Maryland’s Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies has collected enough money to pay its long-time Yiddish instructor through the next academic year, but likely couldn’t garner enough funding after that to dedicate a full-time faculty member to the language, The Baltimore Sun reported Monday.
“U-Maryland has had the biggest commitment to Yiddish as a language anywhere in a hundred-mile radius,” Harvey Spiro, president of Yiddish of Greater Washington, said. “We’re not a particularly political organization, but this kicked us in the gut.”
The group has organized a letter-writing campaign to try to save the language program.
Center Director Hayim Lapin said the eventual elimination of the 1,000-year-old language is a bottom-line decision.
“This is not about Yiddish,” Lapin said. “What this is about is responding to the budget crisis and actually cutting back on just about all of our visiting faculty and programming. So we have less Bible than we had. We have less history than we had. We have less or no Yiddish.”
Lapin said Yiddish has fallen victim to falling returns on the endowments funding the center and a limited student interest, the Sun reported.
While the center probably won’t have the money for a full-time instructor after next year, Lapin said he hoped to offer language instruction on a per-course basis, as driven by student demand.
The Sun reported Harvard and Columbia are among the handful of schools that consistently offer Yiddish instruction in the Germanic tongue.