Year 2, Week 1: 1001 Yiddish Things in 1001 Days

 The stats:

I have studied Yiddish for 343 days
I have studied Yiddish flashcards for a total of 210 hours
I have reviewed 4,020 individual flashcards

Instead of making a list of my goals for the coming year, I decided to try something more ambitious. There's an online thing, a bit of a fad, called 101 Things in 1001 Days. I won't go into all the details (you can read more on the website devoted to the project), but, briefly, the goal is to create a list of 101 things that can actually be achieved and give yourself 1001 days to complete them.

I've done this a few times, and have never come close to completing all the tasks. As far as I can tell, nobody has -- the web is littered with people's lists, some goals crossed off, most untouched.

But no matter. Years ago, I started to do projects by making a list of 100 tasks that would be required to complete them, and quickly discovered that by the time I had done a half-dozen of the tasks, I had done as much as I needed, more than I needed, sometimes more than anyone else had done.

Through this process, I turned myself from being a cashier in an office supply store into a professional journalist, I went from being a volunteer usher at theaters to being a produced playwright, from maintaining the website for a dental school to being a professional extra in Hollywood. I think any task is possible if you make a clever enough list. In the past year, a clever list moved me from Omaha to Minneapolis and allowed me to switch from being a researcher at a historical society to being an editor at a Jewish newspaper.

The 101 Things list is generally vast and comprehensive. It's meant to be a map of ambition, and people should try to let their ambition be vaulting. "Learn a foreign language" is often a single entry on the list, and I've never seen it be the entire list. Nobody ever completes that one. It's too hard.

I sometimes enjoy looking at people's lists. Because you often discover how few really individual life goals there are out there and how often people simply compile their own version of the list from other people's lists. "Visit Paris" shows up a lot. I have a friend who sometimes says she wants to visit Paris, and otherwise has never expressed any interest in France, or the French, or the French language. That's not to say she doesn't actually want to visit Paris. We all want to visit Paris. But it's a general life goal, something people think they should want but don't actually pursue.

You see a lot of those show up on these lists. Learn to play piano. Read the 100 Best Books Ever Written. Take a photo a day for a year. I have put these on my list in the past, and from my own experience, and from reading other people's lists, these are the things that don't get done. They might get somewhat done -- usually people read a few books or take photos for a few weeks. And that's fine, and worthwhile, and so what if they don't get done?

But the things that do get done are the personal tasks, the ones that people really care about, the ones that they've been meaning to do, or have been desperate to do. The people who majored in French and read about Paris all the time, they're the ones who go to Paris, and there are a half-dozen other French-related tasks on their list. The ones who want to pay down debt? They pay down debt. A lot of it. The ones who want to finish school tend to finish school, the ones who want to get married tend to get married. You see some wonderful changes in life as a result of these lists. Who cares if all 101 get done? The important ones often do.

So now when I make these lists, I try to come up with 101 tasks that mean something to me, that I am more likely than not to do, that are unique and particular to me. This takes a lot of time. This list probably took me two weeks. It's easy to come up with 25 things to do. By the time you reach 50, you're really struggling. And the last 51 are acts of pure invention.

Those are the ones I often like the most. It's my understanding that one of the philosophies of The Groundlings improv troupe in Los Angeles is that real invention doesn't take place until you completely run out of ideas. That certainly was the case here.

It has been a tremendously clarifying exercise. It wasn't until yesterday that I realized I don't know the names of the vowels that are used in Yiddish, which seems like something I should know. It's made me realize that I am at least as interested in Yiddish as a subject of creative exploration as a language. It helped me realize that one of my goals in this projects is to use it as a pretext for travel, and that I have no idea how that might happen. I don't need to figure that out just yet, as one of the benefits of a very clever list is sometimes it produces unexpected and welcome outcomes.

Let me note that I always treat this sort of project as an evolving draft. Some things may be easier to do than I expected, and so I can increase the amount of times I plan to do it. Some things prove to be impossible, or undesirable, and so I don't do them and try to do something else. But, for the moment, here it is, my plans for the next 1001 days.

