Yiddish Language

Once considered moribund, Yiddish, the language of Jews from Eastern and Central Europe, is alive and kicking across college campuses in the U.S. UVA's Jewish Studies Program, in cooperation with the German Department, is in the vanguard of the Yiddish revival.

Gabriel Finder has been teaching introductory Yiddish since 2002 to UVA students eager to explore the riches of Eastern European Jewish culture and history. In the 2007-2008 academic year, he began teaching not only introductory Yiddish but also intermediate Yiddish to a class of undergraduates, graduate students, and auditing professors. In addition to basic language instruction, both introductory Yiddish (YIDD 1050 & 1060) and intermediate Yiddish (YIDD 2050 & 2100) feature a lively dose of Yiddish folksongs and films.

It goes without saying that Yiddish classes don't go hungry. Hardly a week goes by that students aren't "noshing" Eastern European Jewish delicacies such as "lokshn kugel" (noodle kugel) in class while mastering the intricacies of Yiddish grammar. Every year students perform a medley of Yiddish songs in a holiday Channukah concert for a charitable cause and give themselves group names in Yiddish in honor of the occasion. This year's first-year Yiddishists call themselves "Di heyse bulbes" (The Hot Potatoes) and the second-year veterans are popularly known as "Di paykldike payklers" (The Drumming Drummers).

The study of Yiddish is paying dividends for students in other Jewish Studies Program courses. Some students in the fall course "The Culture and History of the Jews of Eastern Europe," taught by James Loeffler, are reading memoirs and even operettas in Yiddish for their term papers. We wonder what Mr. Jefferson would say if he knew that students are chattering in "mame loshn" on the Lawn and in their dormitories! Long live Yiddish at UVA!

Hebrew Language

Shalom and welcome to Hebrew! Hebrew is the "sleeping beauty" of Semitic languages. For more than a thousand years, the Hebrew language had been sleeping (according to linguists, it was only daydreaming). But then, one day in the nineteenth century (so goes the legend), it was kissed by the crazy visioner Eliezer Ben Yehuda, and woke up to life.

One of the Hebrew Program's unique features is its emphasis on Hebrew for the long run, Hebrew for the real world. You will not only learn Hebrew, but also master the learning techniques that will render your knowledge sustainable, allowing your relationship with Hebrew to persist for years to come. For vocabulary, for instance, we will be using video clips, paintings, and also dozens of music clips from the internet and other sources, thereby making it easy to practice the language at home or on the road in the exact same way as in the classroom.

Assessment in the Hebrew Program is based on an innovative principle we like to call show what you know! The idea is a simple one; in lieu of giving standard vocabulary quizzes or grammar tests, we ask that students demonstrate their knowledge by way of performing the same activities we conduct in class. In a typical vocabulary demonstration, for instance, you and a partner will need each in your own turn to demonstrate your familiarity with the vocabulary at hand, as well as its underlying grammar. When it is your turn to demonstrate your knowledge, your partner will ask leading questions and provide you with other helpful hints and tips (in Hebrew, of course), yet without giving away the answer, a la Pictionary.

Learning Hebrew is known to be addictive, but is also very rewarding! By learning Hebrew you will be joining a fast-growing, highly diverse speaker community and have doors opened to contemporary culture in Israel and Palestine, as well as to the language of the Bible. Already looking forward to learn Hebrew? me'tsu'yan! la'avoda!