" comes from the Greek "sun agein" meaning "to bring together." The synagogue was the central place of Jewish community throughout most of Jewish history, the place of highest Jewishness. Even Freud, a hero to Jewish secularism, lauded Jewish religious literacy as the greatest vehicle toward reason (which he believed to be an atheistic, secular humanist worldview). There are few secular Jews who harbor resentment toward the synagogue. For thousands of years, it has represented us to ourselves and to others, even others who hated us. I'm proud of the synagogue as an institution, and I think I wouldn't be the person I am today (irreligious, secular, and profoundly morally-guided) without the knowledge I learned from שול.

February 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/l.graveyard_yea6

Shalom, I love these language . Can I inject that word " Jewish " . I respect that word if I were all Jewish . I used the word " Isreal " and Jerusalem will be the capital in due times . Would Yiddish smooth over to learning Isreal help as well german .?.

February 18, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BryanAJParry

Wonderful post. Thank you for sharing.

February 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Carolina250709

I love your idea and appreciate all you told us. I am new here and happened to open your comment so don't know if Yiddish has been added yet. It would be a good symbol of the unsuccessful destruction of a community.

August 4, 2018
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