Yiddish Classes

Fall Classes Start October 24, 2022

If you're looking for Yiddish language classes in Boston (and beyond!), you've come to the right place. Our instructors are passionate about Yiddish and are experienced educators. Whether you are a beginner, have been studying on your own on Duolingo, are a continuing student, or grew up speaking the language, we have a class that will accommodate you. Students cover a wide age range, from young adults to seniors. We offer semester-long classes across a range of levels. Students in doubt about their course level should email info@circleboston.org.

All classes are currently online over Zoom. You can participate from anywhere, and invite family and friends to join you.  All classes, unless otherwise noted, run for 8 weeks.  

Our Classes

History of Yiddish Music

Mondays, November 14 - December 12, 7:30 - 9:00 pm

Never heard of Naftule Brandwein? No problem. Welcome to your turntable intervention.

Join Seattle renegade klezmer Miles (Mai Li Pittard) for your five-class guided tour through the 500-year adventure of Yiddish music: the hits; the stories and scandals; and Miles' controversial argument for a recent new, distinct 'revival' wave. This interactive listening and historical lecture class will focus on recordings, "needle-dropping" standards in different eras to showcase the changes in bands' styles and conventions in groove over time, and hit a solid selection of must-hears through history (including recent releases!), with some special spotlights on queer artists throughout history.
 
This class is not quite music appreciation and not quite history--more like an elevator pitch for the throughline and relevancy of modern klezmer and Yiddish music, and the widely-known conspiracy from Big Klezmer to get you hooked on the good stuff (and the stories behind it). Everyone will leave this class with at least one new weird historical story and a solid listening list that will change your life.
 
Level: Class is taught in English.  No experience necessary; only enthusiasm required.  No cap on enrollment.
 
Instructor: Miles (Mai Li Pittard)
 
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Level 1: Beginner

Wednesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 pm, starting Oct 26 (plus optional ½ hour to learn the Yiddish alphabet, 6:30 – 7:00 pm)

Learn elementary grammar, conversation skills and how to read Yiddish. Students who don't yet know the Hebrew alphabet will be asked to join the class a half hour early for the first several sessions. The class will be interactive and lively, using the textbook Colloquial Yiddish, songs, games, and other multi-media materials.

Level: Students new to Yiddish or those who know a few basics but want a structured start to learning anew.

Materials: Students should purchase Colloquial Yiddish at The Yiddish Book Center or Routledge Textbooks or at other on-line sites.

Instructor: Raphael Halff

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Level 2:  Advanced Beginner

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 pm, starting Oct 25
 
Students will continue learning from Colloquial Yiddish, starting with a review of grammar already learned in BWC’s Beginner classes and moving further ahead. Additionally, songs and various multi-media materials will be used to expose students to current and historical Yiddish culture and to strengthen conversation skills and Yiddish reading ability.
 
Level: Geared to students who have taken a Beginner-Semester 2 or Semester 3 Boston Workers Circle class, and to newcomers who already know the alef-beys and present tense, have some familiarity with the past tense and can understand, speak, read and write simple sentences in Yiddish.
 
Materials: New students should purchase Colloquial Yiddish at The Yiddish Book Center or Routledge Textbooks or at other on-line sites.
 
Instructor: Jonah Sidman

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Level 3: Intermediate 

Choose one of three sections:
 

New Intermediates 

Tuesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 pm, starting Oct 25
 
Using the textbook In Eynem, vol 2, students will increase their comfort with Yiddish grammar and with fluency speaking, reading and writing.
 
Level: Students who have previously taken a BWC Advanced Beginner class, and new students who have either completed In Eynem vol 1 and/or who are comfortable with basic conversation in Yiddish; familiar with grammar such as case and gender declensions and separable-prefix verb conjugations; and who have experience reading texts that include past, present and future tenses.
 
Textbook: Students new to the class should purchase In Eynem at The Yiddish Book Center.
 
Instructor: Zissel Piazza

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Continuing Intermediates – Motl Peyse dem Khazns 

Wednesdays, 4:30 – 6:00 pm, starting Oct 26
 
Students in this section will continue reading an abridged and annotated version of Motl Peyse dem Khazns by Sholem Aleichem, starting with chapter 4. By reading aloud, using the book's exercises, and discussion, students will have a chance to strengthen their Yiddish reading, vocabulary, grammar and conversation skills. There'll also be time for general conversation practice and learning through songs. 
 
