No Need to Kvetch, Yiddish Lives On in Catskills
Nice that people are working to keep a language & culture alive.
KERHONKSON, N.Y. — In a chilled and snow-shrouded Catskills landscape, hundreds of people get together every December to try to breathe some warmth into a dying culture.
For almost a week at a hotel here, organizers immerse the group, which calls itself KlezKamp, in Yiddish and the folkways of the Eastern Europeans who spoke that language until Hitler extinguished their communities. Classes are offered in Yiddish conversation, humor and literature; in klezmer — the sometimes plaintive, sometimes mischievous folk music that has experienced an astonishing comeback — and in the snaking, coiling, hand-clapping dances animated by those melodies.
To some the enterprise could seem pointlessly nostalgic, since Yiddish is flourishing only among the Hasidim, for whom it is the lingua franca, and virtually vanishing elsewhere with the passing of Jews who came to the United States from Poland and Russia before and after World War II.
But a visitor last December to the hotel, the Hudson Valley Resort and Spa, formerly the schmaltzy classic the Granit, would hardly use moribund to describe the goings-on. (This year’s KlezKamp runs from Dec. 26-31.) Yiddish, as a cherished expression goes, still tickles the participants’ hearts.