Dawson Speaks

Sonia Zylberberg – Yiddish

Sonia Zylberberg

Sholem aleichem (hello), a gutn tog (good-day). Ikh bin Sonia Zylberberg, a lehrern  in Dawson College (a teacher at Dawson).

Yiddish was my father’s  mameloshen (mother tongue).  English was the  language we spoke at home,  but I went to Yiddish school for a number of years and know enough to understand somewhat (although my spoken Yiddish is not so good).
In my father’s world,  Yiddish was a living vibrant language, full of culture, history, and social justice. It was the language of the socialist movement (the bund) to which he remained committed his entire life. Although the world in which he grew up had been destroyed in the Holocaust, the language and culture were  transported with the survivors, many of whom still to this day speak Yiddish as their daily language. My father and I had many heated discussions about the future of the language – he remained convinced that it would see a revival and come to re-occupy a place of vibrancy, while I had and have doubts about this. Towards the end of his life, he reverted more and more to speaking Yiddish; the English he had imposed on top of it gradually disappeared.
Today we do in fact see a revival of Yiddish, but in an academic setting. People are studying the language and the writings, but very few are actually speaking or writing new works. It remains to be seen whether my father was right or I was…

Zay gezunt  (be well)