Article by Macha Fogel

Since October 7, the enlistment of young Haredim, ultra-Orthodox Jews, in the Israeli army is no longer taboo. Several rabbis and heads of religious schools have even encouraged it in Israel, in a traditionally non-Zionist “black hat” world that differs from the religious Zionist universe. A significant part of the Hasidic movement, however, remains impervious to the chanting of the canon. The Satmar Hasidic movement, unknown in France but powerful in the United States, is even fiercely critical of the religious parties that support the war. To dive into their entirely Yiddish-speaking world, K. is presenting several long extracts from their newspapers.

Ber Kotlerman was born in Irkutsk, Soviet Union, in 1971. He grew up in Birobidjan—the “autonomous Jewish region” founded in May 1934 at the edge of the USSR on the Chinese border, with Yiddish as its official language. Ber Kotlerman has lived in Israel for thirty years, where he teaches Yiddish literature and culture at Bar-Ilan University. His novel “Koydervelsh,” which takes the reader from Birobidjan to Tel Aviv, has just been published. This is his fourth book of prose in Yiddish—the first, a collection of short stories, was published in Tel Aviv; the second, a thriller based on rabbinic responsa, in New York; and the third, a family epic, in Buenos Aires. However, he says that everything he writes is in one way or another linked to the region of his childhood, Birobidjan, which is the subject of this interview by Macha Fogel, conducted in Yiddish.

Ady Walter’s film Shttl, shot in Yiddish and in Ukraine, will be released in the coming months. It offers an opportunity to reflect on Ukrainian Jewish identity, historically and up to the present day. Akadem brought together the director Ady Walter, the historian Thomas Chopard, a specialist in Ukrainian and Eastern European Jews, and Tal Hever-Chybowski, director of the Maison de la culture yiddish in Paris. K. transcribes here the essential part of their discussion, moderated by Macha Fogel.

In her first column for K., Macha Fogel recounted some news from today’s flourishing Yiddish Hasidic press. In this second piece, she asks heself what Yiddish offers to those who use it. Is it a language of the ghetto? Or on the opposite a language of exchanges? Or both at the same time?

It is no secret that Yiddish is a language without a country. At least, that’s how it’s spoken of, anyway, and then as a murdered, disappearing, dying language. But I…

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