From the late eighteenth century, as German Jews gradually replaced Yiddish with German, the publication of Old Yiddish literature practically ceased in Western and Central Europe. But this rich and once very popular literary corpus was by no means forgotten there. Rather, it gained a “second life” in the works of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholars, in the form of annotated anthologies and translations, bibliographic lists, and literary surveys. This article focuses on one prominent example, that of the German-Jewish folklorist Abraham M. Tendlau (1802–1878). In his popular anthologies, Buch der Sagen und Legenden jüdischer Vorzeit (1842) and Fellmeiers Abende: Märchen und Geschichten aus grauer Vorzeit (1856), as well as in his renowned collection of proverbs Sprichwörter und Redensarten deutsch-jüdischer Vorzeit (1860), Tendlau incorporated German translations of older Jewish folktales, which he took primarily from the Old Yiddish Mayse-bukh (1602) and Seyfer mayse nisim (1696). The article analyses Tendlau’s translations of the Old Yiddish folktales against the backdrop of Jewish modernization and acculturation, on the one hand, and, on the other, the culture of remembrance and nostalgia, which permeated Jewish culture in nineteenth-century Germany. By this, it hopes to shed light on the important yet hitherto underestimated role of Old Yiddish Literature in the formation of a distinct German-Jewish identity in the modern era.
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- Abraham Tendlau
- German-Jewish history
- Jewish folkloristics
- Seyfer mayse nisim
- old Yiddish literature