most people agree that the future of yiddish depends on cultivating a new generation of young people who speak and read the language.
In response to the glaring shortage of contemporary reading material for today’s students of Yiddish, the Forverts has begun publishing a monthly news supplement called Vayter (a synonym for “Forward”), written in simple Yiddish and geared toward teenagers and university students. The first issue debuted in January.
Vayter is edited by Forverts editor in chief Boris Sandler and staff writer Gennady Estraikh, with illustrations by Itella Mastbaum and design by Boris Budiyanskiy.
“Our intention is to make Yiddish more accessible to the younger generation,” Sandler said. “That way, it’ll be easier for them to eventually become active participants in the world of Yiddish culture.”
On the front page of its first issue, Vayterprofiled three students who helped organize the two-day Yiddish conference at New York University’s Skirball Center for Hebrew and Judaic Studies last month. The issue also included short items about the world of technology and science, and a full-color back page of puzzles and illustrated text geared toward beginning Yiddish students and children. All inside pages provide a glossary, in which the more difficult terms in the articles are defined in easy Yiddish.
Since one of Vayter’s goals is to encourage Yiddish students eventually to become readers of the Forverts, Vayter also includes a column called The Forverts Legacy, which covers colorful moments in the Yiddish newspaper’s 109-year history.
After posting an announcement about the project on the online Yiddish list-serv Mendele, the Forverts received requests for copies of Vayter from more than 70 Yiddish instructors and students throughout North America, as well as the United Kingdom, Germany, Israel, France, Belgium, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, South Africa and Australia. Yiddish teachers and professors who have registered for the newspaper receive a bulk delivery of newspapers each month, except July and August, to distribute to their students free of charge for use in the classroom. Students also may register for individual copies, but are required to pay for postage.
The Forverts received a number of responses after the premiere of Vayter. Cedric Ginsberg, professor of classical, Near and Far Eastern and religious studies at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, wrote that his students were very pleased with the paper: “The materials were well written and very interesting to read.” Heather Valencia, a Yiddish scholar and writer who teaches a biweekly Yiddish class in Edinburgh, Scotland, wrote that her beginners especially enjoyed a piece on the back page of the paper: the whimsical tale of a boy and his dog, written by the late Soviet Yiddish writer Itsik Kipnis. Perl Teitelbaum, who teaches a conversation class at the New York-based Yiddish youth organization Yugntruf, praised “the glossaries, illustrations and photographs, which make the text more student friendly.”
The four-page March issue is due out next week, and includes an article about the history of the Barbie doll, and a news article about Internet spam, plus puzzles, jokes and illustrations.
For more information, call (212) 889-8200, ext. 470, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.