Level: Continuing students and new students who can read Yiddish with the help of a dictionary and who want guided reading and grammar/vocabulary/reading comprehension exercises.  The first class will include a review of characters and plot in Motl Peyse as a summary for new students and a refresher for continuing students.
 
Materials: New students should purchase Motl Peyse dem Khazns, available at League for Yiddish or at other on-line sites.
 
Instructor: Jonah Sidman

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Continuing Intermediates – Yehoyash’s Yiddish translation of the Tanakh

Mondays, 5:00 – 6:30 pm, starting Oct 24
 
Join us for an early evening weekly reading group studying Yehoyash's Yiddish translation of the Tanakh, in the book of Breyshis (Genesis). Brush up on your biblical vocabulary as you immerse yourself in the tehom (watery depths), read about the exploits of the nefilim (antediluvian giants), practice your reading fluency by chanting repetitive verses about the long lives of the ancestors who begat named sons and nameless daughters, and role play as an ancient sage or shtetl melamed by attempting to explain and expand upon the meanings of these ancient verses. 
 
Level:  This section is intended for continuing BWC intermediates.  New students who have experience reading and speaking Yiddish within or outside of a classroom setting are welcome to join. Grammar will be reviewed as it comes up in the text. 
 
Materials:  Provided by instructor.  
 
Instructor: Abby Howell

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Level 4: Advanced - Theater

Wednesdays, 7:00 – 8:30 pm, starting Oct 26
 
In this class, students will read pieces of Yiddish theater aloud together.  The teacher will speak in Yiddish, providing dramaturgy and historical context, and students will be encouraged to discuss the material using as much Yiddish as they can. Grammatical topics will be addressed as they arise in our texts. This will be a great opportunity to improve speaking and reading literacy as well as to develop familiarity with Yiddish theatre and the historical and cultural contexts in which it was produced. 
 
Materials: Provided by instructor. 
 
Instructor: Zissel Piazza

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Tuition Rates For All Classes

Member: $135  / Non-member: $180

Special Rates Young Adult or Low Income 

Member:  $100 / Non-member: $135
 
Become a member here, starting at $5.
*No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Please contact Sandy, sandy@circleboston.org, if you need financial assistance with tuition or book purchases for the class.
 
*Minimum number of students per class: 5. Maximum: 10. Register now to save your spot.

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Our Instructors

Raphi Halff (he/him) is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. He completed his undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Jewish Literature at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. His master’s is in Yiddish Literature from Tel Aviv University.  He has taught Yiddish language at the Naomi Kadar International Yiddish Summer Program in Tel Aviv.  
 
Abby Howell (she/her) learned to speak Yiddish while she was a student at the University of Texas at Austin, and continued her study at the National Yiddish Book Center's summer internship program, at YIVO's intensive Weinreich Summer Program in New York, and at Boston Workers Circle. Abby has a M.Ed. in Education of the Deaf from Boston University, and is currently a software engineer. She has been teaching Yiddish at the Boston Workers Circle for over ten years. 
 
Elya (Zissel/זיסל) Piazza (they/them) is a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley and a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. They are currently working on their doctoral dissertation which explores how queer readings of the Talmud reveal subversive impulses and discursive strategies that came to influence many later generations of Jewish thought including the Yiddish language as a site of resistance to oppression. They have been a teaching fellow at SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva, and both a Yiddish language pedagogy fellow and a translation fellow at the Yiddish Book Center. Their translation of Di Agune, by Maria Lerner, the earliest known Yiddish play by any woman playwright is forthcoming in a volume of 3 Yiddish plays from Bloomsbury. 
 
Jonah Sidman (he/him) is a native of Brooklyn and a graduate of Oberlin College. A science educator, he is also the music teacher at Boston Workers Circle's children's Shule. He can often be found fiddling for American or Irish folk dances all over the East Coast, and speaking/singing in Yiddish locally. Having begun his Yiddish studies at Boston Workers Circle, he's pleased to now be sharing his knowledge with students as a teacher.