Jam-packed June at YIVO: Radical Yiddish puppet theater; Theodore Bikel, Yiddish & Ukrainian music, and the opening of a new exhibition

The week of June 15, 2015 set the heads of Yiddish and Jewish culture aficionados in New York City spinning: Kulturfest, a week-long celebration of Jewish performing arts, offered an almost overwhelming array of concerts, theatrical performances, and lectures across the city, with sometimes more than one event taking place simultaneously.

YIVO’s contribution to Kulturfest was the world premiere of the Modicut Project, a reinterpretation of the first Yiddish language puppet theater in the U.S., which flourished in the 1920s-1930s in New York City. An artist-scholar collaboration between Great Small Works and Rutgers Professor Edward Portnoy, the new, original play brings together the sensibilities of 1920s avant garde puppet theater, socialism, political activism, Yiddish, ethnographic fieldwork, and identity politics with the stagecraft of Great Small Works.

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Great Small Works performing “Muntergang and Other Cheerful Downfalls” as part of the Modicut Project on June 16. Photo by Erik McGregor.

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Janet Hadda (1945 – 2015)

Janet Hadda, Yiddish professor, psychoanalyst, and biographer of Isaac Bashevis Singer and Allen Ginsberg, died in California on June 23, 2015 at the age of 69. Professor Hadda, who studied and worked at YIVO in the 1960s-70s, was one of the first tenured professors of Yiddish in the United States. Her work is best known for bringing the techniques and insights of psychoanalysis to the study of Yiddish literature.

Read her obituary and a more personal tribute by David Roskies in the Forward.

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Di gantse velt af a firmeblank: The World of Jewish Letterheads

Assemble the letterheads of Jewish organizations, institutions, and individuals in Europe, North and South America, and Palestine from the 1890s to the eve of World War II in 1939 and you have a portrait of the Jewish world: transnational; diverse in language, political, and religious orientation; and flourishing.

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank (The Whole World on a Letterhead) is an experiment in building that portrait. Here, we hope to bring you several times a month, a different example of letterhead from a single collection in the YIVO Archives, the Papers of Kalman Marmor.

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Arieh Tartakower on the Differences Between Hebrew and Yiddish Culture (1967)

WEVD LogoIn this episode from January 8, 1967, Dr. Arieh Tartakower, sociologist and chairman of the Israeli Division of the World Jewish Congress and president of the World Hebrew Confederation delivers a speech on the differences  between Hebrew and Yiddish culture, during a visit to YIVO on December 27, 1966:

“We are a people of two languages. Possibly we shall remain so. About this, I am not sure, but I am sure that we shall remain a people of two cultures–the Hebrew and the Yiddish. What has been created in Hebrew is too extensive to ever be in danger of extinction, and what has been created in Yiddish is too deeply rooted to ever disappear from Jewish life. We are a people of two cultures and we shall remain so.”

Yedies #101, March 1967 (Dr. Arieh Tartakower)From 1963-1976, YIVO had its own program on WEVD, the radio station established by the Socialist Party of America in 1927 (its call letters stand for the initials of American socialist leader Eugene V. Debs), which was purchased by the Jewish Daily Forward in 1932 and became a major venue from Yiddish programming.

YIVO used its spot on WEVD for Yiddish-language interviews and discussions with leading New York Yiddish cultural figures, as well as for reporting on its own scholarly and cultural work.

A new podcast of this program in the order in which it was originally broadcast will be posted here every two weeks.

Presentation of series curated by Matt Temkin, YIVO Sound Archives.

Listen to the program [in Yiddish].

The 2015 Jan Karski & Pola Nirenska Prize at YIVO Awarded to Jerzy Malinowski

The Award Committee of the Jan Karski and Pola Nirenska Award is pleased to announce that Prof. Jerzy Malinowski has been named the recipient of this year’s prize. Endowed by Prof. Jan Karski at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in 1992, the $5,000 prize goes to authors of published works documenting Polish-Jewish relations and Jewish contributions to Polish culture. The winner was chosen by the Award Committee whose members are Prof. Pawel Spiewak (Director, Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw), Dr. Jonathan Brent (Executive Director, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research), Prof. Szymon Rudnicki, Dr. Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, and Dr. Joachim Russek. The award ceremony will be held in September at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.

