Harvey Pekar’s Last Stand

Posted inThe Daily Heller
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Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & The New Land.

Before passing in July 2010 at age 70, Harvey Pekar wrote comics and co-edited (with Paul Bhule) an anthology about that dying Eastern European language, Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & The New Land. Rich in lore and folkways, the book trace the influence of Yiddish from medieval Europe to New York’s Lower East Side. Yiddishkeit means “Jewishness,” as in a “Jewish way of life.”

In addition to scripts from Yiddish Theater, the book is filled with comics and drawings by Peter Kuper, Allen Lewis Rickman, Spain Rodriguez and Sharon Rudahl. Film and cultural historian Neil Gabler provides an illuminating introduction about the Yiddish language:

“. . .Yiddish is a language that lives more in the mouth than on the page. . . . As an amalgamated language, borrowing freely from German and Polish and Hebrew with its own unique constructions and confabulations, it is, at its very core, a way to take high culture and reformulate it in a more democratic fashion. Instead of great works, its primary legacy is not only the Yiddishisms sprinkled into English for flavor or the subversive candor that impregnated American entertainment through Jewish comics but also the very democracy of Yiddish — its stubborn plebeian pride. Yiddishkeit seems to luxuriate in its own lack of elegance and its own marginalization . . .”

Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & The New Land.
Yiddishkeit: Jewish Vernacular & The New Land