“Yiddish Lives,” declares this pin. When most of my father’s side of the family immigrated to America from Poland, Yiddish was the language of the greenhorn, an embarrassing impediment to assimilation. By the time I was born, nobody in my family spoke the language fluently anymore and like many American Jews, I knew of Yiddish only as a few funny words. Then a college course in my freshman year introduced me to the history of this uniquely Jewish dialect and the communities who continue to preserve and value Yiddish as a living language.
These communities exist both in America and abroad. In 2011, I became the first member of my family to return Poland since the Holocaust, to attend a summer language seminar. It was a powerful experience to return to a country my ancestors had fled to reclaim for myself the language they had once shed. I purchased this pin in Warsaw during that seminar. It is a tangible representation of the intangible heritage of my ancestors’ language. It is also a reminder of my journey as the descendant of immigrants to embrace and integrate the pasts that they once sought to leave behind into my own modern American identity.
– Rachel Wetter