For the first time since 1959, Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel is offering Harvard students a class in introductory Yiddish.
Hillel administrator Lois Madison said that 43 people, at least 40 of whom are Harvard students, are enrolled in the course. "I was surprised to find so many," said Hillel's Rabbi Ben-Zion Gold, who expected only one-third as many to enroll.
Gold, who taught Yiddish at Harvard in 1970 and 1971, said Yiddish was part of the Harvard curriculum until last year, when course instructor David Fishman accepted an assistant professorship at Brandeis University.
Gold says he feels the recent upswing in interest in Yiddish stems from students wanting to read literature and to preserve their ties to "family" and to the "destroyed community" of Yiddish-speaking Jews who died in the Nazi Holocaust.
9 million Jews around the world and 1 million in the United States spoke Yiddish before the Holocaust. "You could travel through the world [and hear Yiddish spoken everyplace]," says Gold. "To me, it is more than just a language."