Monday, April 2, 2018

Hear Me Out: Interview with Evgeny Kissin (2011)

Hear Me Out (January 2011) is a video channel of The Forverts in New York City, whose host is Dr. Max Kohn, a psychoanalyst from Paris.

Here, Dr. Kohn interviews world-famous concert pianist, Evgeny Kissin [born in 1971 in Moscow], in Yiddish. This language was, for about a 1,000 years until the end of the Second World War, the common language of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern and Central Europe (numbering about 13 million speakers before the war). It was the language that my parents spoke to each other, the language that my father spoke to me and my brothers.

The Holocaust and cultural assimilation–both in the West and in the Soviet Union, each under different environmental conditions—drastically and dramatically reduced the number of Yiddish speakers to less than a million. Today most reside in the Hasidic and Haredi religious communities, whose numbers are increasing in the West, mostly in America and in Israel.

There is, however, a generation of young people outside these communities who want to learn Yiddish, the mame loshen of their grandparents. When you think about it, it is not at all surprising that Kissin voiced a desire to speak Yiddish. He remembers his grandparents, saying, “I am certain that they would be very happy if they knew that I learned Yiddish and even publicize the Yiddish language and Yiddish culture.” Very well said.

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