YIDDISH READERS' CIRCLE AN OUTLET FOR LANGUAGE
June 29, 2007
- GROUP FOUNDED BY PAIR TO SPEAK NATIVE TONGUE Arizona Republic, The
(Phoenix, AZ) , 2007
Author: Sadie Jo Smokey, The Arizona Republic Estimated printed pages: 2
Born in Poland before World War II, Lea Morgenstern grew up Yiddish. She spoke
the language at home, in shops, at school.
After the war, Morgenstern moved to Canada, then to America. In the 1980s,
Morgenstern settled in Phoenix to be closer to family.
A few months ago, she discovered the Yiddish Readers' Circle. Together with
Cantor Sam Goldman, a liturgical singer and educator of Beth El Congregation,
and Sandor "Sandy" Shuch, Morgenstern reads and practices speaking in her native
"We should not be forgetting the Yiddish," Morgenstern said. "My children who
were born here understand Yiddish but do not speak the language."
Both Goldman and Shuch were born in the United States to parents who spoke
Yiddish. For them, reading the stories helps them remember their first language.
"We don't hear it spoken," Goldman said. "This is language that isn't a street
language. It's not commonplace."
Sensing that others in the Phoenix area shared an interest but lacked an outlet
for speaking the language, Shuch and Goldman founded the Yiddish Readers' Circle
six months ago. The group meets Mondays at El Bethel Congregation, the
Conservative synagogue in central Phoenix. Meetings officially start at 12:45
p.m. Three or four regulars, plus the occasional straggler, show up and pass
around photocopied pages of Yiddish literature.
Everyone in the group reads a page, pausing to look up the meaning of a word.
Then they discuss the story. This week, the group finished a story by the Jewish
cowboy author Isaac Raboy.
"The story is about a Jewish immigrant who goes out West to homestead some
land," Shuch explained. "A neighbor helps him. He plants potatoes and sends for
his wife to join him. It talks about the harvest the first year."
Yiddish, the historic language of Eastern and Central European Jews, is written
in Hebrew characters and includes Slavic, French and German words.
During the reading of Raboy's story, the rhythm and accent ring over words like
"A number of people have come by. They learn reading is harder than speaking,"
Goldman said. "This has helped each of us, and it's a lot of fun."
The Yiddish Readers' Circle is offered through the non-profit Jewish Family and
Children's Service Center for Senior Enrichment. The center is at El Bethel
Congregation, 1118 W. Glendale Ave., Details: (602) 943-2198.
CAPTION: Sandor "Sandy" Shuch looks up a word in a Yiddish to English dictionary
during a meeting of the Yiddish Reading Circle. He and Cantor Sam Goldman
launched the group six months ago. Both grew up in Yiddish-speaking households
but had nowhere to practice it.
Edition: Final Chaser
Section: Northeast Phoenix Republic