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Community center helps keep Yiddish alive

The Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center in Wantagh has

The Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center in Wantagh has a Yiddish group which meets Mondays from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. to practice and encourage using the language. (Feb. 27, 2012) Photo Credit: Nicole Bartoline

Born out of the rich history of the Jewish culture, the Yiddish language has persevered since the 10th century. But in recent years it has been facing a decline in use among local Jews.

Enter the Yiddish group at the Farmingdale Wantagh Jewish Center in Wantagh, which meets Mondays from 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. to encourage and practice using Yiddish.

“We’re really trying to keep the Yiddish language alive,” said Florence Epstein, 75, a regular attendee.

“If you don’t use it, you lose it,” added Bob Kopman, 89.

The hot-button issue at Monday’s meeting, which attracted about 30 people 65 and older, was about whether, and at what age, a person should retire his or her driver's license.

Rabbi Alan Lavin of the center visited the meeting to inform the group about events there, and to encourage attendees to bring family members and show community support.

“Bring your grandchildren,” Lavin said. “It’s important for us to have the families come.”

The second half of the meeting was dedicated to practicing Yiddish phrases and proverbs.

“We have all levels of Yiddish speakers here, from zero to 100," said Esther Levy, co-chairwoman of the group. “We just want to give them a taste of Yiddish. It’s such a juicy language filled with satire and history.”

Members also come to socialize. A $1 per-person weekly fee is pooled to pay for things such as dances and books. And the plan to celebrate the birthdays of members who turn 90.

For Lillyan Gitnik, 89, the big event will happen on April 12.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Gitnik said. “I’m the first to have the big party for 90.”

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