Organized by the representation of B’nai B’rith at UNESCO in Paris, nearly 500 people attended the two-day event. In 2010, UNESCO published an atlas that outlined languages in danger of being lost. Yiddish was on the list. This language, intricately linked to the Jewish people, has seen a revival after being nearly lost in the wake of the Holocaust.
The members of the permanent representation of B’nai B’rith to UNESCO were disturbed by the idea that Yiddish could be doomed to disappear and were inspired to put the event together. Of the speakers and those in attendance, it was encouraging to see that many of these people were young and passionate about discussing the language and the culture.
Speakers at the event included Rachel Ertel, professor emeritus at Paris University and an author of numerous works on Yiddish literature; Yitskhok Niborski, senior lecturer of Yiddish at the French National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations; and Gilles Rozier, director of the Medem Library in Paris and a Yiddish author.
Among the B’nai B’rith representatives who spoke on the importance of keeping the Yiddish language alive, Daniel S. Mariaschin, executive vice president of B’nai B’rith International, Ralph Hofmann, president of B’nai B’rith Europe, and Serge Dahan, president of B’nai B’rith France, all addressed the symposium.
Participants discussed a range of topics during roundtable discussions. Conversations titled “The continuity of the living Yiddish” and “The creation in Yiddish” were held on the first day of the symposium.
On day two, a particularly interesting discussion was held, titled “Yiddish and the new communication tools and the effects of the digital revolution on the spreading of the Yiddish culture.” Those present discussed how previously isolated Yiddish speaking communities and individuals are now within reach through the Internet.
The symposium was very successful, not only because of the turnout and the speakers, but because of the organizers Irène Orès and Witold Zyss, representatives of B’nai B’rith at UNESCO.