By Aya Elyada
Elyada’s research of a variety of philological and theological works, in addition to textbooks, dictionaries, ethnographical writings, and translations, demonstrates that Christian Yiddishism had implications past its in simple terms linguistic and philological dimensions. certainly, Christian texts on Yiddish display not just the ways that Christians perceived and outlined Jews and Judaism, but additionally, in a contrasting vein, how they seen their very own language, faith, and culture.
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Extra info for A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany
4 Among the Jews, too, Yiddish was always considered inferior. While Hebrew was the language of religion and the educated elite, Yiddish was the language of everyday life. ”5 However, neither the low status of Yiddish inside the Jewish communities nor its negative image in nonJewish eyes deterred Christian scholars, most of them theologians, Hebraists, and Orientalists, from involving themselves with the language and its literature. In fact, Yiddish attracted the attention of German, mainly Protestant, scholars precisely because of these two attributes: that it was a Jewish language, and that it included a significant Hebrew component.
57 The Christian practice of using Jewish sources to prove Christian precepts was not new in Müller’s day. Especially since the rise of Christian Hebraism from the late fifteenth century onwards and the Protestant call to read the Bible in the original Hebrew, Christian scholars used their proficiency in Hebrew to prove to the Jews their allegedly mistaken understanding of their own sources, as Müller himself did in this work. However, Müller presents his work as if it were a Jewish answer to the Christian Hebraists.
Although instruction in German and the Latin alphabet was usually part of the convert’s initiation process, in most cases the act of religious conversion did not mean an immediate linguistic one; Yiddish works, as well as Yiddish-speaking instructors, were still needed to aid the process of conversion and ease the convert’s adjustment to the new religion. Faced with the ever-present danger of converts relapsing from Christianity, Callenberg and his missionaries provided former Jews, some of them baptized years before, with missionary writings in the Jewish language.
A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany by Aya Elyada