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The Vilnius Yiddish Institute Newsletter, No. 14
In this issue:
President of the Friends of the VYI honored at Vilnius University
Dr. Richard Maullin, an American specialist on public opinion research and energy issues, has been honored by Vilnius University for his work in insuring the long-term stability of the university’s Vilnius Yiddish Institute. Last June, Dr. Maullin successfully concluded an agreement with Vilnius University that entails firm multi-year guarantees for the Institute’s academic staff. This milestone agreement will enable the university to develop new Yiddish and Judaic Studies options ranging from B.A. electives to a doctoral program.
A California native, Dr. Maullin earned his Ph.D. degree in political science from UCLA. He is a founding partner of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin & Associates, a prominent opinion research and strategic counseling firm in Santa Monica, California. He first visited Vilnius in 1997 to attend the conference held to mark the 200th anniversary of the death of his illustrious ancestor, the Gaon of Vilna (Elijah ben Shelomo-Zalman, 1720-1797). Since that time, Dr. Maullin has been an unflaggingly generous supporter of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute.
At a packed ceremony held at the VYI in late March 2006, Professor Alfredas Bumblauskas, a renowned Lithuanian historian and director of the Dept. of Cultural History at Vilnius University, praised Dr. Maullin for providing the security that will permit the Institute’s academic staff to pursue in tranquility their research, teaching, and supervisory duties. Professor Bumblauskas stressed the link between the security of the academic staff and the university’s ability to provide high-quality programs at all levels. In his reply, Dr. Maullin referred to his own family history in Lithuania, which extends over five centuries, and to his pride and joy in bringing the Institute the stability it needs to fulfill its academic goals in the years and decades ahead.
In honor of Dr. Maullin, the History Faculty of Vilnius University unveiled a brass plaque naming the Institute’s main study area as the Richard Maullin Study Hall.
Dr. Maullin, who is bilingual in English and Spanish, has authored numerous studies on history, economics, and politics in South and Central America. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Hillel Council and has taught international relations at the University of California at Los Angeles. He played a pivotal role in securing adoption of Martin Luther King Day in the State of California.
Plans for this year's Yiddish summer program are proceeding apace. Since our recent e-mail announcement, we have added to our richly diverse cultural program several new lectures in both Yiddish and English, a Rokhl Korn dramatization, and a concert of Yiddish art songs by the young Vilna tenor Rafaelas Karpis. In the weeks ahead, the list of events will grow further.
Our 2006 Students: As of this writing, we have accepted applicants from the following thirteen countries: Canada, England, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Uruguay, and the U.S.A. They represent a broad spectrum of backgrounds, pursuits, and interests, and span all age brackets from nineteen into the senior years. In linguistic background, our students range from eager beginners to seasoned speakers, though not necessarily readers and writers, of Yiddish, with all gradations in between.
Faculty Announcement: Due to a new academic appointment --on which we heartily congratulate him!--our veteran faculty member Professor Jerold Frakes will be busy relocating this summer. In his stead, we have happily appointed Professor Jan Schwarz (University of Chicago). Prof. Schwarz was born and raised in a Yiddish-speaking family in Denmark, where he completed his undergraduate education. In 1997 he earned the Ph.D. degree in Yiddish literature at Columbia University (N.Y.). Beside the University of Chicago, he has taught at the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Illinois, and Northwestern University. He has lectured widely in the U.S.A., Europe, and Israel, and has published two dozen journal articles in the field of Yiddish literature, including studies on major Yiddish writers of Vilna. In 2005, he published the book Imagining Lives: Autobiographical Fiction of Yiddish Writers. Among the authors he treats in it are Isaac Bashevis Singer, Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh, Jonah Rosenfeld, Yankev Glatshteyn, I. L. Peretz, and Chaim Grade.
Update on Housing: Participants who wish to live in the plain, but comfortable Tauro dormitory, about 10-12 minutes by foot from classes, should notify program coordinator Olga Bliumenzon. All rooms in Tauro (4th and 5th floors, walk-up) are doubles. Double occupancy will cost $150 per bed for the month; single occupancy will cost $300. Please specify your preference.
All wishing to live in a private apartment, either singly or with another, have been--or will be--referred by Olga to our experienced rental agency. All apartments will be located within easy walking distance of classes. Due to conditions prevailing in Vilnius during the summer, notification of apartment arrangements will come relatively late. However, our agents will see to it that all participants are satisfactorily housed. Be sure to communicate your wishes to them in detail! You may also turn to Olga with your housing questions.
