By Aya Elyada
Elyada’s research of a variety of philological and theological works, in addition to textbooks, dictionaries, ethnographical writings, and translations, demonstrates that Christian Yiddishism had implications past its simply linguistic and philological dimensions. certainly, Christian texts on Yiddish show not just the ways that Christians perceived and outlined Jews and Judaism, but in addition, in a contrasting vein, how they considered their very own language, faith, and culture.
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Extra info for A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany
If it were written entirely in Hebrew, I might have believed it; but not like this. 59 But apart from these extreme reactions, it seems that the overall Jewish stance was one of bewilderment as well as concern that these Christian works in the Jewish language would eventually succeed in their mission. As put forward by the above-mentioned Jew in his conversation with Callenberg’s assistant, “our people . . ”60 The importance of Yiddish for the missionary cause persisted beyond the attempts to convince Jews to convert to Christianity.
Source: Sammlung Tychsen, Harald Fischer Verlag. 26 Yiddish in the Service of Christian Theology aulus Fagius in Constance. 15 During the following century, however, these early endeavors to use Yiddish as a linguistic tool for missionary work among the Jews were apparently no longer pursued. 16 Instead, authors were now usually content with denouncing the Jews for their blindness and stubbornness (Verstockung). Many of the relevant authors used Yiddish sources in order to demonstrate Jewish superstition and blasphemy,17 but they published their anti-Jewish polemics in Latin or German, rendering them inaccessible to most Jewish readers.
After asserting that “Jews do not read anything which is not written according to their manner,” or that “one cannot get very far with the Jews unless one is familiar with their own language,”28 the authors emphasized the importance of adapting the Christian message to the Jewish manner of speaking and writing. By this they hoped to achieve two goals: to bring the Christian teachings to the Jews in a language they could understand, and to overcome or at least lower Jewish resistance to missionary efforts by presenting the Christian message via a more familiar and friendly medium.