Cover of A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish by Aya Elyada
A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish
Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany
Aya Elyada


280 pages.

Hardcover ISBN: 9780804781930
Ebook ISBN: 9780804782821

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This book explores the unique phenomenon of Christian engagement with Yiddish language and literature from the beginning of the sixteenth century to the late eighteenth century. By exploring the motivations for Christian interest in Yiddish, and the differing ways in which Yiddish was discussed and treated in Christian texts, A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish addresses a wide array of issues, most notably Christian Hebraism, Protestant theology, early modern Yiddish culture, and the social and cultural history of language in early modern Europe.

Elyada's analysis of a wide range of philological and theological works, as well as textbooks, dictionaries, ethnographical writings, and translations, demonstrates that Christian Yiddishism had implications beyond its purely linguistic and philological dimensions. Indeed, Christian texts on Yiddish reveal not only the ways in which Christians perceived and defined Jews and Judaism, but also, in a contrasting vein, how they viewed their own language, religion, and culture.

About the author

Aya Elyada is Assistant Professor of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

"A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish is an illuminating study of the literature that provided Christian readers with a titillating peek into Yiddish . . . Elyada's volume is rich with descriptions of the manuals and lexicons that provided a basic Yiddish vocabulary or grammar for Christian readers . . . A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish is a major contribution to the study of Christian approaches to Jews and Judaism on the cusp of modernity."

—Deena Aranoff, Journal of Early Modern History

"Elyada's systematic study of Christian interest in Jewish vernacular literature elucidates how knowledge circulated between Jews and Christians in German lands."

—Magda Teter, American Historical Review

"Here, Elyada demonstrates in an exemplary manner how sociolinguistic theory and method in the hands of a conscientious historian can lead to truly innovative research."

—Marion Aptroot, Heinrich Heine University, Dusseldorf