Yiddish and Power is a survey of a thousand years of social, linguistic and intellectual, social and political history of the Yiddish language within the traditional civilisation of Jewish Ashkenaz in central, and then in eastern Europe, and its interaction with the surrounding non-Jewish culture. The book explores the ways in which Yiddish has empowered masses first by providing access to romantic literature from outside, and then later, to the 'secrets' from inside the Jewish heritage (including KabbalahKabbalistic mysticism) that were previously accessible only for those rabbinically trained in the two classic Jewish languages, Hebrew and Aramaic. Along the way, the study of Yiddish variously served the interests of Jewish rebels, anti-Semites (and in an unusual agreement, Jewish assimilationists) who sought to vilify the language as an embodiment of evil. The language went on to become a beloved and key value in radical new Jewish movements, in politics, culture and literature.Yiddish today continues to serve various interests ranging from the far left to the far right. This book covers close to a thousand years of uses, abuses, disputes, love and hate of one of Europe's genuinely exotic languages.
Maps and charts by Giedre Beconyte