I started Yiddish classes with Golde Block yesterday. Golde was a professional singer from New York and grew up surrounded by the world of Yiddishkeit (Jewishness). Yiddish was my first language but where I grew up, we were teh only Jews. As soon as I started school I wanted to be "normal." So when my parents spoke Yiddish, I would respond in English telling them that they needed to speak English in the new country. Like many immigrant kids, the desire to fit in versus the desire to please/honor parents was a constant battle. Flash forward many years and I've joined "Yiddish Club" at the Albert Einstein Senior Residence Center, organized by Golde who is also teaching or reteaching some of us younger folks. I have started collecting stories of peoples experiences with Yiddish also known as the "mamneloschen" or mother-tongue for a book I hope to make and went to the Einstein Center to do a workshop with some of the seniors there. We did both stories and art and it was quite magical. The only requirement was knowledge of a Yiddish word or phrase and then we developed the stories about how we came to know these words or phrases and of course the stories told us so much more than just what the word or phrase meant. The stories told tales of history, humor, culture, tragedy, family, community, loss, and love. Of course I fell in love the people and joined Yiddish Club and then I waited in line until Golde could fit me in as one of her individual students.
We met at her warm and welcoming house, not ostentatious - as she pointed out, but warm and comfy. I asked if I could take pictures of when she sang professionally and she said "sure - why not?" Learning Yiddish was more than just learning the words, grammar, alphabet or aleph bet. It was learning about Golde's life, history, and world, hearing Jewish and Yiddish jokes, and learning about Yiddish and Jewish culture. It was also remembering about my own history that I had tried for so many years to escape and sharing small snippets from that, amazed at how much Yiddish I remembered, tho reading was a big challenge. I love the idea that at some point I might be able to read Sholem Aleichem or I.L Peretz. I love that I will get to know more about Golde as I continue Yiddish class with her. I love that I am becoming more comfortable and at home in my Jewishness.