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400 Attend Opening of First Course in Yiddish Literature for College Credit in Boston

The first course in Yiddish literature to be given in the United States for college credit opened here last night under the auspices of the University Extension of the Massachusetts Department of Education, in the lecture room of the Boston Public Library. Four hundred were in attendance when Prof. A. A. Roback of Harvard University, called the first class to order. Many of those present were specially invited guests, including leading members of the community, but the majority were bonafide students, who are taking the course for collegiate credit.

There has been considerable interest aroused here by the fact that this course for college credit indicates that there is a real appreciation of Jewish culture, and many hope that courses in Hebrew literature and Jewish history will eventually be offered under the same auspices. Dr. Roback’s first lecture was partly illustrated by steroptican slides and supplemented with readings from Sholom Aleichem in the original Yiddish. A number of non-Jews were present.

In his first lecture, Dr. Roback described the dawn of Yiddish literature and touched upon the Biblical prayers and prayer books, the romances in Yiddish, the fairy tales, and the personality of Elias Levita, Hebrew grammarian and father of Yiddish literature. He also discussed the so-called best-seller of 300 years ago, the “teitsh chumesh” or Yiddish translation of the Bible and its allied stories. Referring to the hundreds of editions of this work, he pointed out the conflict between the religious and secular elements in Yiddish literature.

Dr. Roback mentioned the autobiography of Gluckel von Hamel as a classic example of feminine literature, and referred to the great library of David Oppenheimer, Chief Rabbi of Prague in the early part of the 18th century, whose famous collection of books was later acquired by the Bodleian Library at Oxford University.

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