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Families, Rabbis and EducationEssays on Traditional Jewish Society in Eastern Europe$
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Shaul Stampfer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781874774853

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: February 2021

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781874774853.001.0001

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Literacy among Jews in Eastern Europe in the Modern Period

Literacy among Jews in Eastern Europe in the Modern Period

(p.190) Nine Literacy among Jews in Eastern Europe in the Modern Period
Families, Rabbis and Education

Shaul Stampfer

Liverpool University Press

This chapter describes the literacy of the Jews of eastern Europe in the modern period. This is an interesting topic because, on the one hand, these Jews were heirs to a long tradition of literacy. At the same time, they lived in a multilingual world. In that society, Jews usually spoke Yiddish to each other; prayed in Hebrew; came into contact with bureaucrats who spoke the languages of rulers such as Russian or German; and dealt with customers and clients who spoke Polish, Ukrainian, Lithuanian, and Belorussian. Most of the latter were oppressed languages with limited possibilities for publication and literary expression. Thus, when considering the literacy of east European Jews, one has to consider literacy in their vernacular (Yiddish), in their literary language (Hebrew), and also in non-Jewish languages. Literacy in the first two categories is significant as a reflection of cultural patterns and exposure to the written word. Meanwhile, literacy in the last category is a reflection both of acculturation and exposure or openness to general culture and society.

Keywords:   literacy, east European Jews, multilingual world, Yiddish, Hebrew, non-Jewish languages, vernacular language, literary language

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