Within less than a decade, almost half of the world's 11 million Yiddish speakers were murdered, and the language's centuries-old cultural heartland in Eastern Europe was demolished. The implications for Yiddish have been profound, both instrumentally and symbolically. There is at present a heightened awareness of the use of Yiddish as a language of conversation, both on the part of the speakers and on the part of observers. In “postvernacular Yiddish,” every utterance is enveloped in a performative aura and freighted with significance as a speech act quite apart from the meaning of whatever words are spoken.

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