Archives & Resources
Every Rosh Hashanah, a community member is invited to give a d'var on a topic that relates something of personal interest or expertise to larger lessons for the upcoming year. Below is a sampling of d'vars from recent years. Feel free to download them to read at your leisure.
- Rebecca Zimmerman Hornstein - 2022 (Yom Kippur)
- Pauli Katz - 2022 (Rosh Hashanah)
- Jonah Sidman - 2021 (Yom Kippur)
- Jen Kiok - 2021 (Rosh Hashanah)
- Rochelle Ruthchild - 2020 (Yom Kippur)
- Nellie Shippen - 2020 (Rosh Hashanah)
- Haley Kossek - 2018 (Yom Kippur)
- Norm Berman - 2017 (Yom Kippur)
- Sammy Sass - 2017 (Rosh Hashanah)
- Sarah Chapple Sokol - 2016
- Lisa Gallatin - 2014
- Janet Axelrod - 2011
- Rosa Blumenfeld - 2009
- Steve Ostrow - 2008
- Mike Felsen - 2007
Aging in Community
Because Jewish languages like Yiddish, Ladino, and Hebrew, among many others, are written using the Hebrew alphabet, they must be transliterated in order to demonstrate the pronunciation of words in the audience’s alphabet for anyone who may not know how to read the language’s original alphabet. Transliteration thus attempts to provide a one to one letter conversion from one alphabet to another. As a predominantly English-speaking community, we transliterate using the Latin alphabet.
On our website and in our other communications, you may find names of holidays and cultural concepts spelled in ways you might be unfamiliar with compared to the ways you may have typically seen these words transliterated in English. We generally follow YIVO Standard transliteration, the predominant system used to transliterate YIVO Standard Yiddish, which transliterates according to Yiddish pronunciation, or an Ashkenazi pronunciation when transliterating loshn-koydesh (words originally from Biblical Hebrew and Aramaic). YIVO Standard transliteration is one of many valid transliteration styles, and there are times when we use other styles of transliteration. Some examples include when the transliteration is from a language with its own transliteration style, such as transliteration of Ladino texts, or when the transliteration is of a particular Yiddish dialect which does not use YIVO Standard pronunciation, such as songs written for a poylish (Polish) Yiddish which rely on a rhyming scheme specific to poylish Yiddish. There are circumstances when we might choose a non-YIVO Standard transliteration because the communication in which it appears is particularly external-facing and we anticipate our audience would be looking for a more normative transliteration style in order to engage with our programming.
There are times when we use other styles of transliteration. Some examples include when the transliteration is from a language with its own transliteration style, such as transliteration of Ladino texts, or when the transliteration is of a particular Yiddish dialect which does not use YIVO Standard pronunciation, such as songs written for a poylish Yiddish which rely on a rhyming scheme specific to poylish Yiddish. Additionally, there are circumstances when we might choose a non-YIVO Standard transliteration because the communication in which it appears is particularly external-facing and we anticipate our audience would be looking for a more normative transliteration style in order to engage with our programming.
Our members and staff have worked closely to evaluate the value in choosing one style over another, and in desiring to have a consistent style throughout our communications, we have had to balance competing desires of external comprehensibility with the need to center our community’s particularities. Some reasons why we ultimately chose this style:
- We were founded by Yiddish-speaking Ashkenazi immigrants who from the organization’s founding made it their mission to uplift and pass on Yiddish language and culture to future generations. We seek to nurture our commitment to Yiddishkayt past, present, and future, and thus we transliterate using Yiddish pronunciation as our default.
- We transliterate using the YIVO Standard for Yiddish out of a recognition of our organization’s historical and contemporary ties with the YIVO Institute and in recognition more broadly of their incredible work to preserve and impart Yiddish language and culture. Our Yiddish classes are taught in YIVO Standard, and thus this transliteration style aligns with our larger programmatic practices.
We view language, including transliteration, as inherently political, reflecting dynamics of power and oppression. Originally, Ashkenazi Jewish communities prayed and spoke using Ashkenazi Hebrew and Yiddish. However, in modern America, most Jewish communities say prayers according to Modern Hebrew pronunciation originating from the State of Israel, where Modern Hebrew was created and standardized by Ashkenazi Jews using Yiddish syntax and a constructed Sephardi pronunciation.
After the Holocaust, there was a strong sense among some Jews, particularly Zionists, that Ashkenazi pronunciation and Yiddish language and culture were emblematic of Jewish victimhood. As a result, there were efforts to prevent the continuation of Yiddish language and culture. It was de facto (and even de jure) discouraged in the State of Israel for many years, and a majority of communities in the United States slowly transitioned to using Modern Hebrew pronunciation in prayer and in vernacular. At the same time, funding and resourcing of Yiddish language and other Jewish Diaspora language education significantly declined in favor of investments in Modern Hebrew language education, reducing the amount of American Jews who were being taught the language and pronunciation of their ancestors. Thus, many American Jews now use Modern Hebrew pronunciation, regardless of their ethnic heritage, their politics, or their relationship with the State of Israel. As a community welcoming of non-Zionist and anti-Zionist Jews, and in recognition of our roots, we highlight Ashkenazi pronunciation as a form of cultural perseverance and a disruption of linguistic norms reliant on the degradation of Yiddish language and culture.