Bobover Yiddish: “Polish” or “Hungarian?”

In: Journal of Jewish Languages
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  • 1 New York United States
  • 2 New York United States

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Abstract

Contemporary Hasidic Yiddish speakers perceive a distinction between “Hungarian” and “Polish” Yiddish. This article explores that distinction by examining the Yiddish of the Bobover Hasidic community, the largest “Polish” Hasidic group in the United States; the Yiddish of its “Hungarian” counterpart, Satmar, and its rootedness in the Unterland Hungarian Yiddish was demonstrated by Krogh (2012), reflecting the origins of the Satmar dynasty. But is Bobover Yiddish similarly rooted in western Galician Yiddish? Interviews with informants from the Bobover community reveal a mixed picture. All showed phonological features of non-Hungarian Central Yiddish, but all featured “Hungarian” vocabulary. While most of the informants’ grandparents were from interwar Poland, several had grandparents from the Unterland region; one-third identified their spouses as “Hungarian” or were members of “Hungarian” Hasidic communities. This shows the permeability of the two groups, leading to a mixing of features, which creates the need for shibboleths as clear markers of identity.

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