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The Vilnius Yiddish Institute Newsletter, No. 2
The Vilnius Yiddish Institute thanks its academic consultant for North America, Professor Sidney Rosenfeld (Oberlin, Ohio), for his extensive help in preparing and editing this newsletter.
Institute launches sixth summer program in Yiddish!
The Vilnius Yiddish Institute is proud to announce the sixth annual intensive one-month summer program in Yiddish language and culture, to be held at the recently restored five-century-old campus of Vilnius University from July 28th to August 26th 2003. The institute's director, Mr. Mendy Cahan, and its executive director, Associate Professor Sharunas Liekis, are putting the finishing touches on what promises to be the richest program ever. Professor Sidney Rosenfeld of Oberlin College, Ohio, joins the team as academic advisor for North America.
This is the only Yiddish experience anywhere that brings together top Yiddish scholars and artistic talent from around the world in the authentic homeland of Yiddish language and culture, with all of its local treasures - especially its human treasures!
The academic component will again comprise four intensive language courses ranging from beginning to advanced. The cultural program will feature outstanding speakers, artists and performers. Early bookings have been particularly heavy this year and we suggest you enroll as soon as possible. For more information contact the summer program coordinator, Laima Gumuliauskaite. Phone: +3705 268-7187; fax +3705 268 7186, e-mail: email@example.com
Vilnius Yiddish Institute
Vilnius University, Department of History
Vilnius 2734, Lithuania
Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute launches its funding campaign
Under the leadership of founding President Dr. Richard Maullin, an international authority on public opinion research (and a direct descendent of the Vilna Gaon) and Chairman Chic Wolk, a retired business executive and an early and consistent supporter of efforts helping poor Jewish survivors in Belarus and Lithuania as well as research expeditions documenting their language and culture, the Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute (USA Friends for short), has obtained its tax-exempt status as a non-profit charitable corporation in the United States. The USA Friends has begun applying for charitable foundation support, and it has initiated contact with individuals who support its goals of enhancing the study and exposition of Yiddish-based Jewish culture in conjunction with the Vilnius Yiddish Institute.
For more information, contact Dr. Maullin directly at 2425 Colorado Ave. Suite 180, Santa Monica, CA 90404. USA. Telephone, +310-828-1183 and e-mail: Richard@fmma.com.
Drive to collect and preserve the last treasures of in situ Yiddish in Eastern Europe
When Professor Dovid Katz started his expeditions to villages of Belarus, Lithuania and Latvia he said he would find the last Jews living in these shtetls (Yiddish plural shtetlakh) who speak the "real McCoy local Yiddish." At that time, when he was directing Oxford University's Yiddish program, most of his colleagues and friends probably believed it was wishful thinking. That is understandable: it was 1990, and the borders of the former Soviet Union were just opening to western visitors. For almost fifty years the residual Yiddish culture in this area, where it once flourished, had been hidden from the rest of the world.
But here we are, a dozen years and about 1,000 interviews later, with over a thousand hours of audio and, since 1997, video tapes that preserve the authentic Yiddish dialects, life histories, traditions and folklore of the last Jews still living in the land of their ancestors. A constantly evolving linguistic questionnaire is used to clear up many unknowns in Yiddish dialectology. Each informant is given ample time to speak freely about his or her life and interests, and - where possible - the survivor takes the expeditionary party on a tour of the shtetl (all of which is filmed). In the realm of daily life we see an old woman who still uses the copper plate made at the beginning of the twentieth century by her father, the village blacksmith, to prepare her food. An old man keeps his chickens in the traditional katúkh, a compartment under the huge central stove of his wooden hut, just as described in Yiddish literature.
Prof. Katz, a cofounder of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute and its research director, stresses that it is a surprise gift of history to have met these old people who are still able to transmit what we thought had been completely destroyed, and to record them so that these personal encounters (all in Yiddish!) can be transmitted to ever new generations of students. The most recent expedition actually took place outside the area of traditional Jewish Lithuania. It was mounted deep in Ukraine, organized in partnership with the University of Indiana at Bloomington, and directed by Prof. Dov-Ber Kerler, who had been Prof. Katz's first doctoral student at Oxford University in the 1980's. By special agreement of Indiana University and Vilnius University's Vilnius Yiddish Institute, full digital copies of the expedition will be housed at both institutions. Among the towns visited many were in Podolia, in the cradle of Hasidism (among them Berditshev, Bratslav, Mezhibuzh, Shargorod). Further expeditions need to be organized in this precious region of native 'Yiddishland' before it is too late. Northern Ukraine, western Russia and parts of Latvia need to be investigated quickly, and parts of Lithuania and Belarus need to be studied in greater depth. Many of the last native-born Yiddish speakers found nowadays range in age from their mid-70's to late 90's, and, alas, they are quickly growing older.
