‘Zeyer Gut!’: JSL Resident Does a ‘Very Good’ Job Teaching Yiddish to Her Neighbors Detroit Jewish News – The Jewish News

Posted By on July 3, 2021

Shirley Benyas, 93, a resident of Jewish Senior Lifes Meer Apartments in West Bloomfield for the past six years, has been teaching a Yiddish class for other Meer residents for nearly two months.

Benyas learned to read, write and speak Yiddish through an afterschool program from the time she was 8 years old until her first year in college. She was also a Detroit Public Schools teacher for nearly 40 years.

The class takes place once a week, on Thursdays at 3 p.m.

Before Meer residents were allowed to congregate in the main halls and take part in in-person activities again, activities and programs took place over the building intercom.

At one point, there was a singer who was doing some Yiddish songs, and someone asked, what does it mean? They didnt know the translations to the songs, Benyas said. At the same time, theres a woman here who was doing a class on making Hebrew readings easy, and I thought if theyre doing Hebrew, why cant we do Yiddish?

The class consists of many residents who heard Yiddish being spoken by their parents growing up, remembering certain things and wanting to know the meanings and to learn more of the language.

There are also some in the class who have never heard the language.

There was one woman who never heard any Yiddish because her parents came from Hungary and it was never spoken there, and she has come a tremendously long way, Benyas said.

The class has translated songs theyre familiar with, translated idioms, menus and foods they could order, read stories in Yiddish like fairytales and read poems in Yiddish such as Shakespeare.

Benyas has also told the class about the history of the Yiddish language and how it came about, which she believes is very important.

A recent class assignment saw the attendees trying to tell a little bit of their life story in Yiddish in four or five sentences.

Its an experiment for the other people and an experiment for me, because I had never taught this as a language, Benyas said. Each week, we try to do something a little bit different, and those who come seem to like it very much.

Benyas said one woman who attends the class is 100 years old, and she describes her as very bright. Benyas students are eager to continue learning.

I get a kick out of it when they pick up the things weve talked about, Benyas said. If they understand a little bit and they get a few more words and they can use them, thats great.

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'Zeyer Gut!': JSL Resident Does a 'Very Good' Job Teaching Yiddish to Her Neighbors Detroit Jewish News - The Jewish News

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