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Survivors and Exiles: Interview with Jan Schwarz

Survivors and Exiles - Jan SchwarzIn his new book, Survivors and Exiles: Yiddish Culture after the Holocaust (Wayne State University Press), Jan Schwarz challenges assumptions that Yiddish literature died out after the Holocaust by painting a portrait of a culture that remained alive and in dynamic flux, especially in the two-and-a-half decades after the end of World War II. Yiddish writers and cultural organizations fostered publications and performances, collected archival and historical materials, and launched new, young literary talents. His book charts a transnational post-Holocaust network in which the conflicting trends of fragmentation and globalization provided a context for Yiddish literature and artworks of great originality.

Jan Schwarz is associate professor of Yiddish studies at Lund University, Sweden. He began this position in 2011 after having taught Yiddish language and literature at University of Pennsylvania, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Northwestern University, and University of Chicago. He is the author of Imagining Lives: Autobiographical Fiction of Yiddish Writers, as well as numerous critical articles about Jewish life-writing, Holocaust Literature, modern Yiddish culture, and Jewish American literature; and he is the translator of Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman into Danish.

Buy Survivors and Exiles: Yiddish Culture after the Holocaust.

Schwarz is interviewed here by Yedies editor Roberta Newman.

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Adelebsen: The Records of a Jewish Community in Germany (YIVO Archives, Record Group 244)

by VIOLET LUTZ

Of the many interesting materials that I’ve encountered in the YIVO archival collections that I have had the honor and pleasure of processing as an archivist at the Center for Jewish History, I am struck sometimes by particular items that offer insights into everyday life in a particular time and place. The Adelebsen Jewish community records held by YIVO, dating from 1830 to 1917, contain remarkable traces of the evolving Jewish communal life in the small German town of Adelebsen, in the district of Göttingen, in what is today the state of Lower Saxony. The region was historically part of the kingdom of Hanover. (The latter was annexed by the kingdom of Prussia in 1866; and subsequently became part of the German Empire, founded under Prussia’s leadership in 1871.)

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Di gantse velt af a firmeblank: The World of Jewish Letterheads

Assemble the letterheads of Jewish organizations, institutions, and individuals in Europe, North and South America, and Palestine from the 1890s to the eve of World War II in 1939 and you have a portrait of the Jewish world: transnational; diverse in language, political, and religious orientation; and flourishing.

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank (The Whole World on a Letterhead) is an experiment in building that portrait. Here, we hope to bring you several times a month, a different example of letterhead from a single collection in the YIVO Archives, the Papers of Kalman Marmor.

Continue reading

Agricultural Life in Israel: A Paper from the 40th YIVO Conference (1966)

WEVD LogoThis episode, originally broadcast on May 22, 1966, features Dr. Shimshon Tapuach of the Department of Agriculture, Jewish Agency, Tel Aviv. By then an Israeli, Dr. Tapuach (whose last name, fittingly enough, means “apple” in Hebrew), spent part of his early academic career at YIVO in Vilna in the 1930s, where he was student in YIVO’s “aspirantur” (graduate training) program. Here, Dr. Tapuach talks about agricultural life in Israel, based on a paper he read at the 40th Annual YIVO Conference, which had taken place earlier that month.

From 1963-1976, YIVO had its own program on WEVD, the radio station established by the Socialist Party of America in 1927 (its call letters stand for the initials of American socialist leader Eugene V. Debs), which was purchased by the Jewish Daily Forward in 1932 and became a major venue from Yiddish programming.

YIVO used its spot on WEVD for Yiddish-language interviews and discussions with leading New York Yiddish cultural figures, as well as for reporting on its own scholarly and cultural work.

A new podcast of this program in the order in which it was originally broadcast will be posted here every two weeks.

Presentation of series curated by Matt Temkin, YIVO Sound Archives.

Listen to the program [in Yiddish].