Jewish-Languages Mailing List

December 2001

Date: Sat, 01 Dec 2001 23:18
From: Sarah Bunin Benor <sbenor @>
Subject: AJS coming up

The Association for Jewish Studies is having its 33rd annual conference in
Washington, DC, December 16-18. There are 2 sessions on Jewish languages:

Jewish Languages and Identity
Chair: Lewis H. Glinert (Dartmouth College)

Writing in Yiddish: Marginalization and Language Choices
Miriam Isaacs (University of Maryland)

Eastern European Karaite Identity:
A Case of Linguistically Motivated De-Judaization
Dan Shapira (The Open University of Israel)

"Are We Not Just an Anachronism?":
Language and Identity among Israeli Sephardim
Jill Lara Kushner (UCLA)

"Talmid chachams" and "tsedeykeses":
Language, Learnedness, and Masculinity among Orthodox Jews
Sarah Bunin Benor (Stanford University)


Language and Sacred Text
Chair and Commentator: Frederick E. Greenspahn (University of Denver)

The Proverbs in Their Making in the Biblical Narrative Text
Katya Rempel (Moscow State University)

Linguistic Tension in Judeo-Arabic Sacred Texts
Benjamin H. Hary (Emory University)

Observations on the Current State of Judeo-Italian Corpus Studies
Seth Jerchower (University of Pennsylvania)

Sacred Texts in Judeo-Italian and Judeo-Provençal
George Jochnowitz (College of Staten Island)


For more information, check out the website at

-Sarah Bunin Benor

Date: Tue, 04 Dec 2001 15:30
From: Sarah Bunin Benor <sbenor @>
Subject: `ayin in Yiddish and Judeo-Italian

There was recently a small discussion on H-Judaic, the Jewish Studies
list, about the realization of `ayin as [n] in Yiddish (as in "yankev" and
"maanse"). Someone suggested that it is a transfer from Judeo-Italian.
Does anyone know if there's evidence of this? Is it possible that
"maanse," "yankev," and other words that have this [n] just represent a
remnant of the original `ayin? What historical evidence is there to
support the contact theory? Is it possible that Italian teachers in
Central and Eastern Europe brought words with this [n] to Yiddish? Or
could this influence have come about in a city like Venice where
Ashkenazim lived near Italian Jews? Are there other influences from
Judeo-Italian to Yiddish (maybe Yente < Gentille)? What about influences
from Yiddish to Judeo-Italian (like yorsay < yortsayt, xamisusa <

It might be interesting to do a comparative study of the realization of
`ayin in various Jewish languages and to look at this as a possible locus
of Jewish language contact. Maybe a panel topic for a future conference on
Jewish languages...

-Sarah Bunin Benor

Date: Tue, 04 Dec 2001 16:32
From: Seth Jerchower <sethj @>
Subject: Re: `ayin in Yiddish and Judeo-Italian

Hi Sarah,
I'm not completely connvinced that the /N\/ and /N/
pronunciations/articulations are "natively" Italian; IMHO the best treatment
to date is to be found in:

Author Loprieno, Antonio
Title Observations on the traditional pronunciation of Hebrew among Italian
In Semitic Studies (1991) 931-948
Source Semitic Studies, in Honor of Wolf Leslau. Vol. I-II. Ed. by Alan S.
Kaye. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1991

See you in Washington,


Seth Jerchower
Public Services Librarian
Center for Judaic Studies
University of Pennsylvania
420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tel: (215) 238-1290, ext. 203
Fax: (215) 238-1540
sethj @
" Proverai tua ventura
fra' magnanimi pochi a chi 'l ben piace.
Di' lor: « Chi m'assicura?
I' vo gridando: Pace, pace, pace. » "

Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 03:32
From: Yona Sabar <sabar @>
Subject: &ayin in Yiddish and Judeo-Italian

Regardless of the pronunciation of &ayin in Judeo-Italian and other
Jewish languages, the Yiddish word that started the discussion, to my
mind has nothing to do with the pronunciation of &ayin. Here is my
original comment to H-Judaic:

Re: yandes - See Max Weinreich, History of the Yiddish Language
(Chicago, 1980), p. 196: yidishkeit (Jewishness) is a general Yiddish
word and yaades is only regional -among Polish Jews in the form of
ya:ndes; in addition the word has no specific Jewishness meaning; it
means 'conscience'; and in p. 222: yandes 'risk, conscience'

For its etymology see Uriel Weinreich, Modern English-Yiddish
Yiddish-English Dictionary, 1977, p. 589: YHDWT =yaades Judaism > p.
590: YAND&S = nerve, gall; conscience.

