New on OU Torah, 12/30: Rabbi Teitz, in Yiddish
Rabbi Pinchas Mordechai Teitz
For many years before it became the New York outlet for ESPN radio (with different call letters), WEVD-AM was known as “the station that speaks your language.” Given the fact that the station was owned by the Yiddish-language newspaper The Forward, it is not surprising that the prime language of the station was Yiddish.
For 36 years, the eminent Rabbi Pinchas Mordechai Teitz delivered Daf HaShavua, a half-hour shiur (lecture) on the Talmud in Yiddish on WEVD.
Now, in a mighty coup for the Orthodox Union, its OU Torah website (www.ou.org/torah) has acquired more than 1,000 of these broadcasts and will begin integrating them into its burgeoning list of Torah offerings.
The program is scheduled to begin on Friday, December 30, the fourth of Tevet, Rabbi Teitz’ yarhzeit. (He passed away in 1995 at the age of 87.)
According to OU Torah Content Editor Rabbi Jack Abramowitz, the shiurim were made available to the OU by a student of Rabbi Teitz with the intention of sharing this material with future generations. The material – the first Yiddish-language content on OU Torah – will be added to the site’s primarily English-language content and Rabbi Israel Lashak’s Spanish-language “Perlas de la Tora.”
According to Rabbi Teitz’ daughter, Dr. Rivkah Blau, “My father saw opportunities for the growth of Torah when he came to the United States in 1933. He built a modern Torah community in Elizabeth, NJ, where two mikvaot, three schools, and five shuls form a united JEC, Jewish Educational Center.
“In 1953, he wanted to enable those who had become disillusioned with socialism and Communism to reconnect with the Torah of their youth. He would bring the beit midrash into their homes through a weekly half-hour of study in Yiddish on their favorite radio station, WEVD.
“Although a full page (of Talmud) could not be covered in a half hour, he called it Daf Hashavua (the weekly page). Not only did he reach his intended audience, but a government survey of foreign language programs found 200,000 listeners. He sent tapes of the broadcasts to Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Montreal, and Philadelphia, initiating the Torah tapes phenomenon. Jews in Russia heard the shiurim on short-wave radios through Kol Yisrael Lagolah.
“After he ended the program in 1988,” Dr. Blau continues, “a new wave of university students asked for tapes in order to hear pure, elegant Litvishe (Lithuanian) Yiddish. Scholars enjoyed his clarity in explaining the Gemara; he started each topic with the Torah verses behind it. His grandson Avi, who learned with Rav Teitz on Shabbos afternoons, said, ‘Some people make you feel the Gemara is too complicated for you; Saba (Grandfather) makes it clear.’”
Said Rabbi Abramowitz, “Some people mistakenly think that Yiddish is a dead language. There are perhaps a million native speakers in the United States and Israel, plus many more who speak it as a second language. Through this program, we hope not only to share Rav Teitz’ acclaimed lectures with those who can best appreciate them, but also to expose new listeners to a linguistic beauty and elegance that may surprise them.”
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