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A vibrant German dialect peppered with Hebrew and Slavic words and written in Hebrew letters, Yiddish in the early 20th century was a major language in eastern Europe.
With the big influx of many tens of thousands of Jews fleeing the Holocaust to the United States and particularly the east coast, it became an important ingredient in the rich mix of the language of New York City. Several words have been adopted into English such as “chutzpah” (brazen self-confidence) and “shlemiel” (chump).
The fastest-growing Hasidic groups in the New York borough of Brooklyn now are tightly-knit communities with their own printed Yiddish weeklies. Many computers are equipped with filters to screen out non-Orthodox media.
“Our site is not intended to be for everybody. Some will be offended by the photographs of women,” Norich said. Some ultra-Orthodox publications never print pictures of women.
“There have always been some Hasidim and yeshiva people who have read the Forverts, but usually they read it underneath their own Yiddish newspaper so nobody should know it,” he said.
“But on the Internet, where you can read it in the privacy of your own home or laptop, it’s easier to do what is frowned upon in the community and consume forbidden fruit.”
Forverts’ Yiddish website will include blogs by Hasidic writers, retaining the slightly different grammar and spelling they use. But the authors will hide behind pseudonyms to avoid criticism from their own communities.
One problem is that many potential visitors to the website can’t easily read Yiddish. Younger fans may have studied it at universities as a foreign language, while older Jews spoke it with parents or grandparents but never learned to read it.