I wonder if the meanings 'conscience', etc. are not a result of
'contamination' of YAHDWT and YD&NWT (=yadones) 'know how' < YD&N
(=yadn) 'savant, expert, knowledgeable person' (both listed in U.
Weinreich, p. 589).

What I mean is that the meaning 'conscience' as well as the spelling
with &ayin are the probable influence of YD&NWT = Hebrew yad&anut,
Yiddish yadones on YAHDWT/yaades + metathesis. Obviously in
traditional Jewish community yad&anut meant "(Jewish) expertise",
hence a synonym of "Jewishness"?
Yona Sabar, Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1511
(home) 310-474-6430
(office) 310-206-1389
Fax: to Prof. Sabar at (310) 206-6456.

Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 11:24
From: Seth Jerchower <sethj @>
Subject: Re: `ayin in Yiddish and Judeo-Italian

In addition to yesterday's posting, I would add two other basic works:

Weinreich, Max. "The Jewish Languages of Romance Stock and their Relation to
Earliest Yiddish." Romance Philology 9 (1956): 403-428.
Weinreich, Uriel. Languages in contact., Findings and problems. 1968.

Whether "Hamisciosceri" (for Tu be-Shvat < hameš esre) is a Yiddish loan is
debatable. It may belie an earlier pronunciation of Palestinian derivation.

Umberto Cassuto in his "Gli ebrei a Firenze nell'età del Rinascimento"
indeed postulates a medieval native articulation of /s/ for [t] (ת), based
on romanized onomastics:

p. 237 and note 6: "Jekutiel" è reso con l'italiano "Consiglio". Fra i due
nomi si troverà una certa analogia fonetica ove si pronunzi il "t" (ת) di
"Jekutiel", secondo ritengo si pronunziasse forse in tempi remoti anche in
Italia, e secondo si pronunzia oggi dagli ebre tedeschi e polacchi, come
"s". (6 - Non è qui il luogo di esporre per esteso i motivi di questa mia
congettura circa la pronunzia primitiva della ת in Italia, almeno nelle
provincie meridionali. Mi limiterò a rilevare che il nome "Nathan" appare
in documenti dell'Italia meridionale nella forma "Nasan" o "Nasas". Cfr.
quel che diremo più avanti a proposito del nome "Mattathia".

p. 238 and note 5: A "Mattathia" (biblicamente "Mattithia" o "Mattithiahu")
corrsiponde l'italiano "Mattasia" ("Mactasia", "Matassia") (5 - Per Vitale
di Mattasia = Jehiel ben Mattathia da Pisa v. "La famiglia da Pisa", p. 3,
12-15. Non conoscendo questo sistema di rendere il nome ebraico
"Mattathia", Vogelstein-Rieger, op. cit., p. 123, restano incerti circa
l'interpretazione del nome Davicciolus Mactasie, e propongono di vedervi
designato un "mattatore"). Se si ammette che la pronunzia della ת ebraica,
secondo fu detto più sopra a proposito di "Jekutiel", sia stata in tempi
remoti "s" anche in Italia, non si tratterà qui che della forma italiana
derivata dal nome ebraico.

Also, with regards to the "Nayin" (which in Rome is also palatalized), it
was not uncommon for Italian Christian Hebraists prior to 1500 ca. to
transcribe it as "hain" (of the top of my head, I don't recall how Aldus
describes it in the editio princeps of "Alphabetum Hebraicum", ca. 1501".
In an autograph notebook (Bibl. Laurenzian cod. Laur. 29.8,c - 45 verso)
Boccaccio copied the Hebrew alphabet, with the names of each letter. One
could argue that the initial "h" was simply a transcription, akin to greek
(which he also records --twice!-- on the same leaf) spiritus asper, and
similarly one could attribute the ת as /s/ to an Ashkenazic enclave in
southern Italy (such as the printer Azriel ben Yosef Ashkenazi Guntsenhozer,
active in Naples in the late 15th century, as well as the Soncinos; of
course, much of Boccaccio's career was spent in Naples, and at the time, in
Florence, the community was not yet officially in existence [founded in
1437], although there were certainly other Jewish presences in Tuscany).

