chapter  4
30 Pages

A Space for Reflection: Creative Encounters with Europe

While new spaces for Yiddish music are created and celebrated in north America, the historical geographies of Yiddish remain. In Central and Eastern Europe, Yiddish language and culture was shaped by a thousand years of close contact with co-territorial peoples; in the same places its future was cut short and its speakers murdered by the Nazi regime. For the generation of American Jews born after the Holocaust, the European connections of Yiddish were already displaced, embodied for some in the accents and foodways of parents, grandparents and other members of an older generation, in memorials, in literature and memorial books. For their European contemporaries, Jewish culture was no longer part of the everyday cultural language of urban Europe and local Jewish communities had been reduced to tiny shreds of their former size.1 Of an estimated nine million Jews who lived in Europe before the Second World War, six million had been murdered, most others had left, and much of the physical heritage of Jewish life – synagogues, shops, businesses, homes and graveyards – had been destroyed or reappropriated.