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This paper will discuss how Yiddish and Yiddish culture figure in the European cultural landscape today. Once the language of millions of East European Jews and Jewish migrants in Europe, Yiddish all but vanished as a result of the Holocaust and the repression of Yiddish culture in the Soviet Union. But in the past two decades Yiddish, not just as a language but also as a culture, has become a more visible part of Europe’s Jewish heritage. The so-called klezmer revival of the 1980s brought a larger public in contact with Yiddish culture. Resurrecting a seemingly forgotten musical tradition contemporary klezmorim made Jewish folk music and Yiddish song an established part of the world music landscape. The resulting rediscovery of Yiddish culture has also led to an increasing number of Yiddish language summer courses attracting non-academics and academics alike. In academia, a growing interest in Yiddish Studies has led to an increase in possibilities to study Yiddish on various levels.
All this suggests a growing interest in Yiddish culture. Yet what is often labelled as a ‘Yiddish revival’ is in reality a multi-faceted phenomenon that has little to do with a revival in the true sense of the word. This paper aims to qualify the increasing attention to Yiddish culture in Europe and analyse its various public expressions. It will discuss the divergence of interest and backgrounds between Western Europe and the historic heartland of Yiddish in Eastern Europe. While paying close attention to the wider context of the more general public interest Jewish heritage in Europe it will also argue that attention for the Yiddish part of Europe’s Jewish heritage fits into a broader context of increasing attention to migration processes in European history as well as its minority cultures & languages.