Definitive proofs as to accentuation, and to the pronunciation of ? and ?
are therefore not available, and what evidence we may have is subject to
discussion. What does seem to be an ancient relic, and at least within the
context of western European Jewry exclusive to Italian Jews, is the
articulation of the final ו as /w/ עליו = /Nalaw'/). Personally, I find
Cassuto's postulation rather convincing, notwithstanding my above-listed
objections (it would also add support that the Judeo-Italian word for God's
name, דומידית in the earlier sources was derived and likely pronounced "Dome
Des", from a Northern Italo-Romance "Domine Deus" (this was Sermoneta's
[1969] opinion); interestingly, in the nominative, not a few early
(10th -13th centuries) French Christian Bibles use the type "Damedex"
(dondeu, damedeu, cas oblique; v. Trénel, Deuxième partie, p. 243 ss., esp.
p. 245); Bonvesin de la Riva (Lombardy, prob. Milan, 13th cent.) also uses a
similar form (I have the volume at home). This final "x" may have been both
a linguistic and graphic source of the JI form (cf. the many Latin
abbreviations in use, even the still noted and so called RX = ricepta, in
which the crossed codal element at the end of the "R" actually stands for
the "t" of the abbreviation). DomDed the pronunciation/equivocation of final
ת as ד appears only from the 16th century on, contrary to the interpretive
transcription ("Domaded") in Sermoneta CC 1974. At any rate, I find it
enticing to think of Italian Hebrew pronunciation as containing all sorts of
sub- and adstrata, as an excellent soil for linguistic archeology.


Seth Jerchower
Public Services Librarian
Center for Judaic Studies
University of Pennsylvania
420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tel: (215) 238-1290, ext. 203
Fax: (215) 238-1540
sethj @
" Proverai tua ventura
fra' magnanimi pochi a chi 'l ben piace.
Di' lor: « Chi m'assicura?
I' vo gridando: Pace, pace, pace. » "

> Is it possible that Italian teachers in
> Central and Eastern Europe brought words with this [n] to Yiddish? Or
> could this influence have come about in a city like Venice where
> Ashkenazim lived near Italian Jews? Are there other influences from
> Judeo-Italian to Yiddish (maybe Yente < Gentille)? What about influences
> from Yiddish to Judeo-Italian (like yorsay < yortsayt, xamisusa <
> khamishoser)?

Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 14:24
From: George Jochnowitz <jochnowitz @>
Subject: Re: `ayin in Yiddish and Judeo-Italian

In the Judeo-Provencal pronunciation of Hebrew, thav (sav), samekh, and sin
are all pronounced [f]. This is acoustically similar to _theta_, unvoiced
interdental fricative. Shin is [s]. I would guess that Judeo-Italian [d]
was once also an interdental fricative, perhaps voiced. In any event, it
did not merge with either [s] or [t].

George Jochnowitz

Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 14:32
From: George Jochnowitz <jochnowitz @>
Subject: Fw: BOUNCE jewish-languages

In Northeast Yiddish, [a] followed by `ayin yields _ay_ (Yivo spelling).

Thus we have NEY and Standard Yiddish _mayse_ and NEY _Yaynkev_. This
suggests that perhaps there once was an intermediate stage when `ayin
was a palatal nasal, as it is today in Northern Italy.

George Jochnowitz

Date: Wed, 05 Dec 2001 14:41
From: George Jochnowitz <jochnowitz @>
Subject: afterthought

I believe that there are Jews in Amsterdam who pronounce `ayin as a velar nasal.

