Friday, August 15, 2008

100th Anniversary of Czernowitz Yiddish Conference

(Former synagogue in Cernivtsi, now used as a cinema. Photo: Ruth Ellen Gruber 2006)

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the landmark First Yiddish Language Conference in Czernowitz (now Cernivtsi, Ukraine), held Aug. 30-Sept. 3, 1908, at which it was recognized that Yiddish was a Jewish language.

The conference focused on the role of Yiddish in Jewish life. The meeting drew 70 delegates representing many political and religious factions. They included the authors I.L. Peretz and Sholem Asch, along with other prominent scholars, writers and activists. The most heated debates centered on whether Hebrew, which was then being revived and modernized after centuries of disuse, or Yiddish, which was spoken by millions of Jews, could, or should, be considered the Jewish national language. In the end, delegates adopted a resolution declaring Yiddish "a" national language of the Jewish people -- along with Hebrew.

(My 2006 of the Yiddish Culture building in Cernivtsi)

Various initiatives and celebrations have been taking place to mark the occasion.

One of the major events is an conference in Cernivtsi next week. The conference is mainly academic, but it will also feature guided tours of Cernivtsi and unspecified Jewish heritage sites in Bucovina and Galicia. (See photos of some such sites on my web site.)

Some of my pictures from 2006 of the Jewish cemetery in Cernivtsi:

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