Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Columbia University in NYC Establishes First Yiddish Language Chair in America (1952)


Madame Yiddish and Her Escort. Cartoon depicting philanthropist Frank Atran escorting “Yiddish” up steps of Columbia University, celebrating the establishment of the Atran Chair in Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture, the first Yiddish studies chair in an American university (Morgn-zhurnal, 16 March 1952).
     Columbia University writes on its site: “The graduate program in Yiddish Studies began at Columbia in 1952 under the leadership of the renowned linguist Uriel Weinreich and reached international acclaim as the most important and influential center of research into the Yiddish language, Yiddish literature, and Yiddish culture. Under Weinreich and his successor, Marvin Herzog, Yiddish Studies at Columbia were located in the Department of Linguistics and were offered in close conjunction with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. As of 1989, graduate studies in Yiddish literature, linguistics and culture are directed by an Interdepartmental Committee on Yiddish Studies.”
     Other than this, I could not find out much about the history of Yiddish Studies on the Columbia University site, but did determine that Yiddish Studies at the undergraduate level at least, has been rolled into the Department of Germanic Languages. My guess is that this was an economic decision and not one based on history. I had always thought that Yiddish was its own language, but I guess such are the thoughts of a pashut Yid. Perhaps someone can enlighten me.