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Yid Lit 101

Yiddish Literature: Menorah Sunday Symposium

Author I.L. Peretz (Photo: Wikipedia)

The rich history of Yiddish literature will be examined by three University of Colorado scholars during Menorah’s final Sunday Symposium, which takes place from 2:00 pm – 6:00 pm on April 3 at the Boulder JCC. The program is part of  a year-long, collaborative series exploring language and literature, Movers: Do You Speak Jewish?

Professor David Shneer, director of the University of Colorado Program in Jewish Studies, will deliver the keynote lecture providing an historical overview of Yiddish writing, which is as unique as it is influential. Professor Robby Adler Peckerar will speak on Sholem Aleichem and Professor Zilla Goodman will discuss the work of I.L. Peretz. The wrap-up conversation with all three professors will focus on Yiddish today and tomorrow.

The afternoon also includes the flavor of Eastern Europe with Old World refreshments. The cost is $18 in advance; $22 at the door.

Although Yiddish literature dates from 1300, it culminated in the period from 1864 to 1939, inspired by modernization and then severely diminished by the Holocaust. It arose in Europe out of a tradition that gave precedence to Hebrew prayers, commentaries, and scripture. As the vernacular expression of Ashkenazic Jews, Yiddish literature was often intended for ordinary readers rather than for the highly educated. Because few women learned Hebrew, their literacy was in Yiddish, and they became the primary audience for some forms of Yiddish literature.

Author Sholem Aleichem (Photo: Wikipedia)

Modern Yiddish literature (1864 to the present) embraced Yiddish as the vehicle for a European literature like any other. Mass emigration to North America (especially after the political turmoil and pogroms of 1881) spread Yiddish poetry, drama, and fiction to the New World; emigration to Palestine (and later Israel) continued the literary tradition there.

Yiddish literature and culture have been in decline since the Nazi genocide that destroyed its major centers in Europe. Oppression also cut short the Yiddish tradition in the Soviet Union, while assimilation has curtailed the role of Yiddish in the United States and Canada. Since the 1980s, however, Yiddish literature has received new attention in North America, Europe, and Israel, and there have been many heartening efforts to revive Yiddish culture through klezmer music, translations, and university studies. Centers of secular Yiddish culture exist in New York, Montreal, Paris, Tel Aviv, and elsewhere. Yiddish literature has also found indirect expression in American and British fiction written in English.

Reservations are appreciated but not required: Call Kathryn at 303-998-1021, or email kathryn@boulderjcc.org

About Kathryn Bernheimer

Kathryn Bernheimer
Director of Menorah: Arts, Culture and Education at the Boulder JCC. The former film and theater critic for the Boulder Daily Camera, Kathryn is the author of "The Fifty Greatest Jewish Movies" and "The Fifty Funniest Films of All Time."

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