Yiddish reading group

Yiddish Reading Group: How does it work?

Anyone who has participated in Boston Workers Circle’s weekly Friday morning Yiddish Reading Group has experienced a warm welcome, encouragement, challenges, lively discussion, and new interests.

Our longstanding group started around 2013 with three people meeting in person at the BWC building. Covid introduced us to Zoom meetings, and as a result the group grew and spread

geographically. Currently ten to twelve participants from three continents meet over Zoom every

Friday at 10:30 a.m., ready to explore the next several pages of the Yiddish work we have chosen. The choosing process in itself is democratic, lively, passionate, and occasionally argumentative! 

We have done our homework with dictionaries and encyclopedias to prepare the next few pages of the text. The first volunteer reads and translates a section of the chosen work, and the action starts. With each other’s help, we puzzle through challenging passages. We might turn to our resident experts to explain loshn koydesh words or Slavic words, or agree that we will never know the meaning of a certain phrase. We explore pockets of history and customs to enrich the reading. We express our pleasure or criticism, and welcome everyone’s contribution. It’s a group of cooperating searchers digging for meaning and connections. Someone relates a memory from childhood that illuminates a Yiddish expression. Someone else recommends a book. Someone else suggests a different way to unravel a tricky sentence. Our mental map of Poland comes alive when a family’s home town is mentioned in a story. And sometimes a detail in a story surprises us, and changes a preconception about yiddishkeit.

Over the years the group has covered a wide variety of Yiddish literature, from the classics to recently discovered works. In the past year the group has read works by Salomea Perl, Sholom Aleichem, Kadya Molodovsky, I.B Singer, Yenta Mash, and Chaim Grade — ranging in geography from the Siberian tundra to Broadway.

This Yiddish reading group is lively. It’s serious. It’s respectful. It’s stimulating. It’s enlightening. It’s enjoyable. ‘Siz a fargenigen’.

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