Weekly Reader: Yiddish in the Summertime

Published on June 16, 2024.

For most of us, the recent weather has made it feel like summer started a long time ago. And in the United States, the unofficial start to summer is often considered to be the long Memorial Day weekend. But this week will be the solstice—and therefore the official start to summer! So enjoy the longest day of the year and whatever else the season has in store for you. Here at the Yiddish Book Center summer is always our busiest time of year, with the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music, and more. However you plan to spend these coming months, here’s a bit of summer Yiddish to keep you occupied.

In the Country

AR534_1945-yosef on croton falls porch_0.jpg

For many people, summer means getting out of the city. Whether it’s to a camp, resort, family cottage, or somewhere else, it’s always nice to spend some time surrounded by nature and, if you’re lucky, a body of water. Over the years the Wexler Oral History Project has explored the rich history of Yiddish in rural areas, including summer camps, bungalow colonies, Yiddish writers’ retreats, and more.

View collections about rural Yiddish from the Wexler Oral History Project

Camper’s Paradise

Two teenage girls relax on bunk bed at summer camp, book cover

Speaking of summer camp: If you’ve ever wanted to take a deep dive into that most Jewish American of experiences, there’s a book out there for you. In 2023 Sandra Fox published The Jews of Summer: Summer Camp and Jewish Culture in Postwar America. And before that she appeared on The Shmooze podcast to talk about her research as well as her Yiddish feminist podcast, Vaybertaytsh.


Listen to an episode of The Shmooze with Sandra Fox


Buy The Jews of Summer: Summer Camp and Jewish Culture in Postwar America

Festival Express

Sebastian Schulman wears sweater and glasses against teal brick background

Summertime is festival time! Here at the Center we have Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music (get your tickets here), while up in Canada they have KlezKanada, which was founded in 1996 to “teach, nurture, and present to a broad public the best of Jewish traditional arts and Yiddish culture.” In 2020, in honor of the festival’s 25th anniversary, we talked with Sebastian Schulman, who was then the organization’s executive director and is now the Center’s own director of special projects and partnerships.


Listen to an interview about KlezKanada with Sebastian Schulman

Late in the Season

Man with mustache and tie

While browsing through our Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library for some appropriate summertime reading, my eye was drawn to this title: Shpetzumer, or Late Summer, by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, translated from the English version in 1922 by Yiddish writer H. D. Nomberg (pictured left). I actually have no idea which volume of Tagore’s work this corresponds to, since there’s no book with that exact title, at least in English. Or was this a compilation assembled by Nomberg himself? If you happen to know, drop me a line!


Read Shpetzumer by Rabindranath Tagore

Summer Homework

summer pages from yidishe kinder alef

Traditionally, summer is a time when there is no homework. But some of you will want to use the opportunity to brush up on your summer-related Yiddish anyway. In these exercises, taken from the 1971 edition of Yidishe kinder alef—part of a series published by the Education Department of the Workers Circle—students Motele, Serele, and Berele discuss their plans for the summer and ask their teacher what he will do. Read the passage and answer the multiple-choice questions that follow.

Do summer-related Yiddish language exercises