Yiddish, Though Homeless, Survives

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  • Ideas to Improve America’s Immigration System
  • The Purpose of College
  • Republican Hypocrisy

Credit…Rachel Levit Ruiz

To the Editor:

Re “Yiddish Is Having a Moment,” by Ilan Stavans (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 3):

Every so often there appears to be a magical Yiddish sighting, usually by writers seeking to inform the world that amazingly Yiddish is having a moment or a revival.

Yiddish is thought to have originated more than 1,000 years ago, and my firsthand experience with it began in the middle of the 20th century. More than 70 years ago my mother and many other new immigrants waited excitedly for the mailman to bring The Jewish Daily Forward, a Yiddish-language paper, with its popular “Bintel Brief” advice column.

Forty-five years ago a friend wrote a widely read A.P. story with the headline “Mazel Tov! A Yiddish Revival.” Nine years ago YIVO Institute for Jewish Learning tried to put Yiddish in context (“Down With the ‘Revival’: Yiddish is a Living Language”).

As Mark Twain said more than a century ago, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” It is time to celebrate Yiddish longevity and not keep worrying about its demise.

Charlotte Feldman-Jacobs

To the Editor:

I take exception to Ilan Stavans’s otherwise clear homage to Yiddish when he writes about Hebrew that “for some, the language symbolizes far-right Israeli militarism.” The turn to the right in today’s Israel is troubling to millions of Hebrew-speaking Israelis who support coexistence and peace, and to tens of thousands — sometimes hundreds of thousands — who have been chanting and holding signs in Hebrew against the curbing of democratic institutions.

Mr. Stavans reaffirms Isaac Bashevis Singer’s acceptance speech for the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature, at which Mr. Singer said: “The high honor bestowed upon me by the Swedish Academy is also a recognition of the Yiddish language — a language of exile, without a land, without frontiers, not supported by any government.”

Helen Schary Motro
Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel

To the Editor:

Prof. Ilan Stavans’s splendid account of Yiddish survival brings to mind another tale of linguistic survival, that of Ladino, the language of Sephardim, once heard throughout the Mediterranean. It suffered a steep decline in the late 20th century for demographic reasons and especially from the ravages inflicted on Sephardic communities by the Nazis in World War II.

I grew up in a Ladino-speaking household, but from an early age I knew that I was an exception, and believed that the language was destined for extinction. I was wrong. Today, Ladino, sometimes known as Judeo-Spanish, is enjoying a flowering because of the efforts of scholars and students at several universities here and abroad who want to restore its place as a living language.

Thanks to Zoom technology, “Enkontros de Alhad” (“Sunday Meetings”), a regular feature conducted entirely in Ladino, reaches out to the global Sephardic diaspora.

I’m convinced that the language will endure owing to the passion and, to use Professor Stavans’s term, stubbornness, of its champions.

Louis Menashe

To the Editor:

What a mechayeh (pleasure) to read this article! As a native Yiddish speaker born in Canada, I was so glad to read of the ongoing efforts to maintain and increase the appreciation of this marvelous language with its unique worldview.

As we used to say in our house: They keep saying Yiddish is dead, but the corpse won’t lie down and shut up!

Shayna Kravetz

To the Editor:

Yiddish is the language your parents spoke when they didn’t want you to comprehend what they were saying.

Martin Silverstein
Rhinebeck, N.Y.

Ideas to Improve America’s Immigration System

Credit…David Dee Delgado for The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “The White House Must Act on the Migrant Crisis,” by Michael R. Bloomberg (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 11):

Here are two principles that I think could form the framework of a really functional immigration system:

1. Match immigrants with employers who need them. We constantly hear about our current need for workers, and our longer-term need for immigrants to bolster our future work force. Settling immigrants in jobs throughout the country would widely spread the economic burdens, and the cultural benefits, of immigration. Perhaps immigration would become a function of the Labor Department, rather than Justice or Homeland Security.

2. Grant citizenship to every immigrant who works and pays taxes for seven consecutive years and avoids criminal activity. The American ideal of immigration entails responsible contribution to society; this approach would be a direct measure and reward for social responsibility. It would give immigrants a very clear goal to pursue, and would dramatically reduce the bureaucracy involved in the naturalization process.

Immigrants have always been essential to American greatness. We should establish these principles to enshrine immigration in our social contract, extending our welcome, and clarifying our expectations of all newcomers.

Ron Meyers
New York

To the Editor:

I agree with Michael Bloomberg’s essay. Why can’t the feds house the immigrants seeking asylum in military bases with adequate supervision and food? We have unused military bases all over the country.

James Leigh
San Francisco

The Purpose of College

Credit…Jan Buchczik

To the Editor:

How refreshing to read Jonathan Malesic’s Sept. 5 Opinion guest essay, “College Is Not a Job. That’s the Whole Point”!

Nearly 45 years after university graduation, I consider myself fortunate to have attended when I did: a time when learning was, perhaps, more valued for its own sake, rather than for the post-graduation job it might secure; a time when a liberal arts degree was valued for its inherent intellectual worth, rather than derided as the frivolous choice of a hard-to-define elite; a time when diverse points of view were valued — even if challenged and debated — rather than dismissed out of hand as the oppressor’s malevolent propaganda.

As Mr. Malesic so aptly notes in arguing that college’s prime purpose should be leisure, not getting a job, “Life is much more than work.” Perhaps it is only when one is further along life’s path that this truth more easily is revealed. Life’s options — academic, professional, leisure — are there to be explored and savored, and what better time than when young, free of constricting obligations that may make it more difficult later.

Mr. Malesic’s essay offers hope that someday we again will come to value a college education for its transformational impact, its ability to foster the curiosity, enthusiasm and drive that may, in fact, help change our world for the better.

Marcie S. Gitlin
New York

Republican Hypocrisy

Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

To the Editor:

Re “Trump Is Nothing Without Accomplices,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt (Opinion guest essay, Sept. 10):

The question that really needs to be asked of the Republican primary candidates is this: If Hunter Biden is convicted of whatever crimes he ends up being charged with, should that preclude Joe Biden from running for president as the Democratic candidate? Would you demand that Joe Biden step down from his candidacy?

That will tell you all you need to know about the hypocrisy of most of the Republican candidates.

Leslie Ross
Crystal Lake, Ill.

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