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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Yidish-Vokh 2008

I've been at "Yiddish Week." For six days there are various programs and classes you can go to, but the only strict rule is 'me redt nor Yidish' everywhere: at meals, in the swimming pool, on walks, by the campfire, everywhere. Often I thought of the mythical book Michael Chabon cited - "Yiddish for Travelers" - and wished it existed. (Actually, it does, but it's called "Say it in Yiddish" and I just ordered a copy from Barnes & Noble.)

It's held at the Berkshire Hills Emanuel Adult Vacation Center in Copake New York.

I was nervous about going because I'm tongue-tied in foreign languages and I was afraid folks would be snobbish. A few were but most weren't. I figure I was in the bottom 10% of fluency (bottom 15% if you count the babies too) but at least not in the bottom 5%.

It's a big bunch of cabins, some with singles, with a lake house, a theater, a big meeting pavilion, a dining hall, an arts-and-crafts center, a swimming pool, a big lake and boats and lots of grass. In a nearby stream I saw a huge heron fishing one morning and you don't have to go far to see cows. No donkeys, though.

On the left is Yudis, she's 21 years old and ran the camp with grace and friendly efficiency.

There is an entire spectrum of opinions on religion among the campers, from complete atheists and secular folks who like the language and culture to those who are modern or traditional orthodox Jews.

Here you see 2/3 of the string crew; their job was to run a string around the whole camp on Friday (it's called an eruv) so it would constitute, technically, one building. Orthodox folks could carry stuff around without violating Shabbos.

Here's a camper using the arts and crafts room. There was mask-making, paper-cutting, block-printing, water-colors, and costuming going on here all week.

Here is the other camper who was using the arts and crafts room at this particular time. He was making groggers (noisemakers) out of chickpeas and plastic cups for "Purim in August," a skit about Haman's inferiority complex.



At 12:13 PM, Blogger NinaK said...

This camp sounds great. I'm going to recommend it to my Aunt Ruthie, who goes to a Yiddish Vinkel every week. She and my mother spoke Yiddish as their first language.

Very interesting about the temporary eruv. I have a summer house in Westhampton Beach NY, a small town. There is currently a virulent controversy brewing about the establishment of an eruv there. The local paper every week is filled with vituperative commentary from all sides. There is one nonjewish contingent that feels too many orthodox Jews will move there if the eruv is permitted. Some Jews think it should not be allowed because it looks like asking for special favors. Some orthodox Jews are not in favor, because some don't believe in the eruv concept.

Many cities, including New York, have communities with eruvs, and no government problem. Here the village government wouldn't approve, and there may be a court battle. The legal status of such church/state tangles is complicated, but one case went to the US Supreme Court and an eruv was upheld in New Jersey. It's a shame the village government didn't just allow it in the first place, as a reasonable step--who does it hurt?

At 1:31 PM, Blogger melinama said...

That's fascinating, Nina! I'm interested in the whole mechanism by which orthodox Jews set themselves very strict restrictions, and then use ingenuity to circumvent them!

At 2:45 PM, Blogger NinaK said...

I am fascinated too. No one sees it as contradictory. It's very lawyerlike.

I used to work with a Lubavicher, also a lawyer, who would be delighted to explain any of these rules at length. My favorite was the rule for someone who accidentally got something trafe on a dish. The rebbe blessed all the dishes in the set and mixed them up so you wouldn't know which was the trafe dish.


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