Monday, April 16, 2012

  • Monday, April 16, 2012
  • Elder of Ziyon
From NPR:
A smattering of Yiddish words has crept into the American vernacular: Non-Jews go for a nosh or schmooze over cocktails. Yet the language itself, once spoken by millions of Jews, is now in retreat.

But you don't have to be Jewish to love Yiddish. In Japan, a linguist has toiled quietly for decades to compile the world's first Yiddish-Japanese dictionary — the first time the Jewish language has been translated into a non-European language other than Hebrew.

It was in the hills of Kyushu Island in southern Japan where Kazuo Ueda carried out his impressive and quixotic quest, devoting his life to a language few Jews understand, and even fewer Japanese have even heard of.

Now Japan's leading scholar of Yiddish, Ueda was originally a specialist in German. He stumbled upon the Jewish language while reading Franz Kafka, himself a fan of Yiddish theater.

Ueda was immediately smitten with the language that is written in Hebrew letters, but is a hybrid of German, Hebrew, Russian and other languages.

"Yiddish was full of puzzles for me," Ueda says. "That's what I love about it. Reading sentences in those strange letters — it's like deciphering a code."

Ueda made several trips to Israel, but most of his research was a lonely, solo affair. Isolated from actual speakers of the language, he taught himself, with the help of Yiddish newspapers and literature.

Ueda would later publish a series of books on the Jewish language and people, but he considers that a prelude to his magnum opus — the 1,300-page, 28,000-entry Idishugo Jiten, or Yiddish-Japanese dictionary, published several years ago. His publisher wouldn't release details but conceded sales are most likely tiny for the dictionary, which costs more than $700.

"I actually think $700 is pretty cheap, considering," Ueda says.

Cheap, considering it took 20 years to finish the volume — and that Ueda's doctors say the project may have shortened his life. As his dictionary neared completion, Ueda began to show signs of Parkinson's disease. Now 69, he was forced to retire from the faculty of Fukuoka University in March and struggles to walk and speak.

Ueda's wife, Kazuko, blames years of desk-bound devotion to the dictionary for aggravating his disease.

"Every day, he would sit down to work on his dictionary right after breakfast. He never took any time off," she says. "But for him, this wasn't work but sheer joy. So I thought, this is the way things had to be."

"I wrote it purely for the pursuit of learning," he says. "I don't expect a wave of people to start learning Yiddish."
The Forward, which was originally a Yiddish paper, wrote about Ueda earlier this year.
Ueda’s target readership is small but dedicated, and while Ueda may be Japan’s leading Yiddishist, he is not alone. Yoshiji Hirose, an expert on Yiddish literature at Japan’s Notre Dame Seishin University, honed his Yiddish in Brooklyn’s Boro Park; Chitoshi Hinoue is an art historian specializing in the work of Marc Chagall and is also a klezmer clarinetist; Sadan, who immigrated to Israel for a full-time position in Hebrew linguistics at Bar-Ilan University, is equally at home in Yiddish, Hebrew, Japanese, English and Esperanto.

Sadan pegs the number of Japanese proficient in Yiddish at fewer than 20, though more have partial knowledge of the language. All, he says, are driven by “healthy intellectual curiosity and interest in traditional Ashkenazic culture, which, unlike modern Israeli culture, seems to have much in common with traditional Japanese culture.” Zachary Sholem Berger, an American Yiddishist who has spent time in Japan, notes that many Japanese Yiddishists are also believing Christians. Several Japanese universities (Tokyo, Fukuoka and Sapporo, among others) offer Yiddish classes, and four Yiddish study groups now exist (in Tokyo, Kyoto, Kobe and Okayama). Regularly there are a handful of Japanese participants at Yiddish language immersion programs, klezfests and Yiddish conferences around the world.
If you want to buy this dictionary, it is available at Amazon Japan for 68,000 yen.

EoZTV Podcast

Podcast URL

Subscribe in podnovaSubscribe with FeedlyAdd to netvibes
addtomyyahoo4Subscribe with SubToMe

search eoz




follow me

Follow by Email


Elder: elder -at- elderofziyon dot com
Mrs. Elder: mrs.elder -at-



For $18 donation

Sample Text

EoZ's Most Popular Posts Ever


Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 12 years and over 25,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


Donate to fight for Israel!

