FAQ'S about the new Comprehensive Yiddish-English Dictionary
Beginning in 2004, Yiddish linguists, primarily located in the Boston area, but also in New York, Texas, and Canada worked to complete the English edition of the Medem Library's modern Yiddish-French dictionary.

Why was a new Yiddish-English Dictionary needed?

Previously, when serious English-speaking students of Yiddish literature and scholars of Jewish history encountered words they did not know, they usually started with Uriel Weinreich’s “Modern Yiddish-English Dictionary,” but then had to go on to the more comprehensive but less reliable (and outdated) Harkavy. For many words of Hebrew-Aramaic origin, they had recourse to Niborski’s excellent Verterbukh fun loshn-koydesh-shtamike verter in yidish.  They might have needed to consult Russian, Polish or German dictionaries for many words excluded as non-standard.  This posed a considerable burden on those seeking to acquaint themselves with the rich and varied Yiddish legacy.  French-speaking students, on the other hand, could find almost all they needed in one source, the Niborski-Vaisbrot dictionary.


It follows that for students (or simply lovers) of Yiddish literature, for historians of the Jewish people, for scholars of the Holocaust, and especially to aid the new generation of post-Holocaust Yiddish readers, the availability of a wide-ranging descriptive dictionary with definitions in English is of the greatest importance and utility, especially a dictionary that is electronically accessible. The success of the Niborski-Vaisbrot dictionary in the French-language milieu (primarily France and Belgium) suggested that an English version would be successful and useful in the much larger English-language milieu (not only the United States and other English-speaking countries, but also many areas where English is a major second language accessible to broad segments of the population). 


Where can I acquire a copy of the dictionary?

The new dictionary is available to purchase at Indiana University Press, Amazon and in bookstores.  


A page of a Yiddish letter, circa 1382 (Medem Library, Paris)


Is there an electronic version?
Yes. For more details, please visit www.verterbukh.org.
Who is repsonsible for the Yiddish-English Dictionary? 
 Project Team (partial list) 
Co- Editor-in Chief and Research Director

Professor Solon Beinfeld, Professor of History, Emeritus, Washington University, St. Louis.  Professor Beinfeld grew up in a Yiddish-speaking family.  His father was a teacher for many years in the Workmen’s Circle Yiddish schools in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.  He taught Modern Jewish history for over twenty years at Washington University, and has written extensively on the Holocaust, making extensive use of Yiddish-language sources. He has taught Yiddish at the Workmen’s Circle in Boston, and has recently translated Girl with Two Landscapes: The wartime diary of Lena Jedwab-Rozenberg (New York: Holmes and Meier, 2002) and parts of the Kovno Ghetto diary of Ilya Gerber in Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002). He was senior consultant and historian to the Kovno Ghetto Exhibition project of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and consultant to the Museum on the Ghetto archive holdings in the Lithuanian State Archives in Vilnius.


Co-Editor-in Chief and Technology Director

Dr. Harry Bochner  is the son of Holocaust survivors and grew up in a family where Yiddish comprehension was essential.  Study at Harvard and Columbia complemented this knowledge, and he has been involved in Yiddish cultural activities for over 20 years, teaching the language at Boston University and the Boston Workmen’s Circle. 


Barry Goldstein, Associate Editor A.M., Harvard University. Mr. Goldstein is a dedicated amateur lexicographer and student of Yiddish. He is the author of numerous Yiddish literary works, including a translation of the “Treebeard” chapter from The Lord of the Rings, and a frequent contributor to Yugntruf.


Yitskhok Niborski, Scholarly Ad visor, The Medem Library, Paris, France, was born in Buenos Aires in 1947 to Polish-Jewish parents. In 1979 he settled in Paris, where he went on to build a major European center of Yiddish culture and study. He has taught Yiddish at the University of Paris VII, the Medem Library, and at intensive Yiddish courses in Brussels, New York, Oxford, and Vilnius. Professor Niborski is widely known for his dictionaries. He has coauthored a Yiddish-Spanish dictionary (1979), a Yiddish-French dictionary (2002), and a dictionary of the Hebrew and Aramaic elements in Yiddish (1997) which has quickly become an international standard. He is also an accomplished Yiddish author whose Fun a pustn fas (Voice from an Empty Barrel), comprising selections from his poetry and prose over three decades, appeared in Paris in 1996. Professor Niborski was one of the founders of the Society for the Study of Yiddish (best known from its Yiddish acronym, GEFYL), which pioneered mass-participation events in Europe as a stimulus to serious study of the language.

Project Administration

Elizabeth Kessin Berman, A.M., Harvard University, complements the team of linguists as seasoned administrator and grant writer. Trained in the art and languages of the Ancient Near East, Ms. Berman has been a curator of major international projects on Jewish history for over 20 years. She was on the founding staff of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and worked on Yiddish-based projects, notably the exhibition and catalogue of Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto.