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A Goy Who Speaks YiddishChristians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany$
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Aya Elyada

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804781930

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804781930.001.0001

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The Merchants' Tongue

The Merchants' Tongue

Yiddish and Jewish Commerce

(p.83) Five The Merchants' Tongue
A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish
Stanford University Press

Mastery of the Yiddish language was important not only to theologians and missionaries, but also to Christians who conducted business with Jews. Since the Jews wrote their correspondence and promissory notes in Yiddish, it would be wise for Christian merchants and businessmen to have a working knowledge of the language. The need to learn and understand Yiddish resulted in the proliferation of self-study manuals of the Jewish language, written in German primarily for merchants and businessmen. A different kind of Yiddish literature that emerged during the period was the so-called anti-Semitic works on the Yiddish language, whose intention was to “expose” Jewish blasphemies and anti-Christian abusive expressions, and were often advertised as manuals of “business Yiddish.” Christian contemporaries, including the authors of Yiddish manuals, highlighted the prominent role of Jews in commerce, along with the intensifying business relations between Jews and Christians. Aside from facilitating commercial transactions between Jews and Christians, however, these works also aimed to help Christians defend themselves against what they perceived as Jewish fraud and deception, stereotypes that had strong theological underpinnings.

Keywords:   Yiddish language, Jews, Christians, Yiddish literature, commerce, fraud, deception, manuals, Jewish language, business

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