The Rise of Mod­ern Yid­dish Cullture

  • Review
By – June 25, 2012
Con­tem­po­rary pop­u­lar and main­stream schol­ar­ly per­spec­tives on mod­ern Yid­dish cul­ture tend to asso­ciate it with the rise of the Jew­ish Labor Bund and its social­ist ide­olo­gies. Fishman’s book pro­vides a cor­rec­tive to this par­tial under­stand­ing through a detailed por­trait of the mul­ti­ple polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al forces that stim­u­lat­ed the growth of mod­ern Yid­dish cul­ture, in the con­texts of Tsarist Rus­sia and of Poland between the wars. Although the his­tor­i­cal ter­ri­to­ry cov­ered is not new, Fish­man pulls an impres­sive amount of mate­r­i­al togeth­er in a com­pressed form. He offers fresh insights into the impact of the Russ­ian polit­i­cal atmos­phere and inter­war Pol­ish nation­al­ism on the rise of Yid­dishism” and the Jew­ish nation­al move­ments that ele­vat­ed Yid­dish as the key dias­po­ra lan­guage. Fishman’s clear, unadorned style gives access to com­plex issues, but nonaca­d­e­m­ic read­ers will like­ly find most com­pelling the book’s final chap­ter, recount­ing the dra­mat­ic efforts of the Vil­na Ghetto’s paper brigade” to res­cue Jew­ish cul­tur­al trea­sures. Index, notes, select­ed bibliography. 
Mer­le Lyn Bach­man is a poet and asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of Eng­lish at Spald­ing Uni­ver­si­ty in Louisville, KY. She is the author of Recov­er­ing Yid­dish­land’ ”: Thresh­old Moments in Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture” (Syra­cuse Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2008) and a book of poet­ry, Dio­ra­ma with Flee­ing Fig­ures” (Shears­man Books, 2009).

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