Readings by members of the Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle (recorded in 2011).
The Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle meets monthly in order to read, hear, and discuss stories and poems by female Yiddish authors that would otherwise be forgotten. By rescuing the stories of these writers, the participants in the Reading Circle are also able to enjoy listening and speaking their mameloshn, or mother-tongue.
Yiddish was the language of Central and Eastern European Jewry and was brought to Winnipeg by Jewish immigrants. Many of the women in the Reading Circle are the children of immigrants and thus grew up in Yiddish-speaking homes. Some of them were students at the I. L. Peretz Folk Shul, a Winnipeg Yiddish-language school that was the first full-time Jewish day school in North America. Other members immigrated to Winnipeg from Europe after the Holocaust.
The Winnipeg Reading Circle has been remarkably active since its inception in 2001. In 2007 the group published an anthology of English translations of their favourite stories, Arguing with the Storm: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers, edited by Rhea Tregebov (Toronto: Sumach Press; New York: The Feminist Press). The Reading Circle was also recognized by the UNESCO and was included in its Register of Good Practices in Language Preservation.
Yiddish is no longer spoken or understood by the majority of Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of Central and East European origin). The women of the Winnipeg Reading Circle belong to an increasingly small group of Winnipeggers fluent in the language. The stories and poems presented here have been translated into English, but the women who read these stories for you hope that by listening to the original Yiddish, even those who do not understand the language will get an impression of the humour, linguistic musicality, and emotional depth in the Yiddish language and Yiddish literature.
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