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Standard Yiddish incorporates many Hebraisms - Hebrew words that
have retained their original Hebrew, unvocalized spelling, but
which are pronounced differently than they are in the source language.
Shortly after the revolution in the former Soviet Union, publications
in the Hebrew language were banned, as Hebrew was identified with
religion, Zionism, and "bourgeois exploitation". An official Yiddish
Soviet lithography was adopted, in which all Yiddish words were
to be spelled phonetically, obscuring their Hebrew derivation.
Certain Hebrew letters, like hes and sof, were eliminated, and
often special forms for some final consonants were abandoned,
in so-called conformity with the linguistic practice of other
There are many examples of books with various degrees of Soviet
orthography in the Fishstein Collection. The spelling looks strange
to a reader of standard Yiddish; nevertheless it is readable.
The reverse, however, is not true. It is highly improbable that
a Yiddish reader brought up in the Soviet Union would recognize
Yiddish words containing Hebraisms that have retained their Hebrew
spelling. Since the arrival of glasnost, Yiddish publications
printed outside the former Soviet Union have become available
there, and standard Yiddish is being reintroduced into new Russian
imprints by the addition of the phonetic spelling after Hebraisms.
According to an article in the WJC International Report,
the World Jewish Congress is sponsoring a project which may facilitate
this process electronically (WJC, 1995, p.6).
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Jewish Studies Librarian
McGill University Libraries