Tatjana Soldat-Jaffe's Twenty-First Century Yiddishism opens with a promising set of tasks and questions, and the author begins her study with a clear statement of her goal: “to investigate how the controversies surrounding the use of the Yiddish language not only persist but remain vital to its status, prestige, and legitimacy” (1). While what “Yiddishism” meant in 1908, where this volume begins, is not what is meant by the word in the twenty-first century, this intriguing statement of purpose seems to suggest that essential to its self-understanding is the fact that Yiddish is a language that argues about itself.

This idea, however, is not pursued. Instead, we find a series of case studies of the “persistence” of Yiddish language. And in these case studies Soldat-Jaffe focuses her attention on the debates about Yiddish pedagogy, which is a smart choice insofar as that is where the sociological and ideological rubber hits...

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