George J

Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001 23:44
From: Gideon Goldenberg <msgidgol @>
Subject: Re: `ayin in Yiddish and Judeo-Italian

 &Ayin and [n] (ng)
The nasal realization of &Ayin in the pronunciation of Hebrew by Italian
Jews is briefly described in E. S. Artom, "Mivta ha-&Ivrit etzel Yehudei
Italia", Leshonenu 15 (1946/7) 52-61. A general important reference about
the pronunciation of Hebrew in various Jewish communities is the article
"Pronunciations of Hebrew" by Shelomo Morag in Encyclopaedia Judaica XIII
1120-1145, where a comparative table and further bibliography will also be
found. One may there learn that [n(g)] for &Ayin makes part of the
pronunciation of Hebrew by Dutch-Portugese and Italian Jews.
Morag (ibid. 1126) mentions the [n] as in "Yankev" or "maanse", but rightly
makes clear that this is another phenomenon, not necessarily connected with
&Ayin. The fact that [n] in such words is *not* the reflex of &Ayin was
clearly shown by N. H. Torczyner (= Tur-Sinai), "Shir Se&uda me-Italia:
Dugma le-mivta'am shel Yehudei Italia", Leshonenu 9 (1937/8) 49-55 = Id.,
Ha-Lashon ve-ha-Sefer I 175-181: The Ashkenazi [n] as in "Yankev" (or
"Yaynkev") etc. will also be found in pronunciations of "asher" as [ansher],
as well as in Yiddish pronunciations of German words, as in [maynst] "meist",
[maynster] "Meister", [haynt] "heut(e)". It should be added that this kind
of nasalization is (like most other non-Hebrew/Aramaic and non-Slavic
features of Yiddish) far from being exclusively Jewish, and should be studied
in the context of German dialectology.
A physiological-phonetic explanation of nasality as a reflex of laryngals
was given by P. Delattre in Phonetica 19 (1969) 72-73. Gideon Goldenberg

Prof. Gideon Goldenberg
48 Ben-Maimon Avenue
IL-92261 Jerusalem, Israel.
Telephone (972-2-)5665135
Fax (972-2-)5634891
msgidgol @

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 10:17
From: Seth Jerchower <sethj @>
Subject: From H-Judaica

Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2001 19:56:43 -0500
From: Howard Marblestone <marblesh @>
Subject: RE: Loez in Hebrew Letters

To the first part of Norman Simms' inquiry, 'rabbinic and extra-rabbinic
theory in the Middle Ages' on 'writing out a vulgate language (loez) in
Hebrew letters so as to make it seem at once in Hebrew and in, say, French
or Italian':
A celebrated example, not theory, of the practice is the poem *Kinah Shemor*
on the death of Rabbi Moses della Rocca by Leon Modena, which the author
describes thus in his autobiography, __Hayyei Yehuda__, translated by Mark
R. Cohen in The Autobiography of a Seventeenth Century Venetian Rabbi. Leon
Modena's Life of Judah (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988, p.87):
' ...Rabbi Moses della Rocca left us and went to Cyprus, where he was
married. And while he was still in his youthful prime [terminus post quem
1584], he was called to the heavenly academy. When the bad news reached me,
I wrote elegies for him, in particular one octet [which makes sense in both]
Hebrew and Italian. It is entitled "Kinah Shemor", and it is printed in my
book __Midbar Yehuda. I was then thirteen years of age. All the poets saw
ity and praised it; to this day it is a marvel to both Christian and Jewish
The valuable Historical Notes by Howard E. Adelman and Benjamin C. I. Ravid
observe, p. 198: "Kinah shemor": in Italian "Chi nasce, muor"...Modena
created a work, the first in Hebrew, that sounded the same and had
approximately the same meaning in two completely unrelated languages, On
this poem, see D. Pagis, 'Al sod hatum (Jerusalem 1986), pp. ix, 167; idem,
"Baroque Trends in Italian Hebrew Poetry as Reflected in One Unknown
Genre", in *Italia judaica 2, pp. 263-277....The text of "Kinah Shemor," in
both Hebrew and Italian, is reproduced in Roth __[The Jews in the]
Renaissance__ [Philadelphia: JPS, 1959], p. 307
Roth notes (ibid, pp. 306-308): 'Some writirs produced poems in which Hebrew
and Italian lines figured alternately; a few managed to compose poems the
phonetic sounds of which made equally good (or bad) sense whether read as
Hebrew or Italian. The best known instance of this curious genre was an
elegy written in 1584 by the irrepressible Leone Modena...[note 1] Modena's
*tour de force* was imitated on a tombstone in the seventeenth century and
plagiarized by the London Jewish physician Ephraim Luzzatto in the
Best wishes,
Howard Marblestone
Lafayette College

