Many Germans have earnestly sought to overcome the Nazi past by publicizing its depredations, by acknowledging wrongdoing, by seeking restitution of stolen property,  and by maintaining a respectful, responsive stance toward Jews in general and Israel in particular.  Still, such is the burden of the Holocaust that another approach may also prove attractive to certain Germans.  It involves Yiddish.

While Yiddish contains elements of Hebrew and Slavic languages, it is mainly an old dialect of German.  A German speaker can understand most of it, and in fact Yiddish forms part of the study of German linguistics and literature, correctly understood.  This means that a simple initiative could help bring Germans and Jews closer.

Starting on a local basis, German schoolchildren could study a semester of Yiddish as part of their German language and literature studies.  With native Yiddish speakers from Israel, Brooklyn, and elsewhere as teachers, they could learn to read and write the Hebrew alphabet, practice speaking Yiddish, read Yiddish texts, and watch Yiddish films. Though just an introduction to Yiddish, this semester would get them started and, in some cases, interested in pursuing their study as well as perhaps visiting Israel itself and making friendships there.  Over time, other school jurisdictions could imitate them, so that eventually thousands or even millions of Germans would learn Yiddish this way.

One could anticipate that slowly Yiddish expressions would filter into everyday German, and writing German in Hebrew characters would be seen as cool.  Thus the Hebrew alphabet bloc could come to include Israel, non-Israeli Jews—and Germany (Nothing would stop Austria from joining, too).  Jews and Germans would come to share something very personal and special.  For Germans to study and use Yiddish and/or the Hebrew alphabet would become a mark of respect and a small but telling way of overcoming the past.  This would also restore to German a close cousin language that the evil of the past had snatched away from it, thus enriching German culture while linking it closer to Jews worldwide.

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