Application Deadlines: The application deadline for Regular Fee applicants (combined academic and cultural program) is 1 June.
A number of Student Fee applicants, including Scholarship Aid applicants, both in Europe and North America, have requested a deadline extension. For this reason, we are extending the application deadline from 1 April to 15 May. However, we urge all applicants to submit their papers as soon as possible!
Scholarship Aid: Thanks to our grant from the European Union program Culture 2000, this year we can offer special aid to qualified citizens of the EU and five additional participating European countries. (For details, please see our website at http://www.judaicvilnius.com/en/main/summer).
The large number of aid requests already received dictates that individual allocations be limited in amount. However, we assure all applicants that their requests will be reviewed fairly and judiciously in accordance with their stated needs and our resources. We extend this same assurance to all applicants for aid from our regular budget. Aid grants will be announced on 1 June.
Summer Program Scholarship Fund: Friends of Yiddish are invited to contribute to a permanent Summer Program Scholarship Fund. The fund is expressly intended to help students with proven need. Contributions can be made to
Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute
Please note in a cover letter that the donation is earmarked for the "Summer Program Scholarship Fund." U.S. donations are tax deductible.
Whatever the amount, all donations will help deserving students of Yiddish language and culture--who would otherwise lose out on the opportunity--to take part in our Summer Program.
The VYI staff paid a home visit to Professor Meir Shub, the founder of late and post-Soviet-period Judaic Studies at Vilnius University. Prior to the gaining of Lithuanian independence in 1991, with Soviet tanks still amassed in Vilnius, Professor Shub began to build the program. Subsequently, he became a founding faculty member of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, which emerged from these early efforts. Despite his ill health and advanced age, Prof. Shub is a constant adviser and frequent visitor at the Institute, and his long, courageous, and steadfast support is ever present in our minds and hearts. The Jewish world celebrates Prof. Shub’s 82nd birthday this year, and the VYI joins his many former students, friends, and admirers near and far in wishing him health, long life, and continued creativity.
On 16 October 2005, Dr. Israel Lempert, a native of Mazheikiai (Yiddish: Mazheyk) in northwestern Lithuania, was honored on his 80th birthday at a large celebration at the Jewish Community of Lithuania. In World War II, Dr. Lempert served with the nearly all-Jewish 16th Lithuanian Division and was awarded numerous decorations for bravery in fighting the Nazis. After the war, he became a philosopher and historian and rose to the status of Dr. habil. at one of the major Soviet-era institutes in Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital.
With the fall of the iron curtain and the return of freedom, Dr. Lempert applied his energies to the extensive study of Lithuanian Jewish history. He became the academic advisor to the Jewish Community of Lithuania and in that capacity initiated many successful conferences. Among them was the landmark 1997 congress on the 200th anniversary of the death of the Gaon of Vilna, which resulted in dual volumes of proceedings, in English and Lithuanian.
Dr. Lempert has been closely associated with the VYI since its inception, as a visiting lecturer in Lithuanian Jewish history at Vilnius University and as a member of Prof. Dovid Katz's Advanced Yiddish reading circle. As a devotee of Yiddish language and literature, on alternate Sundays he leads a circle called Libhober fun yidish at the Jewish Community Center.
Dr. Lempert's new book was released at the 80th birthday celebration. Titled Litvakes, it is a condensed encyclopedia of Litvaks (Yiddish: litvakes), as Jews hailing from the Lithuanian lands (Lita or Yiddish: Líte) are called. Naturally, the birth and development of the VYI are included in the volume. (See photo!)
The VYI was represented in strength at the combined birthday celebration and book launch. Dr. Marija Krupoves, the VYI's Lecturer in Comparative Folklore, provided a short concert of beloved Lithuanian Yiddish folk songs. VYI librarian Fania Brantsovsky presented a bouquet of flowers on behalf of the Institute. One of the addresses in honor of Dr. Lempert was delivered (in pure Lithuanian Yiddish) by the VYI's director of research, Prof. Dovid Katz, who also presented a certificate of appreciation and good wishes on behalf of Vilnius University and the VYI.
The Institute's international community joins us in wishing Israel Lempert continued vigor and creativity, as the traditional Yiddish wish goes, biz hundert-tsvantsik yor!