Seth Jerchower
Public Services Librarian
Center for Judaic Studies
University of Pennsylvania
420 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Tel: (215) 238-1290, ext. 203
Fax: (215) 238-1540
sethj @

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 11:00
From: Sarah Bunin Benor <sbenor @>
Subject: from Paul Glasser

From: Paul Glasser pglasser @

A comment on the comment: Yiddish "haynt" is not cognate with standard
German "Heute," but with dialectal German /haynt/ (< hî-naht). Moreover,
both "meister" and "meinster" are attested in Middle High German (see Lexer,
Mittelhochdeutsches Wörterbuch). Therefore, it doesn't make sense to speak
of Yiddish nasalization in this context.
I've always associated the "n" of "Yankev," etc., with the ayin. I'm
interested to read that it may not be the case. Of course, examples like
"yandes" (with hey), Polish-Yiddish "dange" (with alef), etc., demonstrate
that there's more here than meets the eye.


Dr. Paul (Hershl) Glasser
Associate Dean, Max Weinreich Center
Senior Research Associate, Yiddish Language
212-246-6080 X6139 (ph)
212-292-1892 (fax)
mailto:pglasser @

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16 Street
New York, New York 10011

Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 11:08
From: Paul Glasser <pglasser @>
Subject: Fw: from Paul Glasser

Can I correct the notice I just sent so that the first sentence reads: "A
comment on Gideon Goldenberg's comment." Thanks!


Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 12:49
From: Seth Jerchower <sethj @>
Subject: The Leone Modena "Qinah shemor"/"Chi nasce mor"

This is the bilingual "frottola" by Ephraim Luzzatto (1729-1792, born in San
Daniele del Friuli, was studied medicine in Padua, and eventually moved to
London, as the appointed Physician to the Portuguese Community -- see
article in EJ; also the author's "Eleh bene ha-ne`urim" [originally London,
1766], Vienna 1839 edition, edited by Meir Letteris); while line 7 cites
Modena, I would hardly judge it a plagiarization:

מי זה רואה
שנות אידי
פנה אלי
או מה
שאול שבר
קינה שמור
אני מתי
אבוי ימי
און עמל
:הה כי פסו

Ah! L'uom
misero è
se notte e dí
pene e lai
- ohimè -
suol cibar.
Chi nasce muor
A voi giammai
avvenga mal
- ah - che passo.

Modena's instead is in ottava rima (from Roth "Renaissance", p.307; some
corrections by SJ)

קינה שמור אוי מה כםס אוצר בו
כל טוב אילים כוסי אור דין אל צלו
משה מורי משה יקר דבר בו
שם תושיה און יום כפור הוא זה לו
כלה מיטה ימי שן צרי אשר בו
צייון זה מות רע אין כאן ירפה לו
ספינה בים קל צל עובר ימינו
הלים יובא שבי ושי שמנו

Chi nasce, muor. Oimè, che passo [a]cerbo!
Colto vi è l'uom, cosí ordina 'l Cielo
Mosè morí, Mosè: già car di verbo
Santo sia ogn'uom, con puro zelo
Ch'alla metà, già mai senza riserbo
Si giunge, ma vedran in cangiar pelo
Se fin abbiam, ch'al cielo ver ameno
- Ah - l'uomo va, se viv' assai, se meno.

Interestingly, LM uses the Hebrew צל עובר "cielo ver", in which the `ayin
appears as silent, while the later Luzzatto specifically uses the letter for
the velar /ng/ (און עמל = avvenga mal).


Date: Fri, 07 Dec 2001 14:27
From: Sarah Bunin Benor <sbenor @>
Subject: from Gideon Goldenberg

From: Gideon Goldenberg msgidgol @

To Paul Glasser's comment:
I should like to make clear that in my comment I quoted Tur-Sinai's note
stating that nasalization in Ashkenazi pronunciation of Hebrew was not
a plain parallel to [n] reflex of &ayin in the pronunciation of Dutch-
Portugese and Italian Jews; I also quoted his examples. His statement I
would regard as correct, not necessarily all his examples.
Paul Glasser is certainly right in his "comment on the comment" concerning
"heute" and in his additional reference to dialectal German.
I have in fact suggested that those phenomena should be studied in the
context of German dialectology. Is there at all anything in the German
component, i.e. in the basic structure, of Yiddish that is not shared by
non-Jewish dialects? Yours, Gideon Goldenberg

Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2001 22:33
From: Yaakov Bentolila <bentoli @>

I am interested in the (different) Ladino "translations" of the well known
acronym from the HAGGADAH: DETSAX 'ADASH BEAXAB: Dam, TSfardea, Kinnim,
'Arov, Dever, SHehin, Barad, 'Arbeh, Bexorot. I would appreciate details
about any existing "translation" and about its source. The most peculiar
"translation" known to me runs something like this: "Mordio el escorpion al
tio paterno", i.e., 'the scorpion bit the paternal uncle" (!!), but I
couldn't identify the source.


Prof. Yaakov Bentolila
Hebrew Language Department
Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
Tel.: 972-8-9941348 (H)
 972-8-6461723 (O)

Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 11:58
From: Yona Sabar <sabar @>

Dear Yaakov,

In Neo-Aramaic it is translated mboshille Tloxe go qoqa "He cooked
lentils in the (little) pot" , which has a humorous effect, just like
the Ladino you mention. Only &adash has a transparent connection (in
Hebrew and Arabic) to Tloxe "lentils"; the other two "words" don't
seem to have any connection. For more details see my article on
Neo-Aramaic Haggadot in forthcoming Leshonenu.


Yona Sabar, Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1511
(home) 310-474-6430
(office) 310-206-1389
Fax: to Prof. Sabar at (310) 206-6456.

Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 14:00
From: <jochnowitz @>
Subject: Article: Stefan Heym, Marxist-Leninist Novelist, Dies at 88 on Lecture Tour in Israel

This article from
has been sent to you by jochnowitz @

The last paragraph of this obituary refers to "a peculiar hybrid jargon ... Jewish-German."

jochnowitz @

Stefan Heym, Marxist-Leninist Novelist, Dies at 88 on Lecture Tour in Israel

December 18, 2001


Stefan Heym, the widely published author of more than a
dozen historical and political novels, died yesterday while
on a lecture tour in Israel. He was 88 and lived in Berlin.

A Jew uprooted in Germany in 1933 by the Nazis, Mr. Heym
became an intellectual nomad and a lifelong
Marxist-Leninist: two years in Czechoslovakia, 15 years in
the United States; settling finally in East Germany. In
World War II he served in the United States Army in France
and Germany.

Extraordinarily prolific, Stefan Heym - his pen name - was
more a highly gifted storyteller than a transcendent
writer. With few exceptions his tales, drawn from history
and contemporary political life, pitted a single man
against a powerful and implacable authority.

Describing his literary aims in 1967 to an American visitor
to East Germany, he said the country was "a blank spot in
literature for me to fill in." In fact East Germany
produced a number of greatly talented homegrown novelists
and poets whose works filled in virtually all of that blank

Mr. Heym never became deeply rooted in the hybrid society
of East Germany. "I always say I'm not only a German writer
but also an American," he said. "Much of what I write, say
and the way I act is American, although as a boy I wanted
to be like Schiller."

Klaus Korn, a retired university professor in Berlin, said
of Mr. Heym: "We saw him as somebody from over there, from
America. His novels were more in the American style,
Sinclair Lewis or Norman Mailer, than German."

As for his origins Mr. Heym said: "Being here in Germany
helps me to continue feeling as a Jew. Sometimes I feel
myself as a Jew. Sometimes I feel myself a German. And
sometimes I even have American traces in my makeup. I am
kind of a mix."

Late in life, four years after the Berlin Wall collapsed,
he ran as an independent Socialist for political office in
the newly united Germany and won election as a Bundestag
deputy from the Communist stronghold of Prenzlauer Berg, a
borough of eastern Berlin. At the time he described himself
as both "a writer of genius" and "a full-blooded

Mr. Heym quit office after a year in protest against the
deputies' vote to increase their own salaries by 50

He was born Helmut Flieg, the son of a textile manufacturer
in the eastern industrial city of Chemnitz, on April 10,
1913. Early on he demonstrated a fierce ambition to be
noticed, publishing an anti-militarist verse in The
Chemnitzer Volkszeitung in 1931, which caused his expulsion
from high school. He was attending the University of Berlin
when Hitler came to power in 1933.

