Joshua Friedman

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Richard and Lillian Ives Graduate Student Fellow

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    “Formations of Care: Virtuosos, non-adepts, and the Sacralization of Yiddish in the US.”

    This dissertation explores the attribution of sacredness to Yiddish language and culture in the contemporary United States. Since the late 1960s “ethnic revival” the notion that Yiddish might be considered sacred, has emerged not only from Yiddish language activists--those who seek to create Yiddish speaking communities, or raise new generations of native Yiddish speakers; the idea has also emerged from a broad, liberal Jewish public who purports to “care” deeply for Yiddish, but cannot be assumed to know the language. Based on 18 months of ethnography with Yiddish activists and within Yiddish institutions in the Northeastern United States, this dissertation explores how those publics help create Yiddish as a sacred domain—how their “care” for Yiddish produces the sacred. By offering the concept of care as a practice that deconstructs bounded categories of religion and secularism, this project contributes to our understanding of the nature of the sacred within secular modernity.