Between Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and Czech: The fluid Linguistic Identity of Czech Jewry as Reflected in the Collections of the Jewish Museum in Prague


Lenka Ulicna
Kurt and Ursula Schubert Center for Jewish Studies, Palacký University Olomouc, Czech Republic

Selected museum objects will guide us through the world of Bohemian and Moravian Jews in the time when Yiddish was disappearing from Central Europe, Hebrew kept on fighting for her place, Judendeutsch or jüdisch-deutsch was developed as a specific language strategy in the era of modernization, German triumphed and Czech was slowly becoming more visible. In my lecture I will present a sociolinguistic analysis of particular texts and inscriptions from the period under discussion in historical context. It is not only printed books and manuscripts that reveal the language conventions, but also texts engraved, embroidered, painted etc. A manuscript of General Regulations published in German 1754 for Moravian Jews, but soon re-written in Judendeutsch, has been chosen to symbolically represent the sociolinguistic situation of Moravian Jewry in mid-18th century; Torah mantles tell the story about how German digged her way into the sacred space of the synagogue; silver goblets, on the other hand, provide an illustrative example of the language shift from German to Czech. Within less than 200 years, Czech and Moravian Jews changed their language habits remarkably; and in this region, language was a message in itself.

לנקה אוליצ'נה
לנקה אוליצ'נה