UK 300: Elementary Yiddish

People and places

Instructor: Raphael Finkel
Office: 230 Hardymon
Phone: 257-3885
Office hours: 	M 1p-230p, R 2:00p-3:30p.
Meeting place and time: MWF 10-10:50, JSB 139
Credit Hours: 3
Course Web Site:

Course description

This course introduces Yiddish as a living language. You will gain some proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing. There are no formal prerequisites, but knowledge of Hebrew, Polish, Russian, and German is certainly helpful, because Yiddish is a West Germanic language, written with a modified Hebrew alphabet (although we will start with Romanized writing) and has significant vocabulary borrowed from Slavic languages.

Learning outcomes

  1. The student will demonstrate ability to conduct simple conversations in Yiddish.
  2. The student will demonstrate ability to read and understand stories from a 2nd-grade Yiddish reader.
  3. The student will demonstrate ability to construct grammatically correct sentences in the past, present, and future tenses.
  4. The student will demonstrate understanding of the cultural setting of East European Jewry.

Required materials

  1. The required text for this course is Sheva Zucker, Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature & Culture Volume 1 (ISBN 978-1877909665) 1995.
  2. Optionally, you should also have a bidirectional dictionary, such as Weinreich's Modern English-Yiddish Yiddish-English Dictionary (ISBN 978-0805205756).
  3. A marvelous new English-Yiddish dictionary is the Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary (ISBN 978-0-253-00983-)
  4. You will find my online dictionary useful:

    Grading Scale

    59% or below

    Exams and Assignments

You are expected to speak at least once every class period in Yiddish. There will be a set of written exercises due Wednesday every week. The tests will be mostly written, but they may include an auditory portion. Mid-term grades will be posted in myUK by the deadline established in the Academic Calendar (

In-class participation 20%
Weekly written work 30%
Midterm test 20%
Final test 30% 


Week Date F
Aug 21 1
Aug 28 2
Sep 4 2
Sep 11 3
Sep 18 r
Sep 25 4
Oct 2 r
Oct 9 r
Oct 16 6
10 Oct 23 6
11 Oct 30 8
12 Nov 6 9
13 Nov 13 10
14 Nov 20 10 n
15 Nov 27 10 10 11
16 Dec 4 11 11 11
 Dec 14 i
Code Meaning
1ā€’11 Units in book
Final: Thu Dec 14 1pā€’3p
No class - Academic holiday
No class - Religious holiday

How to submit work

You may submit your written homework on paper or (preferably) electronically by mailing to We will discuss means of encoding Yiddish letters in documents in class. If your homework contains multiple files, please use shar, tar, zip, or rar to create a single file and attach that file.

The fine print

You need to notify me of absences prior to class when possible. S.R. defines the following as acceptable reasons for excused absences: (a) serious illness, (b) illness or death of family member, (c) University-related trips, (d) major religious holidays, and (e) other circumstances that I find to fit "reasonable cause for nonattendance". If you anticipate an absence for a major religious holiday, you are responsible for notifying me in writing of anticipated absences due to their observance of such holidays no later than the last day in the semester to add a class. Information regarding dates of major religious holidays may be obtained through the religious liaison, Mr. Jake Karnes (859-257-2754). I expect you to withdraw from the class if you miss more than 20% of the classes scheduled for the semester (excused or unexcused), per university policy.

I may ask you to verify your absences in order for them to be considered excused. Senate Rule states that faculty have the right to request "appropriate verification" when students claim an excused absence because of illness or death in the family. Appropriate notification of absences due to university-related trips is required prior to the absence.

You will not plagiarize, cheat, or falsify or misuse academic records. I expect you to adhere to University policy on cheating and plagiarism in all courses. The minimum penalty for a first offense is a zero on the assignment on which the offense occurred. If the offense is considered severe or you have other academic offenses on your record, more serious penalties, up to suspension from the university may be imposed. Plagiarism and cheating are serious breaches of academic conduct. You should become familiar with the various forms of academic dishonesty as explained in the Code of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Complete information can be found at A plea of ignorance is not acceptable as a defense against the charge of academic dishonesty. It is important that you review this information as all ideas borrowed from others need to be properly credited.

Section 6 of the University Senate Rules ( states that all academic work, written or otherwise, that you submit is expected to be the result of your own thought, research, or self-expression. In cases where you feel unsure about the question of plagiarism involving their own work, you are obliged to consult me on the matter before submission. When you submit work purporting to be you own, but which in any way borrows ideas, organization, wording or anything else from another source without appropriate acknowledgement of the fact, you are guilty of plagiarism. Plagiarism includes reproducing someone else's work, whether it be a published article, chapter of a book, a paper from a friend or some file, or something similar to this. Plagiarism also includes the practice of employing or allowing another person to alter or revise the work which you submits as your own, whoever that other person may be. You may discuss assignments among yourselves or with me, but when the actual work is done, you must do it alone. When your assignment involves research in outside sources of information, you must carefully acknowledge exactly what, where and how you employed them. If the words of someone else are used, you must put quotation marks around the passage in question and add an appropriate indication of its origin. Making simple changes while leaving the organization, content and phraseology intact is plagiaristic. However, nothing in these Rules shall apply to those ideas which are so generally and freely circulated as to be a part of the public domain (Section 6.3.1). Please note: Any assignment you turn in may be submitted to an electronic database to check for plagiarism.

If you have a documented disability that requires academic accommodations, please see me as soon as possible during scheduled office hours. In order to receive accommodations in this course, you must provide me with a Letter of Accommodation from the Disability Resource Center (725 Rose Street MDS Bldg suite 407, 257-2754, for coordination of campus disability services available to students with disabilities.

The climate for learning on campus is critically important to your success and to the viability of our community. As we strive to ensure that our students, faculty and staff experience UK as a welcoming environment, we embrace the many aspects of diversity represented on campus and endeavor to be inclusive in the ways we live, learn and work here. This effort involves respecting, among all else, the religious diversity on campus. Throughout the academic year, members of our community observe various official holy days of their respective religions. Urging sensitivity to the importance of these days to the observers among us, the Senate established the following rule: "Faculty shall give students the opportunity to make up work (typically, exams or assignments) when students notify them that religious observances prevent the students from doing their work at its scheduled time. Faculty shall indicate in their syllabus how much advance notice they require from a student requesting an accommodation. Faculty may use their judgment as to whether the observance in question is important enough to warrant an accommodation, although the presumption should be in favor of a student's request. The Offices of Institutional Diversity, the Dean of Students, and the Ombud are available for consultation."