is a West (High) German language of the Indo-European Language family. It was historically spoken by Ashkenazi Jews, and it originated during the 9th century in Central Europe. The language has borrowed many words from Hebrew and Slavic and is usually written in Hebrew script. Yiddish was once widely spoken, mostly as a vernacular, in eastern European Jewish communities and by emigrants from these communities throughout the world, including in the United States.

Modern Yiddish has two major forms: Eastern Yiddish and Western Yiddish.
Eastern Yiddish is far more common today. It includes Southeastern (Ukrainian–Romanian), Mideastern (Polish–Galician–Eastern Hungarian) and Northeastern (Lithuanian–Belarusian) dialects. Eastern Yiddish differs from Western both by its far greater size and by the extensive inclusion of words of Slavic origin.
Western Yiddish is divided into Southwestern (Swiss–Alsatian–Southern German), Midwestern (Central German), and Northwestern (Netherlandic–Northern German) dialects.

Yiddish is used in a number of Haredi Jewish communities worldwide; it is the first language of the home, school, and in many social settings among many Haredi Jews, and is used in most Hasidic yeshivas.

Yiddish at BU

Currently, the Department of Judaic Studies offers courses in Yiddish language at the beginner and intermediate level which meet SUNY Foreign Language requirement, and several courses in Yiddish culture (taught in English).

Please read more about our Yiddish Language and Literature Courses.

Our Yiddish Instructor: Gina Glasman.

Why should you study Yiddish?

  1. Yiddish linguaistics is a particularly interesting to study because of its blended nature: its lexicon is made up primarily of German, Hebrew, and Aramaic components, but it also has structural characteristics that reveal commonalities with Romance and Slavic languages.
  2. It is an important archival language for German, East European, Soviet, and American history historical research.
  3. It is a window into contemporary Orthodox religious life as well as historical everyday and non-elite Jewish religious expression.
  4. Rich variety of literature, art, culture, delicious cuisine, and humour.