By Aya Elyada
Elyada’s research of quite a lot of philological and theological works, in addition to textbooks, dictionaries, ethnographical writings, and translations, demonstrates that Christian Yiddishism had implications past its simply linguistic and philological dimensions. certainly, Christian texts on Yiddish exhibit not just the ways that Christians perceived and outlined Jews and Judaism, but additionally, in a contrasting vein, how they considered 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
9 In the Latin dedication to his Yiddish New Testament, Helic outlined the missionary intentions underlying his translation. Accusing the rabbis of keeping the Jews blind to the Christian truth, the recently converted Helic expressed the hope that his translation of the New Testament into “the vernacular language, that is Theutonic”10 would reveal the truth of Christianity to his former coreligionists, and would thus help to bring about their conversion. 11 Half a century later the Protestant reformer and professor of Hebrew and theology at Strasbourg, Magister Elias Schadeus, published another Yiddish translation of Luther’s New Testament.
In these cases, however, other arguments in favor of learning Yiddish were focused on, adding new dimensions to the role of Yiddish in ChristianJewish relations in early modern Germany. Two “From the Jews’ own books” Yiddish Literature, Christian Readers Mastering Yiddish was also recommended to the Christian Studiosis Theologiae to enable them to read Ashkenazi Jewish literature in this language. 1 While Hebrew was the language of Jewish scholarly literature, works in Yiddish were meant primarily for the larger segments of the Jewish population, including Jewish women, children, and less educated men, who could not read Hebrew and lacked the training required to fully understand complicated rabbinic texts.
By exploring why Christians were preoccupied with Yiddish and how they depicted the Jewish language and literature in their writings, I wish to demonstrate that early modern Christian Yiddishism has had implications beyond its purely linguistic and philological dimensions. As part of a broader theological, cultural, and social discourse on Jews and Judaism in early modern Germany, the Christian texts on Yiddish reveal not only the way their authors assumed the unique perspective of language to perceive and define the subjects of their works, but also the way they perceived and defined their own language, religion, and culture in contrast to those of the Jews.
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