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The Undergraduate Yiddish Program

Undergraduate Study and Life

Columbia has one of the most vibrant undergraduate Yiddish programs in the world: the Yiddish major for undergraduates was reinstated in 2003, with two graduating seniors that year, and in the Fall 2003 semester, 79 students were enrolled in Yiddish classes, both in language instruction and in Yiddish literature in translation. During the school year and the summer, courses in Yiddish language are offered at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels, where students are exposed to classroom instruction and interaction in the Yiddish language. In addition, classes in Yiddish literature in translation and Yiddish culture are regularly given in English. Student writings have appeared in their own journal, under the editorship of Miriam Hoffman.

The following information on requirements for undergraduate Yiddish studies comes from Columbia College's Yiddish Track description.

Requirements for the Undergraduate Track in Yiddish Studies

First- and second-year Yiddish language courses emphasize spoken and written communication, and provide a basic introduction to Eastern European Jewish culture. Goals include mastery of the structure of the language and enough cultural understanding to interact comfortably with native speakers.

After second-year Yiddish language courses are completed, students should feel sufficiently comfortable to begin to work with Yiddish literature in the original. Upper-level undergraduate/graduate courses are designed to accommodate students with a range of Yiddish language experience, and intensive language summer study such as the Columbia/YIVO Summer Program is also encouraged for improvement in language acquisition and comprehension.

The goal is to provide students with reasonable proficiency in reading a variety of literary, philosophical, and historical texts in the original and, through this training, to provide them with a critical understanding of Yiddish-speaking culture and society. Students should plan their program of study with the director of undergraduate studies as early as possible.

Program of study: 30 points distributed as follows:

  • At least three courses of intermediate/advanced language study (9 points)
  • Two courses in Yiddish literature, at least one of which is not taught in translation (6 points)
  • One course in the senior seminar or independent study (3 points)
  • Four related courses, at least one of which is in medieval or modern Jewish history (12 points)

Senior Thesis: A senior thesis is required for the track in Yiddish Studies. Students interested in a senior thesis or research project may do so through independent study with a faculty member over one or two semesters.

Requirements for Yiddish Concentration

Program of study: 24 points distributed as follows:

  • At least three courses of beginning/intermediate language study (9 points)
  • Two courses in Yiddish literature (6 points)
  • Three related courses, at least one of which is in medieval or modern Jewish history (9 points)

Extracurricular Yiddish Events for Undergraduates

The Deutsches Haus sponsors Yiddish concerts and lectures, as well as Kave-sho, an informal Yiddish conversation hour which gives members of the Columbia community the chance to shmues several times each semester.

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