Yiddish Translation Hub

Help the OJA "Crowd-Source-Translate" our Yiddish Collection!

The Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre is the largest repository of Jewish life in Canada. One of the primary purposes of the OJA is to provide equitable and open access to information created by and about Ontario's Jewish community. Present within the holdings of the OJA is a broad array of Yiddish records, both handwritten and typed, that remain relatively inaccessible.

The importance of the Yiddish in the OJA's collections cannot be underestimated.

Yiddish was often the language of choice for Ontario's Jewish community during the early to mid-20th century and much of the communication (verbal and written) was in Yiddish; institutionally, professionally, and in private/domestic life. Yiddish records at the OJA include newspapers, ledger books, broadsides, posters, meeting minutes, personal writings, correspondence, and more. The majority of our researchers cannot read or understand Yiddish and so large amounts of this information documenting the foundations of Ontario's Jewish history often goes unexplored.

Currently, there is no adequate technology that provides fast and efficient transcription and translation of Yiddish text. Some tools such as optical character recognition (OCR) software and Google Translate work fairly well with published materials such as books and word documents, but cannot handle Yiddish cursive writing, historical documents with flourishes or decorative elements that interrupt the text, or the large percentage of “Yinglish” used by Ontario’s Yiddish-speaking community. Most of the OJA’s researchers are therefore unable to access this content. Greater accessibility to these records would give researchers a better understanding of our community’s early history.

The OJA is therefore in the process of creating a micro-site linked to the OJA’s current website that would harness the collective expertise of Yiddishists both locally and globally. The site will include opportunities for individuals who are proficient in transcribing Yiddish text to contribute as well as those who are able to translate that text into English. The site will also consist of a discussion board to allow for differing interpretations of the text. After a translation is complete, the text will be linked to the matching record in our descriptions database, making the Yiddish content then searchable by English keyword.

Crowdsourcing is the best approach for translating the OJA’s Yiddish collection. It has been demonstrated that crowdsourcing provides more robust and accurate descriptions of archival records by harnessing the expertise of the community. This is particularly important when interpreting the nuances of Yiddish phrasing or the differences found in regional dialects. More than ever, individuals are interested in contributing their knowledge and expertise to the cause of information sharing.

This is an important project for the OJA and one that will open up our collections in exciting new ways! Stay tuned for more information.

This project is supported by:

Agudas Hamishpoche Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto
Yiddish Club Fund at the Jewish Foundation of Greater Toronto

Help us achieve our goals! Please click here to speak with an archivist about your donation to the OJA's Yiddish Translation Hub!

I would like to be a translator! Please notify me when the site is complete.