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NY: Promoter of Yiddish culture Itche Goldberg dies
Polish-born writer and educator who devoted his life to preserving Yiddish language and culture, passes away in New York City at 102
Itche Goldberg, a writer and educator who for a century was a living link to the Yiddish culture of East European immigrants, has died. He was 102.


Goldberg died Dec. 27 of cancer at his New York home, according to Itzik Gottesman, associate editor of the Yiddish-language Forward weekly newspaper.


Two years ago, when he turned 100, Goldberg edited the last issue of the literary journal Yidishe Kultur, which reflected his belief that Yiddish was key to the survival of the culture of East European Jews and their descendants.


Yiddish is a Germanic language used by European Jews that incorporated Hebrew and borrowed freely from the languages of countries where Jews lived.


"You can't possibly see a future Jewish life with the disappearance of a 1,000-year-old language and with it a 1,000-year-old culture,"

Goldberg told The Associated Press last year. "Somehow it has to be there."


Born Yitzhak Gutkind Goldberg in 1904 in Opatow, Poland, he moved with his family to Warsaw in 1914, then to Canada in 1920. In Toronto, he taught himself English. He also taught Yiddish at the Workmen's Circle School, run by a socialist organization that promoted workers' rights.


In the 1920s and '30s, Goldberg embraced Soviet Communism, but became disenchanted after the horrors under the Stalin regime came to light in the 1950s.


Painfully aware of Yiddish's decline

Goldberg intensified his passion for Yiddish, promoting it by writing poetry, music lyrics, children's books and essays, as well as running Yiddish schools and summer camps.


In the 1970s and '80s he was a professor of Yiddish language and literature at New York's Queens College. Goldberg was painfully aware of the decline of Yiddish from its heyday in the early 20th century, when 13 million Jews - or some 70 percent of Jews worldwide - spoke the lilting language that gave the English language such words as "chutzpah," a term for courage bordering on arrogance, and "schmuck," used as a putdown for a detestable person.


"You get the impression that I'm full of fight?" Goldberg told The New York Times in 2004. "I'm not really. I might as well tell you: I only have two dreams. One dream is that someone will knock on the door and I will open it and they give me a check for USD 150,000 for the magazine. Second dream is that someone knocks at the door and I open it up and he gives me a corned beef sandwich."


In New York, there are now about 200,000 Yiddish speakers, Gottesman said. A bastion of Yiddish is the ultra-orthodox Hasidic community in the borough of Brooklyn.


פרסום ראשון: 01.03.07, 23:05
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