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UK EXCLUSIVE - Cat speaks Yiddish

by: Caroline Westbrook - Last updated: 2003-11-23

Cat in the Hat speaks Yiddish

Yiddish Cat in the Hat

Millions of people have grown up reading the works of Dr Seuss. His most famous work, The Cat In The Hat, has been translated into many languages -  and the latest is Yiddish.

Di Kats Der Payats, as it is known, takes the famous story of two mischievous children whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of the title character, and gives it a Yiddish spin.
And for those whose Yiddish is a little rusty, there is also a Hebrew translation. A handy guide at the back of the book also helps with the pronunciation of the Yiddish words and phrases, making it a great learning tool for those who are keen on finding out more about the language.

Apart from the lanugage translation, the book itself doesn't look any different from its English original. All your favourite illustrations remain and of course, the book is creatred to be read from right to left.

The translation was done by Zackary Sholem Berger of the New York-based company Twenty-Fourth Street Books - which he co-founded in January 2003 along with his wife, Celeste Sollod - for the purpose of translating children’s books into Yiddish.

Berger’s interest in Yiddish extends to him writing poetry and prose in Yiddish, with two novels in the works (one in English, one in Yiddish) as well as founding the Yiddish Communities Project – a scheme which pays for Yiddish speaking Americans to move to within walking distance of others who speak the language.

By translating The Cat In The Hat, he is continuing his quest to bring “fun Yiddish reading” into more homes. “We really like the book,” he says, “and we wanted a book that everybody recognised”.

As well as promoting the book at the website www.yiddishcat.com, curious Seuss fans can find out more about it on Berger’s weblog (http://zackarysholemberger.blogspot.com/), which is written in both Yiddish and English.

As Berger says on his weblog, Dr Seuss style: "Support feline Yiddish. Come buy it! Why not? You'll like it just fine. You'll love it a lot”.

He has also publicised the book in Boro Park  - a very Orthodox area of Brooklyn, New York – by walking up and down the main street dressed in a huge red-and-white striped hat similar to that worn by the Cat himself.

By taking one of the most popular and endearing children's books and giving it a Yiddish flavour, Berger has single-handedly breathed new life into Yiddish culture.

One can only hope that this is the first of many and who knows, after the Cat, what else is up his sleeve - a kosher version of Green Eggs and Ham?