Yiddish a National Minority Language in Sweden
Every day, we encounter little miracles, sometimes in unexpected places. This is the story of how a country in northern Europe has gone on to become a large producer of contemporary Yiddish content.
In 1999, Yiddish was declared an official national minority language in Sweden. It has been spoken there by Ashkenazi Jews for hundreds of years. There are 20,000 Jews living in Sweden today and, according to estimates, between 1,500 and 3,000 Jewish Swedes are native Yiddish speakers, most of them elderly.
But the official status given to minority languages assures that Yiddish speakers can conduct government business in their native language. Sweden also offers Yiddish-language courses in universities, supports Yiddish language TV and radio programming, including a focus on children’s programming, and book publishers are creating media in Yiddish.
Malmo-based journalist, Thomas Lunderquist, produces a monthly Yiddish-language radio show for Sverige Radio, the national radio channel, which explores little-known connections in Yiddish language and culture.
Sweden’s state television previously produced a four-part travel series which follows Yiddishist Tomas Woodski as he travels to four cities (Bucharest, Tel Aviv, Paris and London) and talks to local Yiddish speakers.
There are also Yiddish-language versions of well-known Swedish children’s shows. The Sveriges Jiddischförbund, Sweden’s largest Yiddish cultural organisation, released a series of music videos teaching Yiddish songs to children, along with Yiddish vocabulary.
Through NOA (Networks Overcoming Antisemitism), we aim to tell the stories of contemporary Jewish life and culture in Europe. Learn about our work countering antisemitism in Europe at www.noa-project.eu.