In 1897, in response to an erroneous report in the New York Herald, Mark Twain, who was then in London, penned a note that in the tail end of the concluding sentence “the report of my death was an exaggeration.”The same can be said of Yiddish, which ever since the end of the Second World War has been reported as dead or dying.While it is true that the number of Yiddish speakers has been greatly depleted, and the number of readers even more so, there are still writers, some of whom were born in the former Soviet Union, and some who are in their 50s, born well after the war.“And we’re not the youngest,” said Moscow-born Dov-Ber Kerler, a second generation Yiddish poet who was among the participants in two sessions titled “Yiddish Now” at the Kissufim Conference of Jewish Writers and Poets that was held last week at Mishkenot Sha’ananim.Yiddish is enjoying a revival, as many younger Jews are interested in familiarizing themselves with this aspect of their heritage, and would like to read the literature in the original.Like any language, especially one as rich as Yiddish, the translation seldom does justice to the original. By the same token, when English is translated into Yiddish, it also loses something in transit. “Tsu zein ober nisht tsu zein” simply does not convey the same as “To be or not to be” even though it is a literal translation. Likewise, the Yiddish “oy” has many meanings depending on the tone of voice, and defies any translation that tries to capture the spirit of that “oy.”Translation and the absorption of foreign words were among the subjects discussed by Rivka Basman Ben-Haim, born 90 years ago in Lithuania; Kerler and Velvl Chernin, both born in Moscow; Moyshe Lemster, born in Bessarabia; Gilles Rozier, born in Grenoble, France; Daniel Galay, born in Argentina; Mendy Cahan, born in Antwerp, Belgium; and best-selling Hebrew author Jerusalem-born Haim Be’er, who introduces Yiddish text into his works when his character speaks, and whose great dream is to write a novel in Yiddish. Be’er had a segment almost to himself in which he was in conversation with Hebrew writer and critic Bilhah Ben-Eliyahu about Yiddish within Hebrew and Hebrew within Yiddish. There are many distortions or adaptations of Hebrew in Yiddish – for instance thoughts – machshevis in Yiddish derives from mahshavot in Hebrew. Cholem, a dream, comes from halom, and shaile, question, is probably the closest to the Hebrew pronunciation, although there is an actual Yiddish word for question, and an expression roughly translated as begging the question is fragt zich a shaile, which can also be fragt zich a fragge.But many words from the languages of countries in which Yiddish speaking Jews lived have also become absorbed into the language, such as for instance balagan, which is also part of the Hebrew lexicon, but which came to this country from Russia, and some sources say that it originated in Persia and its pronunciation was changed as it crossed borders. Today, it is an international Jewish word, just as kosher is an international word and is not always associated with food.Cahan, a poet in his own right and the founder of YUNG YiDiSH that had its start in Jerusalem, but is now a permanent fixture in the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station, was the moderator of the first session. YUNG YiDiSH has attracted many Russian immigrants who were more in search of a cultural Jewish identity than a religious one.Cahan was curious to know why the poets, who are all fluent in other languages and who in most cases also write in other languages, choose to write in Yiddish.Basman replied that Yiddish is part of her and she is part of Yiddish. But that’s not entirely true. Her early poems were written in Lithuanian, but after she met famed Yiddish poet Avraham Sutzkever in the Vilna Ghetto during the war, and showed him her poetry, she began, on his advice, to write in Yiddish, and that is the language in which she expresses herself best, she said.Strange though it may seem, Kerler and Chernin each grew up with Yiddish as his first language, and although both can and do write in at least two other languages, they find that Yiddish is a better outlet for their emotions.Similar sentiments were voiced by the other poets, though it was interesting that Rozier, the only member of the group without a Yiddish home background, spoke the most beautiful classical Yiddish of all. Rozier, who has a keen interest in languages, elected to study Yiddish after having mastered several other languages.Like the other poets, he is frequently invited to Yiddish festivals and international conferences on Yiddish, and what most of these events have in common is a growing number of non- Jews who are studying Yiddish in order to become more conversant with Jewish culture. One of the ironies regarding Yiddish in Israel is that whereas it was outlawed by Israel’s founding prime minister David Ben-Gurion, today, most Israeli universities offer Yiddish programs, which they would not do if the demand was not there.