Fleeing across the frontier near his birthplace to
neighboring Czechoslovakia, he earned a hand-to-mouth
living as a writer in Prague. He was already strongly
attached to the teachings of Marx and Lenin, contributing
articles over the next six years to Communist periodicals
in Prague and Moscow. In 1935 he gained a scholarship from
a Jewish fraternity at the University of Chicago and went
to the United States on a ticket paid for by Czech writers
and journalists.

He received a master's degree and moved to New York to
become editor of a German-language anti-Nazi weekly,
Deutsches Volksecho. The paper supported the Hitler-Stalin
pact of 1939.

After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Heym repeatedly
claimed that he "never belonged to a party in my whole
life." On a questionnaire he filled out for the East German
Writers Association in 1952, however, he said he joined the
Communist Party U.S.A. in 1936 and remained a member for
three years.

From 1939 to 1942 he was a printing salesman, working on a
novel in his spare time: "Hostages" (G. P. Putnam's Sons),
a thriller about the Nazi occupation of Prague, which was
an instant success before he turned 30. Orville Prescott,
The New York Times's book critic, called the story "tense,
tautly constructed, swift and terrible." Paramount made it
into a movie, starring Luise Rainer and William Bendix.

He joined the United States Army and was assigned to a
psychological warfare unit, the Second Mobile Broadcasting
Company. Landing in France a week after D-Day in 1944, he
saw duty close to the front as one of the "hog callers,"
speaking German over a loudspeaker to urge Wehrmacht troops
to surrender.

He became one of the founding editors in Munich of Neue
Zeitung, the first American Occupation Zone newspaper. He
then returned to New York and resumed writing fiction,
publishing a modestly successful World War II novel, "The
Crusaders," and "The Eyes of Reason" three years later.

In 1951, fearing investigation by the House Un-American
Activities Committee as the hunt for Communists led by
Senator Joseph R. McCarthy reached a crescendo, Mr. Heym
left the United States with his American wife, Gertrude
Peltryn, a New Yorker whom he married in 1944. She died in
1969. They stayed first in Warsaw and Prague, arriving in
East Germany a year later.

He then presented his action as "a protest" against the
role of the United States in the Korean War and took part
in anti-American propaganda campaigns. He also renounced
his American citizenship and returned his Army decorations
to Washington.

He soon became a star propagandist for the Communist regime
and its Soviet protectors. When construction workers
demonstrated in the streets against the system in 1953, he
wrote in his weekly column in The Berliner Zeitung that the
repression of the uprising by Soviet tank cannons was
justified "to prevent a war" because otherwise "American
bombing nights would have started." On Stalin's birthday
that year Mr. Heym wrote of him as "the most beloved man of
our time." Later he called Soviet political concentration
camps "settlements."

When Hungarians revolted against Communist rule in 1956, he
called their crushing defeat by Soviet armored columns a
"matter of ethics." For this and other expressions of
loyalty he was awarded the National Prize II Class and two
literary awards by the Stalinist regime in East Berlin. But
by the mid-60's he was out of favor with the party
leadership, accused of conducting "a conceited elitist
mission" and writing "truth as conceived in the West."

His relations with the ruling party worsened when he began
to publish novels in the West that he could not get
permission for in the East. But he lived in a comfortable
house in the lakeside borough of Grnau and drove a white
Lancia roadster. Because of his Western television
appearances he was a celebrity in the East despite
strictures on his publishing there and police surveillance.
With his hard-currency earnings he also traveled to the

His historical-political novels included "The Eyes of
Reason" in 1951 about the 1948 Communist takeover in
Czechoslovakia; "Goldsborough" in 1953 about a miners'
strike in Pennsylvania; "The Papers of Andreas Lenz" in
1963 about the abortive 1848 revolution in Germany;
"Lassalle" in 1969 about Ferdinand Lassalle, the
19th-century founder of the German Socialist movement; "The
Queen Against Defoe" in 1970 about Daniel Defoe's libel and
slander case; "The King David Report" in 1972, a story
about the rewriting of history under a dictatorship cast as
a biblical tale; and "Ahasver" in 1981, a mythological
story about the eternal wandering Jew as an itinerant

In his autobiographical "Nachruf" ("Obituary") in 1988 he
often spoke of himself in the third person as "S. H.,"
especially when describing his behavior during the Stalin
purges. But he was not candid about being an ardent
Stalinist from 1933 to 1963. "I was never a dissident in
relation to the Communist-Socialist world movement," Mr.
Heym said in 1977.