On the weekend of 3 to 5 March, the Joint Distribution Committee held its annual Limmud Conference in Vilnius. Many hundreds of participants, mostly young Jews from the Baltics, East Central Europe and beyond, enjoyed the intensive series of lectures, teach-ins, seminars and cultural events.
Two graduates of Vilnius Yiddish Institute programs contributed concerts of Yiddish song. Timur Fishel of Tallinn, Estonia and Shulamis (Yevgenia) Lopatnik of Kharkov, Ukraine, with her klezmer ensemble, were among the star performers at the after-Sabbath dinner and concert. Both had successfully completed the VYI’s 2005 Yiddish Educator Program.
The academic program featured two talks by VYI professors. Prof. Sharunas Liekis spoke on “Jewish Culture in the Interwar Lithuanian Republic” and Prof. Dovid Katz on “The Three Cultures of Jewish Lithuania.” Both talks were accompanied by power point presentations and led to animated discussions.
The Vilnius Yiddish Institute gratefully acknowledges the support of the JDC and looks forward to close and productive cooperation in the years ahead.
The internationally renowned linguist Professor David Crystal, author of The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language and numerous other seminal works, recently spoke at Vilnius University on the subject of endangered small languages. His visit to Lithuania was sponsored by the British Council.
During his stay, Professor Crystal, whose late father was of Lithuanian Jewish heritage, visited the Vilnius Yiddish Institute to discuss issues of minority language preservation and its enhancement.
The VYI was pleased to organize a field trip to Professor Crystal’s ancestral home Vilkomir (now Ukmerge). The Institute arranged for Vilkomir native Mr. Hirsh Pekl, now a resident of Vilnius, to lead the tour of today's Ukmerge, with special focus on the Jewish sites he recalls from his prewar youth in Vilkomir. The trip included David's wife and frequent coauthor Hilary Crystal, the VYI's research director Prof. Dovid Katz, its assistant director Ms. Ruta Puisyte, and its project manager Ms. Olga Bliumenzon.
The VYI again participated in an Indiana University expedition to seek out and record elderly Yiddish-speaking informants in the prewar heartland of the European Yiddish speech territory. The expedition, in December 2005, was led by Indiana University’s Prof. Dov-Ber Kerler. It covered Zhitomir and Mogilov Podolsk in Ukraine; mainly, however, it focussed on Moldova. After several days of intensive recording in Lipkan, Britshan, and Belts (Belz; not to be confused with a similarly-named Polish town), for a full week recording was carried out in Kishinev, the country’s capital. The VYI’s Prof. Dovid Katz participated as an expert consultant and on his return to Vilnius dispatched a report on today's Yiddish (and Jewish) life in Kishinev (Yiddish: Késhenev) to New York’s Algemeyner Zhurnal (See: http://www.algemeiner.com/generic.asp?id=977).
In March 2006, during one of the frequent visits to the VYI of Canadian ambassador to Lithuania Brian Herman, it emerged that many of Herman's ancestors came from two of the towns visited, Lipkan and Britshan (Lipkon and Britshon in the local Yiddish). Meanwhile, Ambassador Herman has been in touch with the small surviving Jewish communities in those towns.
In mid-October 2005, the VYI instituted a new--at first monthly, thereafter weekly--seminar series. On Wednesday evenings, the Institute’s Vilnius intellectual community met to hear a speaker on historical as well as current issues and engage in spirited discussion afterward. To date, the series has been diverse and lively, and has inspired much positive reaction to the issues under discussion. Emphasis lay on Lithuanian Jewish culture, Yiddish, multiculturalism, and intercommunity dialogue. For open, tolerant forums such as these, the VYI’s synthesis of academic and cultural work provides a special ambience.
The now weekly audience has ranged from a dozen to five dozen and has included university students, writers and artists, minority representatives, Vilnius city officials, and members of the diplomatic community. Among the regular participants we count Irish ambassador Dónal Denham, Canadian ambassador Brian Herman, German cultural attaché Dirk Roland Haupt, and staff from the Dutch and Norwegian embassies. This new Vilnius cultural fixture has also proved a favorite for foreign guests, particularly from North America and Western Europe.
