The Yiddish language, developed out of German by Ashkenazi Jews, was the major language of European Jews before the Holocaust. With the development of modern Hebrew in Israel it started to fade.
However, a Yiddish language and cultural revival has been gaining speed, especially since the collapse of Eastern European Stalinist states in the 1990s. Many Jews are visiting the lands of their forebears and linking up with, for example, surviving klezmer musical traditions.
An interesting offshoot is the CD Yiddpop from Berlin by Yiddish singing group Fayvish, combining punk, pop and traditional Yiddish songs.
Their project is to collect old Yiddish songs and update the music for a modern audience, luckily with English translations provided.
The traditions are rich with social commentary. For instance, the song “Mashin” (Machine) condemns factory life: “The bitter, bloody work beats down/ The noblest, the most beautiful and best, the richest/ The most profound, and the most exalted things that life offers.”
The old Russian protest song “In Ale Gasn: Daloy Politsey” (In Every Street: Down With the Police) says: “Everywhere you go, on every street/ You hear slogans/ Men, women and children/ Are talking about extra pay/ Brothers, enough of your drudgery/ Enough of borrowing and lending/ Let’s go on strike/ Brothers, let us free ourselves!”
These songs are a gift handed on from one century to the next, in defiance of Nazi extermination. Fayvish are to be congratulated for performing the task.
Video: Fayvish perform 'Farges Mikh Nit' from Yiddpop. FAYVISH.
Video: Fayvish perform 'Harbstlid' from Yiddpop. FAYVISH.