On Nov. 4, 1989, as the Communist regime in East Germany
began to topple, Mr. Heym joined other prominent would-be
reformers at Marx Engels Square in the center of East
Berlin where he spoke to a crowd of 100,000, saying that
"socialism, the right kind, not the Stalinist kind, is what
we want to build for our benefit and the benefit of all

Just as Mr. Heym had assailed the East Germans in 1953 for
rising up against their Soviet overlords, he now spoke
sarcastically of this people as "a horde pressed belly to
back on the hunt for glittering junk" in West German
department stores.

One of his last works, "The Gals Are Always Gone and Other
Clever Sayings," published in 1997, is a mostly
autobiographical collection of tales about himself and his
second wife, Inge. A sharp departure from the novels that
form the main part of his output, it is written in a
peculiar hybrid jargon that is the author's conception of
what might be called Jewish-German, including a sprinkling
of Yiddish phrases, and is designed as a tribute to his
wife, Inge Hohn, a film scenarist who survives him.

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company

Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 15:30
From: Sarah Bunin Benor <sbenor @>
Subject: AJS notes

At the Association for Jewish Studies conference in Washington, DC, last
week, there were 2 great panels on Jewish languages. At the panel on
translating sacred text into Jewish languages, Frederick Greenspahn
(University of Denver) was the respondent to papers by Benjamin Hary,
George Jochnowitz, and Seth Jerchower. A lively discussion ensued about
Jewish languages and their Hebrew-calque varieties.

The sectional meeting had only 6 people, but we came up with some good
ideas for future panels at AJS (or elsewhere). Here's a list of them:

- How groups of Jews shift from one Jewish language to another (e.g.,
Yiddish to Jewish English; Judeo-French/Italian and/or Judeo-Slavic to

- The emergence of Modern Hebrew (incl. influence of Jewish and non-Jewish

- Jewish language death

- Jewish languages and gender

- Typology and theory of Jewish languages

- Trends in literacy

- Discourse issues in Jewish languages

Lewis Glinert, the representative to AJS for Jewish languages, will choose
a few of these to be the suggested topics for next year's conference. And
maybe people on this list can organize panels on specific themes, whether
from this list or not.

We also talked about the website that Tsuguya Sasaki and I are working on.
It's making progress, and we've recently decided to obtain our own domain
name, hopefully "" In order to reserve this space
on the web, we have to pay $60/year. Eventually we will be a non-profit
organization and will be able to apply for funding, but right now we're
just a bunch of individuals. So we're trying to collect the $60 from the
members of this list by mid-January. If you'd like to donate $5 or $10 to
this fund, please contact me by e-mail.

Tsuguya and I will keep you updated on the website's progress. And you'll
likely be hearing from Benjamin Hary within the next year or 2 about a
conference on Jewish languages that he's starting to plan at Emory

-Sarah Bunin Benor

Date: Thu, 27 Dec 2001 12:00
From: Yona Sabar <sabar @>
Subject: Re: call for panelists for AJS 2002

Dear Lewis,

I hear that next AJS conference will be in Los Angeles. I'll be happy
to help in any way and read a paper, probably on language death (lo
alekhem - Sephardic; lo aleynu -Ashkenazic)/and organize a panel on
Those who are interested, let me know.

shana Tova ve-khol Tuv la-kol,


> Shelomot:
> We are inviting papers and panels for next year's AJS conference,
> Section: "Jewish language, linguistics and semiotics"
> The following are the suggested themes. Feel free to organize your own.
> - Jewish discourse
> - The emergence of Modern Hebrew
> - Trends in Jewish literacy
> - Typology and theory of Jewish languages
> - Jewish language and gender
> - Language shift between Jewish languages
> - Jewish language death (lo alenu)
> kol tuv
> Lewis Glinert
> Section Organizer
> Lewis Glinert
> 6191 Bartlett Hall
> Dartmouth College
> Hanover, NH 03755

Yona Sabar, Professor of Hebrew and Aramaic
Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures
UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1511
(home) 310-474-6430
(office) 310-206-1389
Fax: to Prof. Sabar at (310) 206-6456.