Finding Inspiration in Every Yiddish Text
Yiddish language and culture are an integral part of the spiritual heritage of the Jewish people. For nearly 1000 years, Yiddish has been the spoken language of most European Jews and Jewish immigrants around the world. Before the outbreak of World War II, over 11 million people considered Yiddish the mother tongue on all continents.
The WJC International Yiddish Center relentlessly works in promoting Yiddish language and culture, offers intensive seminars and systematic study of Yiddish culture through online and offline learning. The Center initiates educational, research and study projects that explore various aspects of Yiddish culture. The Center targets all kinds of audiences - Jewish and non-Jewish educators, college and university students, members of Jewish communities and educational organizations, active Jewish leaders and the general public. The main goal of the Center is to familiarize with the Yiddish language and culture with the aim to transmit Yiddish cultural heritage to future generations.
To make a contribution to the preservation of the Yiddish language and culture, the World Jewish Congress decided to establish the WJC International Yiddish Center in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Vilnius, otherwise called Vilna, was one of the main centers of Eastern European Jewish and Yiddish culture, known as the ‘Jerusalem of the North’, a place of Yiddish education, journalism, literature and theater. YIVO ‐‐ the first academic Institute for Yiddish research ‐‐ was established 90 years ago in Vilna. There are few places in the world more suitable for the revival and study of Yiddish culture and language than Vilnius.
The logo of the International Yiddish Center includes three symbols golden chain, golden peacock and Star of David.
"The Golden Chain" is the name of one of plays of famous classic of Yiddish literature, Yitzhak-Leybush Peretz. This poetic drama was written in Hebrew in 1903 with the title "Khurban beit tzaddik" (collapse of the house of the righteous), and in 1909 a version of this drama was published in Yiddish and it was named "Di goldene kate" (golden chain). This work reflects the conflict between generations in the house of the leader of the Hasidics - Reb Shloyme. The image of Reb Shloyme himself has become fundamental for admirers of Yiddish culture. This righteous man, seeing the sadness of everyday life of the Jewish town, rebels against tradition and basic religious postulates. He refuses at the end of Saturday to conduct the rite of "havdole" (farewell to holy Saturday), refuses to return hard daily life to the world, demands from heaven "eternal Saturday", eternal holiness. Despite all the efforts of Reb Shloyme, his son Reb Pinhos performed the rite of farewell to Saturday and returned daily life, since "the people are not yet ready to bear the eternal Sabbath on their shoulders."
The name of this drama - the "Golden Chain" - has become a symbol of the entire Yiddish culture, and it symbolizes the continuity of generations, the transfer of spiritual heritage, the preservation of cultural values and the people's unchanging desire for the "eternal Sabbath". The same name was given to the central literary magazine in Yiddish, published in Tel Aviv from 1948 to 1995 under the editorship of one of the outstanding poets of the 20th century, Avrom Sutzkever.
"The golden peacock" is an image from Jewish folklore, repeatedly described by Yiddish poetry classic Itzik Manger. This is a kind of ever-living bird, symbolizing flight, beauty, the height of the spirit. In Munger's poetry, many images are painted in gold, but in this case it is not "despicable metal", but a symbol of unearthly beauty and a kind of reflection of sunlight.
Many poets and artists, including Moishe-Leib Halpern, Uri-Zvi Grinberg, Marc Chagall, Meir Harats and others, followed Manger with the image of the golden peacock.
An image of a golden peacock by Yiddish artist and poet Moishel Bernstein was issued as a postage stamp in 2002 by the Israel Stamps Authority to commemorate the millennium of Yiddish culture.
The Star of David (Magen David) has been an officially recognized symbol of the Jewish people since ancient times. The word "Yiddish" is written on this image in the logo, thus emphasizing the important role of the Yiddish language and culture in preserving the Jewish spiritual heritage.