Gender, literacy, and religiosity: Dimensions of Yiddish education in Israeli government-supported schools

Bryna Bogoch

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21 Scopus citations


This paper investigates the teaching of Yiddish in general and Haredi (haredi, contemporary Hebrew term for ultra-Orthodox, plural harcdim) schools in Israel that receive funding from the State. It examines the goals and content of Yiddish education in these sectors, the curricular materials used, the nature of teacher-training programs, and attitudes to the study of Yiddish. The oral and written uses of Yiddish, modern Hebrew, and Loshen Kodesh (the Hebrew of holy texts) in Haredi schools reflect the changing relationships between the Haredi community and the State and the evolving role of women in Haredi society. Serious, high-level instruction for boys, especially in the Hasidic schools, is conducted through the oral medium of Yiddish, although Hebrew may be used in the lower grades and for the limited secular studies that are taught. In the girls' schools, serious higher-level education was conducted in Hebrew, with Yiddish relegated to the lower grades and/or to Hasidic groups who are ambivalent about education for girls altogether. The recent incorporation of Yiddish studies into the curriculum of Hebrew language schools, the expansion of its use as a language of instruction, and the more structured study of the Yiddish language, including writing and grammar in girls' schools, is related to changes within the Haredi community, as well as to the quasi-sanctified status of Yiddish that protects the girls from the possible effects of a wider range of secular studies. In the general schools, despite public support for and acceptance of the legitimacy and importance of Yiddish language and culture, institutional disputes and budgetary factors have stopped the increase in the number of schools that offered Yiddish as a subject for study and the number of hours taught.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-160
Number of pages38
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number138
StatePublished - 1999


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