Monthly subscription:
Payment options

One time donation:

subscribe via email

Follow EoZ on Twitter!



The Jerusalem Report:"A seemingly indefatigable one-man operation, armed only with a computer, chutzpa and stamina."

Algemeiner: "Fiercely intelligent and erudite"

Omri: "Elder is one of the best established and most respected members of the jblogosphere..."
Atheist Jew:"Elder of Ziyon probably had the greatest impression on me..."
Soccer Dad: "He undertakes the important task of making sure that his readers learn from history."
AbbaGav: "A truly exceptional blog..."
Judeopundit: "[A] venerable blog-pioneer and beloved patriarchal figure...his blog is indispensable."
Oleh Musings: "The most comprehensive Zionist blog I have seen."
Carl in Jerusalem: "...probably the most under-recognized blog in the JBlogsphere as far as I am concerned."
Aussie Dave: "King of the auto-translation."
The Israel Situation:The Elder manages to write so many great, investigative posts that I am often looking to him for important news on the PalArab (his term for Palestinian Arab) side of things."
Tikun Olam: "Either you are carelessly ignorant or a willful liar and distorter of the truth. Either way, it makes you one mean SOB."
Mondoweiss commenter: "For virulent pro-Zionism (and plain straightforward lies of course) there is nothing much to beat it."
Didi Remez: "Leading wingnut"

Interesting Blogs


Abbas liar Academic fraud administrivia al-Qaeda algeria American Jews Amnesty analysis anti-semitism apartheid arab refugees Arafat archaeology art ASHREI B'tselem bahrain bbc BDS BDSFail Bedouin Beitunia beoz book review breaking the silence Cardozo Chanukah Christians conspiracy theories Cyprus Daphne Anson Davis report DCI-P double standards Egypt Elder gets results ElderToons Electronic Intifada EoZNews eoztv Erekat EU Euro-Mid Observer Fake Civilians 2014 Fatah featured Features fisking flotilla Forest Rain free gaza freedom of press palestinian style future martyr Gary Spedding gaza Gaza Platform George Galloway George Soros gideon levy gilad shalit gisha Goldstone Report Good news Grapel Guardian gunness Haaretz hamas Hamas war crimes hasbara Hasby 2014 Hasby 2016 Hebron helen thomas hezbollah history Hizballah Holocaust denial honor killing HRW Human Rights Humanitarian crisis humor Hypocrisy ICRC Ilan Pappe impossible peace incitement Indonesia international law intransigence iran Iraq Islamic Judeophobia Islamism Israel Loves America Israeli culture Israeli high-tech J Street jabalya jeremy bowen Jerusalem jewish fiction Jewish Voice for Peace jihad jimmy carter John Kerry jokes jonathan cook Jordan Juan Cole Judaism Judea-Samaria Kairos Karl Vick ken roth khalid amayreh Khaybar Lebanon leftists Linkdump lumish mahmoud zahar Malaysia max blumenthal McGraw-Hill media bias Methodist Miftah Mohammed Assaf Mondoweiss moonbats Morocco music Muslim Brotherhood Nakba Natural gas Nazi News nftp NGO NIF norpac NYT Occupation offbeat Omar Barghouti Opinion oxfam PA corruption PalArab lies Palestine Papers pallywood pchr PCUSA Peter Beinart Petra MB poll Poster Preoccupied Prisoners propaganda Proud to be Zionist purimshpiel Qaradawi Qassam calendar Rafah Ray Hanania real liberals reference Richard Falk rogel alpher roger cohen roger waters Saudi Arabia saudi vice self-death self-death palestinians sex crimes SFSU shechita sheikh tamimi Shujaiyeh Simona Sharoni SodaStream South Africa Speech stamps Syria Tarabin Temple Mount Terrorism This is Zionism Thomas Friedman Tunisia Turkey UCI UK UN UNDP unesco unhrc United Arab Emirates Unity unrwa UNRWA hate unrwa reports UNRWA-USA Varda Vic Rosenthal Washington wikileaks work accident X-washing Yemen zahran zionist attack zoo Zvi

Blog Archive