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Afn Shvel: A Yiddish Cultural and Literary Magazine for the Modern Reader

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Afn Shvel

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Afn Shvel
A Yiddish Cultural and Literary Magazine for the Modern Reader
Editor-in-Chief, Sheva Zucker
Published by the League for Yiddish

By Rochelle Caviness - February 17, 2010

In print since 1941, Afn Shvel (On the Threshold) is a contemporary Yiddish literary and cultural magazine published by the League for Yiddish. One of the goals of the League for Yiddish is to promote Yiddish as a living language, and this magazine exemplifies the vibrancy and vitality of modern Yiddish usage and culture.

Afn Shvel is an intellectually stimulating and entertaining magazine that features a variety of articles covering topics that range from Jewish history, current events, and popular culture to Yiddish literature and Yiddish linguistics. In addition, works of fiction, as well as contemporary and historic poems enhance the pages of this well-illustrated magazine. The magazine regularly publishes articles about, and by, modern Yiddish literary figures, which serve not only to introduce these luminaries to Afn Shvel's readership, but also to the wide array of Yiddish literature that is currently being produced.

Themed editions that focus on a specific subject are regularly published. One such issue (#342-343) provided an in-depth look at the history and literature of Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Region in Russia (der Yidisher oytonomer gegnt in Rusland). This issue also included a travelogue from a modern day visitor to the region. Another example is issue #340-341, which was devoted to two groups of people - Holocaust partisans and refugees. This issue includes some exceptional first hand accounts of what life was like in China and Japan for Jewish refugees who fled to Asia during the Holocaust. Two of the articles from this issue, Fun Varshe iber Eyrope keyn Yapan (From Warsaw Through Europe to Japan) and Briv fun a polit in Shankhay, 1946-1947 (Letters from a Refugee in Shanghai 1946-1947), as well as sample articles from a number of other issues are available online courtesy of the League for Yiddish. (Links to the sample articles are located at the bottom of the page.) The most recently published issue (#346-347) was devoted to the secular Yiddish school movement (Yidish-veltlekhe shuln bavegung). This issue looks not only at the past, but also forward, providing an overview of the various types of Yiddish programs that are currently available for children.

Afn Shvel is an all-Yiddish magazine that is a 'must read' for anyone proficient in Yiddish who is looking for a steady dose of both literary, learned, and engaging reading material delivered to their doorstep. It is also an ideal learning aid for students of Yiddish. While the entire magazine is written in Yiddish, some of the articles also include glossaries of unique or unusual Yiddish words and terms in both English translation and with a Yiddish explanation. These are provided at the bottom of the relevant pages as an aid for those not totally proficient in Yiddish.

The articles in this magazine are articulate and engaging, and the works of fiction are invigorating and entertaining! If you don't yet have a firm grasp of Yiddish, you soon will as the nature of the articles make them a pleasure to read, even if you have to refer to a dictionary on a regular basis while reading them. Consequently, this magazine will encourage you to persevere with your Yiddish studies and it will get you passionate about becoming a proficient Yiddish reader. As an added bonus, no matter your reading level, you will find that the articles, stories, and poems in Afn Shvel will not only increase your appreciation of Yiddish and greatly expand your Yiddish vocabulary, but they will also increase your knowledge about Yiddish culture, history, and literature.

Afn Shvel is published three times a year, and is currently under the editorship of Dr. Sheva Zucker. She is an educator and the author of the popular, two-volume Yiddish textbook, Yiddish: An Introduction to the Language, Literature & Culture. Previous editors include the famed Yiddish linguist and founder of the League for Yiddish, Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter, as well as Dr. Itskhok-Nakhmen Steinberg and Ben-Adir (Avrom Rozin), the first editor and founder of Afn Shvel. The magazine has had a long and honored place in the realm of Yiddish periodicals, and is set to serve generations of Yiddish readers to come.

To learn more about Afn Shvel, or the League for Yiddish, or to subscribe to the magazine, visit the League for Yiddish's website at

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