South Philadelphia can be added to the littered
landscape of Jewish geography, in which Chelm, Belz, Odessa,
Boiberik, and Brownsville are terrain abandoned by Jews.
They are romanticized in folk songs, but they make poor
real estate investments. Similarly, Yiddish cultural life
may be seen as a landscape of outmoded lifeways. The Yiddish
language and its dialects have been cast off, but at the
same time they remain cherished in memory. Peltz's
ethnography explores Yiddish as it survives among what
is left of a Yiddish-speaking community in Philadelphia.
The story of Yiddish is one of powerlessness; Peltz takes
us to the seemingly marginal Jews, the yidelekh
– working-class, elderly women and men who are marginalized
as a function of their old age, their accents, and their
lack of higher education.