Moorish grafitti and texting in Yiddish

The Alhambra in Grenada, the crowning glory of Moorish Spain, has more than 10,000 prayers and poems in Arabic inscribed on its pillars and walls. We hear about an effort to decipher and catalog the inscriptions. It’s not the first time this has been tried. But previous attempts foundered, when researchers became distracted by their findings. This time,  Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research is taking a more rigorous approach. Even so, it must be  hard not set aside your tools and get meditative after you’ve discovered an inscription like “Be sparing with words and you will go in peace.”

The rest of the pod is devoted to the second part of the BBC’s documentary on Yiddish. Reporter Dennis Marks picks up the story in the 1960s, when Yiddish was staring extinction in the face, after many decades in which it language thrived among Jewish Eastern European immigrants, as in this World War Two-era poster).  But more recently in New York City, the language has began to  undergo a modest revival. A big contributor to that was Aaron Lansky who founded the National Yiddish Book Center, which rescused thousands of Yiddish volumes from depositories and dumpsters: as he puts it to take books “out of the dustbin of history and put them back into use.”

We also hear from YY Jacobson, a rabbi in the Crown Heights section of New York and editor of the Hasidic Yiddish newspaper Algemeiner.  His contribution to the survival of Yiddish is the most overtly religious. Others have cultural or ancestral reasons for investigating the language: people like klezmer violinist Alicia Svigals, novelist Dara Horn, and a family who speak with each other in both English and Yiddish. The teens in the family text message each other in transliterated Yiddish, complete with texting shorthand:  ZG is zei gezunt (be well) and BSH is biz shpeter (until next time/goodbye).

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Moorish grafitti and texting in Yiddish

  1. Alae

    Mr. Tirpak’s Intercultural Communication Course in No.VA Comm.College

    The Muslim civilization that ruled Medieval Spain is undoubtedly a period of great architecture and science, and the mosques and palaces’ columns and pillars that are covered in beautiful Arabic calligraphy and art are a testament to that.

    Hopefully, more deciphering and work is done to uncover and reveal the meanings of the wall covered inscriptions. This can help us better understand and appreciate the beauty of the time period where art, poetry,etc. all flourished.

  2. Alae- Student in Mr. Tirpak's Intercultural Communication Course

    I do agree with the speaker’s view that Jews that immigrated to America, mostly from Eastern Europe, retained a strong Jewish identity. Even non-devout Jews were still Jewish, racially and ethnically. Today, Crown Heights has a large population of “Hasidic” Jews that still live with Yiddish. It is alive and well today in New York.

  3. Alae- Student in Mr. Tirpak's Intercultural Communication Course

    The Arab-Spanish rule of Medieval Spain is undoubtedly a period that produced great architecture and science. Buildings like the Alhambra Palace and Cordoba Mosque are a testament to this. Hopefully, more deciphering and understanding of the Arabic inscriptions can uncover, thus giving us more insight into this time period where great art, poetry and the likes flourished.

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