Preface / Ruth R. Wisse
Introduction / Goldie Sigal
The Collection
Historical Background
Joe Fishtein and his Milieu
The Yiddish Language
Soviet Orthography
The Flowering of Yiddish Literature
The Catalogue
The Indices
Archival Items in the Collection
Technical Aspects
Table of Name Equivalents

The Catalogue Entries
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(Author, Title, Illustrator, Periodical, Series)


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Soviet Orthography

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 languages.

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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Goldie Sigal
Jewish Studies Librarian
McGill University Libraries