At the University of Maryland, which has stood alongside Harvard and Columbia as one of the nation’s few schools to consistently offer instruction in the Germanic tongue, the recent announcement that the Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Center for Jewish Studies would be dropping [Yiddish] in the fall shocked area enthusiasts.
The center now has cobbled together the money to pay its longtime instructor through the next academic year. But after that, director Hayim Lapin says, it is unlikely to continue funding a full-time faculty member dedicated to the language.
Maryland explains that due to budget constraints it has cut a number of programs and the decision to eliminate Yiddish instruction is financial and not due to a failure to appreciate Yiddish culture.
Yiddish, a Germanic language of Jewish origin, was spoken by about 11 million Europeans prior to World War II. Today, less than one percent of the world’s population speaks Yiddish.