Learning Yiddish on the Farm

Raising Zucchini With Language Immersion on the Side

By Ezra Glinter

Published July 24, 2012, issue of July 27, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

In 2009, Bass, who grew up in a Conservative Jewish household on the North Shore of Long Island, was studying philosophy at City College, teaching himself Yiddish and exploring New York’s Yiddish-speaking community. Though he was learning the language and making friends, he felt that existing Yiddish endeavors were failing to move the culture forward.

“To a large degree were we just coming together and talking about Yiddish, in Yiddish. It was like this meta-Yiddishism,” he said. “I thought: ‘What’s the next step? Hanging out drinking beers shouldn’t be the great accomplishment of Yiddishists in the 21st century.’”

In his search for ideas, he organized a group to discuss the works of Chaim Zhitlovsky, a writer and political thinker who laid the groundwork for modern Yiddishist ideology. They met each week at Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery, on Houston Street in Manhattan. Gradually, he arrived at the idea of starting a Yiddish-speaking farm.

“Farming encompasses not just one aspect of life, it encompasses every aspect of life,” Bass explained. “You’re living together, you’re cooking together, you’re working together, and it provides an isolated enough context in order to teach Yiddish in an immersive environment. You can have the opportunity to build friendships in the language and not just around the language.”

That winter, Bass ran into Ejdelman at a party in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. Ejdelman, a red-bearded 26-year-old who grew up in a Yiddish speaking home, had developed an interest in environmentalism and organic agriculture while studying at Brandeis University. He was involved with such Jewish environmental organizations such as the Teva Learning Center, Hazon and Adamah. But for Ejdelman, “something was missing, because to me Yiddish is such an important part of my Judaism.” The encounter with Bass was just the push he needed.

The two aspiring farmers spent the next year and a half laying the foundations for Yiddish Farm. Ejdelman pointed Bass toward Adamah, where Bass spent the summer of 2010 learning the basics of organic agriculture. They wrote grant proposals and received start-up funds from Yiddish-oriented foundations such as The Naomi Foundation, the Binyumen Schaechter Foundation and the Fishman Family Foundation. Most important, they started looking for land.

Finding a property wasn’t easy. The pair checked out some half-dozen sites, but each one fell through. Finally they heard about a property through Ejdelman’s mother, who hosts an online cooking show for the Forverts. The family of her co-host, Jewish culinary historian Eve Jochnowitz, owns a 225-acre property that was once home to a Lubavitch bungalow colony. It was large, conveniently located and had running water. Best of all, it belonged to a family with Yiddish roots. And a Yiddish farm in Goshen would not be a lone outpost of Yiddish in the area. Fifteen minutes down the road is Kiryas Joel, a village of more than 20,000 Yiddish-speaking Satmar Hasidim.


Yiddish Farm was founded on three principles: to foster unity among Yiddish speakers, to create an expanded role for the Yiddish language and to promote environmentalism through organic agriculture. All three were apparent during a Sabbath sojourn at the farm in early June.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.