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Communicative practices of Yiddish -speaking Jewish elders on South Miami Beach

Joel Saxe, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation employs an ethnographic perspective to describe and interpret the communicative practices of a speech community of Jewish immigrant elders on South Miami Beach. Fieldwork conducted from the mid-1980s to the early 1990s with a daily gathering that met by the oceanside offers the basis for analysis of the meanings of sociability and Yiddish linguistic and musical performance. Indepth interviews with gathering participants indicate distinctive ways in which these communicative practices displayed and affirmed a sense of shared cultural identity, an accomplishment underscored by the marginal status of this speech community. Practices of sociability and Yiddish cultural performance were understood as countering conditions of cultural invisiblity, social isolation and the abandonment of Yiddish culture. Issues of communal space, a public sphere, collective memory, mutual aid, and life storying in relationship to the Holocaust are discussed. The meanings of folksong performance are elaborated as a cultural norm and ritual form that perpetuated a long-term, diasporic cultural tradition.

Subject Area

Communication|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Folklore

Recommended Citation

Saxe, Joel, "Communicative practices of Yiddish -speaking Jewish elders on South Miami Beach" (2001). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3000342.