The series opened on 19 October with Vilma Gradinskaite’s talk “Is There a Lithuanian Jewish Art?” This led to a wide-ranging discussion on the visual arts in East European Jewish culture generally, and more specifically in Líte. A week later, Ms. (now Dr.) Gradinskaite successfully defended her doctoral dissertation on Lithuanian Jewish art. In fall 2006, she will teach a course at the VYI for undergraduates and graduates titled “Introduction to East European Jewish Art.” Dr. Gradinskaite currently works at the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum of Lithuania.
On November 16, Professor Egidijus Aleksandravicius of Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas spoke on “Local Minorities in the Collective Lithuanian Memory.” Professor Aleksandravicius has been a major voice among Lithuanian intellectuals calling for full acknowledgment of the painful facts of the Holocaust in Lithuania. He has also spoken out publicly for minority rights and the need to stress the multicultural history of Lithuania in the country’s educational institutions. The discussion that followed his VYI seminar turned to the current burning question of Russian minority rights in Latvia.
On December 15, the VYI’s Lecturer in Yiddish Folklore, Dr. Maria Krupoves, delivered a talk on “Yiddish Songs Discovered on the Road.” Herself an accomplished interpreter of folksong in a half dozen languages, Dr. Krupoves played tapes of Yiddish folksongs discovered during the VYI’s expeditions to Belarus and Latvia and within Lithuania, thus underscoring the Institute's long-standing practice in this regard. When research director Professor Dovid Katz discovers a “star folksinger” on one of his linguistic and folkloristic expeditions, he rapidly transmits his find to Dr. Krupoves, who follows up with a visit dedicated specifically to preserving the singer's folk heritage.
On January 12, in the middle of winter break, when most university life grinds to a halt, Dr. Dalia Cidzikaite, a young Lithuanian scholar who has settled in the U.S.A., spoke on “The Image of the Jews in Postwar Lithuanian Literature.” Despite Vilna's daunting winter cold and snow, Dr. Cidzikaite's talk was well-attended. Its highly sensitive subject led to a frank discussion about stereotypes of Jews in Lithuanian-- and other East European--writing, and also about the implications and nuances of the very words for “Jew” and “Jewish” in the Lithuanian language. (January 12)
The Wednesday evening seminar series highlights the role that the VYI plays in the intellectual life of the Lithuanian capital. If you plan to be in Vilnius, be sure to attend a session at the Institute. Up-to-date information can be obtained by contacting the VYI’s associate director, Ms. Ruta Puisyte at +3705 268 7187 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our next Newsletter will continue this report on the new Seminar Series.
With Brentwood Travel in St. Louis, Missouri, the Vilnius Yiddish Institute is offering a unique Jewish cultural heritage tour to Lithuania and Belarus this spring. The tour, Vilna and Beyond, is slated for 16 to 25 May. Participants will benefit from perspectives offered by a unique group of elderly survivors, younger scholars, Jewish community leaders, Lithuanian government and public figures, and highly experienced professional guides to this region.
Vilna and Beyond will feature seminars, lectures, walking and bus tours, and panel discussions on topics ranging from the origins and history of Lithuanian Jewry and the Yiddish language to the Holocaust and today’s remnant Jewish community and its future. The entire tour will be conducted in English (or with simultaneous translation into English). Accommodations and services will be in the top range.
In addition to the days in Vilnius, the trip includes a journey westward to Plungyán (now Plunge) where the master Lithuanian Jewish folk artist Jacob Bunka will lead the group to every nook and cranny of prewar life in the shtetl. There will also be a two-day visit to Grodno, Belarus, where the remarkable survivor Hirsh Chosid will lead the group through the sites of that city’s once thriving Jewish life. The Vilnius component will include visits to sites in the Vilna Ghetto as well as places of resistance; it will be led by the VYI’s Fania Brantsovsky, who escaped from the Ghetto on the final day of its destruction in September 1943.
Vilna and Beyond is intended for people from all walks of life from the English- speaking world who want to reconnect with the nearly lost world of Lithuanian Jewish culture in its historic milieu. The VYI’s own research team, including Dovid Katz, Sharunas Liekis, and Ruta Puisyte, will be on hand throughout.
For more information please contact the tour’s organizer, Ms. Sallie Volotzky, at: email@example.com. The brochure for Vilna and Beyond can be downloaded as a PDF file from: http://www.brentwoodtravel.com/pdfs/VYI-Brochure.pdf
The Newsletter is produced by the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University.
Editor: Professor Sidney Rosenfeld
|2005 VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE. Solution: Neosymmetria|