Israeli Cultural Diplomacy and Yiddish in Argentina

Thursday, January 3, 2019: 4:10 PM
Williford A (Hilton Chicago)
Amy Kerner, Brown University
In 1969, Israel’s founding father and ex-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion traveled to Buenos Aires, a city with a large Yiddish-speaking population. A native Yiddish speaker himself, Ben-Gurion caused a stir in the Yiddish daily press when he chose to speak Hebrew to an audience of Argentine Jews in the Luna Park Stadium. This paper argues that by the time Ben-Gurion spoke, after the 1967 war, Israeli diplomats no longer felt compelled to recognize local preferences for Yiddish over Hebrew. But in the preceding decades, from 1948 on, Argentine Jews and Israeli diplomats navigated an obvious contradiction between Israeli and Argentine definitions of the Jewish national language. This process had consequences not only for Argentine Jews, but, I suggest, also for the assimilation of Yiddish as Jewish folk culture in Israel. Using records that reflect the visits of Israeli diplomats in Argentina, I explore this process of balancing Jewish national loyalty with loyalties to Yiddish.
<< Previous Presentation | Next Presentation