101 Yiddish Things in 1001 days

Red: Completed
Due date: Sunday, September 29, 2019


Learn 9,000 new words (20/9,000)
Complete one complete Yiddish grammar book (0/1)
Memorize three complete books of Yiddish proverbs, idioms, curses, etc. (0/3)
Attend two short Yiddish programs (0/2)
Take NYU test for Yiddish competency
Read 10 English-language books on Yiddish (0/10)
Find 20 opportunities to use spoken Yiddish (0/20)
Read five Yiddish stories in Yiddish (0/5)
Write 20 personal essays in Yiddish, have them proofed (0/20)
Learn the names of all the Yiddish letters with vowels
Complete another audio course in Yiddish
Create a list of Yiddish words for daily use
Buy Uriel Weinreich's English-Yiddish dictionary and Beinfeld and Bochner's Comprehensive Dictionary and Hakavey's Yiddish-English-Hebrew dictionary (0/3)
Create comprehensive list of Yiddish programs
Complete Say It In Yiddish
Teach the dog all his commands in Yiddish
Locate a Yiddish pen pal
Participate on Yiddish chat rooms 50 times
Translate 50 articles from Forward
Play three Yiddish board games (0/3)


Watch and write about 15 Yiddish films (0/15)
Read 15 short Yiddish stories in translation (0/15)
Read five Yiddish novels in translation (0/5)
See two live Yiddish play (0/2)
Learn 10 Yiddish songs (0/10)
Listen to 50 old Yiddish songs (0/50)
Listen to 50 new Yiddish songs (1/50)
Buy or commission 10 new works of Yiddish art (1/10)
Create 10 Yiddish stencils (0/10)
Perform Yiddish music 30 times in public (0/30)
Organize 10 readings of Yiddish plays in translation (0/10)
Create three Yiddish puppet shows (0/3)
Attend 10 concerts of Yiddish music (0/10)
Write 30 Yiddish-flavored poems (0/30)
Write 10 fan letters to people working in the world of Yiddish (0/10)
Do two Yiddish seed art projects, submit to State Fair (0/2)
Memorize 10 Yiddish poems (0/10)
Release two albums of new music (0/2)
Pitch three plays to History Theatre (0/3)
Apply for Fringe twice (0/2)
Create a comprehensive list of arts events to apply for
Create a Yiddish-themed game
Read four Yiddish comic books (0/4)
Help fund 10 Yiddish projects (0/10)
Attend five museum exhibits about Yiddish (0/5)

WRITING (0/21)

Write 500 blog posts (0/500)
Write entire 100 Yiddish Words (12/100)
Turn 100 Yiddish Words into a book
Write the Yiddish history of 10 cities (1/10)
Interview 15 Jewish playwrights (0/15)
Write two plays (0/2)
Revise Shaina
Write 30 short stories (0/30)
Pitch 10 stories about Yiddish to professional publications (0/10)
Write 15 songs (0/15)
Do 50 interviews (0/50)
Write 15 alt Yiddish posts (0/15)
Write about 50 albums (0/50)
Create 30 word lists (0/30)
Make comprehensive list of Jewish publications
Pitch 10 stories to Jewish publications (0/10)
Write five more entries on Yiddish slang or cant (0/5)
Write about Lenny Bruce’s use of Yiddish
Create journalists guide to writing about Yiddish
Write and produce a short film in Yiddish
Create and translate 100 Yiddish proverbs for a new era (0/100)

TRAVEL (0/4)

Visit YIVO
Visit the Yiddish book center
Attend Ashkenaz festival
Visit Medzhybizh

EVENTS (0/2)

Host 12 Dress British Drink Yiddish (0/12)
Have Yiddish meet-ups in 4 states (0/4)


Do 15 posts on Yiddish for MetaFilter (0/15)
Create 25 Yiddish pages for Wikipedia (0/25)
Send out 25 press releases (0/25)
Do 12 podcasts (0/12)
Apply for three Rockower Awards (0/3)
Apply for two regional Emmy awards (0/2)
Apply for two Page One Awards (0/2)
Get proper headshots
Apply to have Yiddish Day in Minneapolis
Make Yiddish thank you cards


Retweet or post to Facebook 100 Yiddish related links (0/100)
Follow 100 people on Twitter involved in Yiddish (0/100)
Create 20 YouTube videos (0/20)
Send out email newsletter 100 times (0/100)
Set up computer keyboards to type Yiddish
Build a blog email list
Update 100 Google translate entries (0/100)


Develop three educational programs (0/3)
Create a display of Yiddish Twin Cities
Create a display of Hebrew Actors Union


Become a member of Yiddish Book Center
Become a member of YIVO
Become a member of the American Jewish Press Association


Make a list of possible grants and funding
Apply for State Arts Board folk and traditional art grant twice (0/2)
Apply for two Rimon grants (0/2)
Set up Patreon account
Apply to Jewish Speakers Bureau
Make list of potential speaking opportunities