Study of Yiddish needs a boost, say educators

Interest in Yiddish education is dwindling and the 1,000-year-old language and culture is no longer widely esteemed, reported Canadian Jewish News June 15. That was the conclusion reached by panellists at the closing panel of the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies’ (ACJS) conference, “The Futures of Yiddish Education and Culture in Canada”. Yiddish was once the language of the masses and is now the language of a small minority of people, said Keith Weiser, professor of Jewish history at York University’s Centre for Jewish Studies. Weiser was speaking to an audience of about 100 people at York’s Keele campus on May 30.

He cited Hebrew University in Israel as the only university to still conduct graduate programs in Yiddish. Columbia University no longer incorporates Yiddish interaction into its graduate program, said Weiser. He noted that people “do not know a language until [they are] fully exposed [to it] and brought into the culture” and said one problem faced when learning Yiddish is, “Where you speak Yiddish, you speak English.” Weiser, who received his doctorate from Columbia in 2001, said it’s important to be “fully immersed” in the language of a people, rather than learning solely from a textbook. “[At Columbia University] we were exposed to a wide range of Yiddish-speaking people,” he said.

Earlier that evening, Irving Abella, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, and author of six books, including the award-winning None Is Too Many, received the 2006 Canadian Jewish Studies Distinguished Service Award.

One-time York professor won’t run in next Alberta election

There will be no more Raj against the Tory machine in the next Alberta election, reported The Calgary Herald June 15. After nine years in the Alberta legislature, former provincial NDP leader and one-time York University professor Raj Pannu announced Wednesday he will not run again in the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona. Pannu, 73, didn’t get involved in politics until he retired from teaching in 1996. He was a professor of sociology at York for a year before accepting an appointment at the University of Alberta in 1969.

Re-arrested sexual predator denied bail

A man convicted of sexually assaulting and robbing women near the York University Keele campus has been denied a second attempt at bail after he was arrested for breaching his release conditions on June 8, reported the Toronto Star online edition June 14. Philip Foremsky, 23, showed little emotion as Justice of the Peace Karin Dresher gave her reasons for denying him bail. A publication ban has been placed on the hearing, held at College Park provincial court. Foremsky was released from Bath Institution on April 4 after serving a five-year term for sexual assault with a weapon, two counts of sexual assault and two counts of armed robbery. On April 4, Toronto police applied to the courts to place Foremsky under a judicial restraining order.

Foremsky contested the application, but was freed after agreeing to abide by the conditions sought by the order pending a hearing on the matter, police have said. That hearing was set for last Friday, but Foremsky was arrested the night before, police said. He was charged with possessing marijuana and with two counts of breach of recognizance. A third breach of recognizance charge was laid by Crown prosecutor Eva Flynn today. Foremsky was remanded in custody to appear at College Park on June 22.

Former contract teacher arrested

Already before the courts accused of planning sexual offences involving children, a Toronto man was arrested after allegedly approaching a young girl near Dufferin St. and Wilson Ave., reported the Toronto Sun June 15. She told her parents and police were called, with a suspect arrested later in the day. Leon Wasser, 48, is charged with three counts of failing to comply with the conditions of his release. Wasser was arrested in January and charged with counselling to commit an indictable offence. York University, which had Wasser on a short-term contract to teach a course this year, said on Jan. 14 that the teaching contract was terminated.