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For over one thousand years, the Yiddish language was spoken by Ashkenazic Jews living in Central and Eastern Europe. Yiddish was the language of Jewish social and economic life, and increasingly, as Ashkenazic Jews encountered modernity, of a vibrant literary and cultural life as well. Millions of Jews emigrated from Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, spreading Yiddish all over the globe; as a major center of Jewish immigration, New York City became the home of a flourishing Yiddish cultural scene in the first half of the twentieth century.
The tragedies of the twentieth century, the decimation of European Jewry in the Holocaust and the repression of Jewish cultural life in the Soviet Union, drastically reduced the number of Yiddish speakers in the world; linguistic assimilation in the United States, Israel and other countries has meant that few people today are acquainted with the treasures of Jewish history and literature written in Yiddish.
At Columbia, we hope that the curriculum in Yiddish Studies, through instruction in Yiddish language and literature at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, will educate both university students and the general public about the “golden tradition” of Yiddish literature and culture.
Major in Yiddish!
In recent years, the growing interest in Yiddish cultural heritage has made the Yiddish Studies Program one of the most vibrant programs at Columbia. We are also the only program in the United States to offer a major (and a concentration) in Yiddish. Don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity! Information about the requirements can be found here.
Fellowships for Yiddish students
We’re thrilled to offer two fantastic fellowships for Yiddish students:
– The Naomi Prawer Kadar Fellowship (A Yiddish Study Abroad Program) for students who will commit to at least three semesters of Yiddish at Columbia. It will allow you to complete the language requirement in three semesters instead of four, and spend a fully-funded summer exploring Yiddish in Israel and Poland.
– The Irene Kronhill Pletka YIVO Research Fellowship (A New York-based archival research fellowship) for students who have completed two semesters of Yiddish at Columbia.
Language Placement and Proficiency Exams
If you wish to study Yiddish at a level higher than Elementary I, you need to take the Yiddish Placement Exam. If you wish to waive the language requirement, you need to take the Yiddish Proficiency Exam.
Please email Dr. Agi Legutko at email@example.com to take the exams in an online format.
Check out the Mapping Yiddish New York digital project created by Yiddish students at Columbia. You, too, can contribute to this growing online archive on the Yiddish history and culture of New York.
Like our Facebook page to keep up to date with Yiddish events at Columbia, in New York, and online!
Don’t forget to join the student Yiddish Club of Columbia/Barnard Hillel to be part of a wonderful community of people interested in Yiddish culture, language and history!
Welcome to Columbia’s Yiddishland! We can’t wait to meet you!
Taking courses in Yiddish will allow you to fulfill the language requirement at Columbia.
Please check the Columbia Directory of Classes for the latest information on class times and locations.