The Al and Malka Green Yiddish Undergraduate Studies Program

Dear students: Welcome to the Yiddish Studies pages!

We would like to let you know that the German department is one of the few in North America to offer Yiddish language courses. We invite you to take advantage of this opportunity. Here is why:

  • 1. Yiddish is a thousand-year old language that was spoken by the majority of Jews before the Holocaust. Today it is spoken by over a half a million people in Jewish communities in North America, Israel, and Australia. Today Yiddish is important for historians, anthropologists, sociologists, women studies and many more fields. Those preparing for business, law, social work and medical schools also find that Yiddish can help them to succeed.

    2. Yiddish is the language of Klezmer music – a really exciting and entraining genre which blends jazz with old Jewish traditions. It is quite popular in North America, and is really popular in Germany. You can hear a sample of it here.

    3. Yiddish is really easy to learn if you took at least one year of German (70 percent of it has a Germanic component).

    4. Yiddish counts towards any program in the German department – minor, major, specialist.

    5. All Yiddish students are automatically eligible for generous scholarships and awards administered by the German department. Historically, over 70 percent of Yiddish students won one or more of those awards if they took Yiddish for one year.

    6. All students taking Yiddish, without exception, become friends for life. Yiddish students often organize study groups, attend events together (UofT subsidizes many tickets). There is really nothing else like that available at UofT.

  • For more information, please email Professor Anna Shternshis.


    GER 260Y Elementary Yiddish
    Instructor: Anna Shternshis
    This course is an introduction to the Yiddish language and the culture of Ashkenazic Jews. It includes a thorough study of elementary Yiddish grammar, composition, and conversation and will allow students to discover the treasures of Yiddish culture: songs, literature, folklore, and films. No pre-requisites. Students with the colloquial knowledge of Yiddish and no knowledge of grammar (“heritage students”) are encouraged to enroll in this course.

    GER463Y Yiddish for German Speakers
    Students who have completed at least two full years of the German instruction or German speakers can take this course in their first year. This is a full-year intensive seminar that takes advantage of the German background of the students, and trains them to be competent speakers and readers of Yiddish within one year (not two years, as through the normal sequence). Note that it is still possible to take GER462H (Advanced Yiddish) after you complete this course.

    GER 360H Intermediate Yiddish
    Instructor: Anna Shternshis
    Intermediate Yiddish is a continuation of GER 260Y. It will begin with a review of the essentials of Yiddish grammar. Readings of modern Yiddish poetry and prose are included. Special attention is paid to audio comprehension and verbal skills.
    Prerequisite: GER 260Y or permission of the instructor

    GER 460H Advanced Yiddish
    Instructor: Anna Shternshis
    Advanced reading, writing, vocabulary and conversation. Study of poetry, short fiction, and memoir literature by Sholem Aleichem, Peretz, Itsik Manger, Ber Borokhov and Celia Dropkin. Selected advanced grammatical topics presented in conjunction with the study of texts. Conducted entirely in Yiddish.
    Prerequisite: GER360H or GER463Y, or permission of the instructor

    GER 361 Yiddish Literature in Translation
    Instructor: Anna Shternshis
    The course is an overview of the major figures and tendencies in modern Yiddish literature and culture from the beginning of the 19th century to the present, featuring readings (in English) of modern Yiddish prose, poetry, drama and cinema. Students with knowledge of Yiddish are encouraged to read some original texts.

    GER 362H1S Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Culture in the Soviet Union, Russia and beyond, 1917-2014
    Instructor: Anna Shternshis
    The course is also cross-listed with the History Department.
    The course will examine the major trends in Russian Jewish History, culture and identity as developed during the Soviet and post-Soviet Period. Selected topics are Soviet policies towards the Jews, building of Yiddish, Hebrew and Russian culture in the 1920s, Holocaust in the Soviet Union, Jewish participation in the Soviet war effort, anti-Semitism of the 1950s, Jewish culture during the late Soviet period, collapse of the Soviet Union, post-Soviet Jewish Diaspora and its implications. 
    We will examine a variety of primary sources, ranging from archival documents, to personal testimonies, to literary works, and folklore. A variety of disciplines will be used to examine Soviet Jewish experience. We will look into the works by political scientists, historians, literary scholars, and anthropologists. In the discussion, we will think about how a primary source can provide different data for different disciplines, and will discuss the implications for the development of Russian Jewish Studies.

    GER 367H Topics in Yiddish or German Jewish Studies
    Instructor: TBA
    The course examines literary works written in different languages, in ghettos and concentration camps during the Holocaust, as well as those reflecting on the genocide in its aftermath. We focus on literature as a means of engaging with the unimaginable and on the cross analysis of eye-witness and memory writing.

    Students interested in Yiddish studies can also take courses on Jewish languages, literatures and cultures, offered by the Centre for Jewish Studies