9 Ways to Engage Yiddish in the Israel Palestine Debate

 

There are far better, far more creative ways to discuss the conflict in Israel and Palestine using Yiddish culture than spray-painting over a Yiddish mural in West Los Angeles. Here are a couple suggestions to suit all political positions.

1. Instead of simply painting “FREE PALESTINE!!!!” on a building whose organization already advocates a free, democratic Palestine, gather a group to sing a classic, like “Oy, ir narishe tsienistn” (Oh, You Foolish Zionists), written in 1931.

2. Watch an elderly man in the former Soviet Union movingly sing a Zionist tune, “Aheym, briderlekh, aheym (Let’s Go Home, Buddies, Let’s Go Home).

3. See what these native Yiddish-speakers have to say about the “most harmful place for Jews in the world.”

4. Check out some equal-opportunity offense related to Palestine, with a Yiddish-themed, English-language Orientalizing hit from the 1920s, sung by Eddie Cantor — “Leena from Palesteena.”

5. Find American-written Yiddish hymns that can be appropriately sung at any anti-nationalist, anti-poverty, anti-establishment protest such as “In kamf” (We Fight!), by American Anarchist Yiddish poet, David Edelstadt.

6. Listen to an adorable version of the hymn of the Vilna Ghetto youth, written by Szmerke Kaczerginski (whose daughter is, today, an activist against racism and oppression in Palestine).

7. Blast Yiddish swing sensations, The Barry Sisters, grooving with their hit “Vu ahin zol ikh geyn” (Where Else Shall I Go).

8. Brush up your Yiddish while listening to ultra-right wing Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky make claims for a greater land of Israel on both sides of the Jordan River.

9. Learn that the most popular anthem of Jews in Europe calls for unity among all victims of degradation and oppression.