After my post meetings snooze, I went down to the opening reception in the exhibition area. I munched on tempting goodies and examined tempting books. I was very happy to see several bids on my quilt. Even though I thought I did a good job - its always a little nerve-wracking to see if anyone else agreed.
After the reception, we gathered for dinner. I caught up with some of my HUC colleagues and met a few other librarians from around the states.
Our keynote speaker was Dr. Ruth Wisse. She posed the question "What do we do about Yiddish?" She gave an engaging talk about the role Yiddish played and plays in Jewish life. Dr. Wise pointed out that the development of Yiddish shows 2 contradictory things. 1. Jews had close contact with the surrounding German community since and 2. Jews lived separately from the surrounding community.
Today Yiddish speakers seem to fall into 2 camps - the secular, and the ultra-religious. This separation does a disservice to both Yiddish and to Jews. Yiddish was the vehicle for many Jewish authors and thinkers to grapple with issues of modernity. They struggled with many issues that we are still addressing today: G-d vs. individuality; individuality vs. peoplehood; men & women's roles; sexuality and love; Jews & politics, etc.
She also talked about how Yiddish shows the development of language and peoplehood across language and political borders.
To paraphrase the answer to her question ... ask not what you can do with Yiddish - ask what Yiddish can do for you.