Gennady Estraikh has written a concise, fascinating, and highly readable account of the role and fate of Yiddish during the Cold War between the USA and the USSR, home to the two largest Jewish Diaspora communities. Estraikh was intimately involved in the final decades of Yiddish in the former Soviet Union as managing editor of the journal Sovetish Heymland.
Paradoxically, although Jewish communal identity was officially suppressed in the USSR, from 1961 to 1991 the Sovetish Heymland magazine provided a substantial outlet for Yiddish writing. Together with the numerous amateur and semi-professional Yiddish musical, dance, choral, and theatrical groups allowed to perform in many cities, Sovetish Heymland and the modest weekly Birobidzhaner Shtern seemed to signify a blossoming of a linguistic culture clearly declining in both the USA and Israel. Relatively young Yiddishist Soviet emigrants, like Estraikh now at New York University, Mikhail Krutikov at the University of Michigan, and Boris Sandler, editor of the Yiddish weekly Forward, are all products of the last flowering of Soviet Yiddish. Estraikh also explores the stubbornly tragic career of Paul Novick, the long-lived editor of the New York Communist Morgn-Frayhayt.
Yiddish in the Cold War is highly recommended, although it is surprising how many English syntactical and grammatical errors occur in a book published in Great Britain. Bibliography, index, photographs.