The Vilnius Yiddish Institute, now in the process of consolidating and processing the fruits of previous and ongoing expeditions, is urgently seeking funding for new forays to preserve the last in situ treasures of Yiddish culture for future generations. A one-month expedition costs on average $17,000. This includes the filming of interviews by a specialist videographer with a digital camera, costs of driver, van, visas, hotels, administrator, photography and more, and, of course, generous honoraria to the interviewees (forgotten survivors, who are, in the main, pitifully poor). This cost also takes into account the preservation on DVDs and making of backups stored at safety locations with preliminary indexing. The Institute's academic staff time is of course donated with no extra salary. Please help our efforts and join the Last Shtetl Jews program by sending your gift to: Vilnius Yiddish Institute, The Last Shtetl Jews Program, Vilnius University, Universiteto 7, 2734 Vilnius, Lithuania. Remember that all gifts are fully tax-deductible when they go through the American Friends of the VYI.
Last Shtetl Jews Program enters the digital era!
We are pleased to announce the creation of the Yiddish digital film archives of the Last Shtetl Jews. Thanks to a donation from the Yad Hanadiv Charitable Foundation, the Vilnius Yiddish Institute will now start digitalizing all its recorded interviews of the shtetl Jews videographed since 1997. By the end of November the project will start copying the films, which will then be transferred from an array of formats to digital DVDs. With new editing equipment, we can now create proper archives and generate pedagogical material at the institute.
Phase one of this new project should be completed by January 2004, with an accompanying catalog and a DVD menu with key words. The project will enable easier access to this precious material for students and researchers in linguistics, history, ethnology and other social sciences, and it will enable us to preserve these treasures for posterity.
First joint project with Uppsala University
Associate Professor Sharunas Liekis, the executive director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, has started work on the Lithuanian version of the Stephane Bruchfeld and Paul A. Levine book, Tell Ye Your Children. This book was commissioned by the Swedish government as part of its Living History educational series. The Living History project on the Holocaust was launched by Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson during a parliamentary session in June 1997. His initiative aimed to raise mass consciousness regarding questions of humanitarianism, democracy and the equality of people, starting with the Holocaust during the Second World War. Living History focuses on educational activities about the Holocaust, in schools and for parents, in public events, as well as on support for Holocaust research and teaching at the university level. This book is one of the project's activities aimed primarily at adults, and our first undertaking with Uppsala University in Sweden. More joint educational programs under Prof. Liekis's leadership are planned for 2003 and 2004.
In 2002, Professor Liekis was visiting research fellow at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The Vilnius Yiddish Institute takes great pride in the extensive international activities of its staff, which among the "windows" of the VYI to the world of Yiddish and East European Jewish Studies internationally.
Symposium on Lithuania and the Jews at YIVO in New York
Vilnius University's professor of Yiddish, Dovid Katz, will participate in the session entitled Jewish Life Under Soviet-Occupied Lithuania and Today at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York on November 13th 2002, to be held from 7 to 11 PM (reservations required, please call the Center for Jewish History Box Office at 917-606-8200 to reserve your place). Professor Katz will read a paper titled "Holocaust Studies and Yiddish Studies in Present Day Vilnius," in which he will outline, in academic terms, the work and philosophy of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University in both fields.
Winter Intensive, The Art of Yiddish, in Los Angeles
The California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language Enrichment (CIYCLE) is pleased to announce its third annual Winter Yiddish Intensive, The Art of Yiddish, in Los Angeles, from December 14th to 21st 2002. It is the only intensive Yiddish course on the West Coast, and the only academic-level intensive Yiddish language program anywhere in the winter. The program is held in collaboration with the Center for Jewish Studies of the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). The program is modeled after the Oxford and Vilna intensive Yiddish programs created by Dovid Katz, which were themselves modeled on the oldest Yiddish intensive summer course, the Uriel Weinreich Summer Program in Yiddish, held each summer at Columbia University in partnership with the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.
This year the California Institute will create a Bridge with Canada, with featured guests Prof. Eugene Orenstein and Prof. Anna Gonshor of McGill University, Montreal, and Michael Wex, humorist and scholar from Toronto. This follows on last year's theme, the history of Yiddish language and literature, presented by Prof. Dovid Katz in conjunction with the Vilnius Yiddish Institute.
This winter's program in California will include lectures and workshops that develop themes and ideas that played across Yiddish literature, theater, dance, and film. It will culminate in a closing reception with a staged reading in Yiddish of Sholem Aleichem's one-act play, Mentshn, featuring actors from the Montreal Yiddish Theater and from popular TV and stage productions. The renowned American TV actor, Edward Asner, is scheduled to appear as the English narrator for this production.
The California Institute's driving force, Miriam Koral, was a student of Professor Katz's at the Oxford summer program in 1996, and a teacher at the first Vilnius summer program in 1998. Winter in California and Summer in Vilna is slowly but surely becoming a proud 21st century tradition for serious Yiddish enthusiasts from around the world.
Gift of a young Vilnius sculptress
Liana Suchina, a rising young star at Vilnius's Art Academy, has long taken an interest in the city's rich multicultural heritage and its many "faces" in every sense of the word. A chance meeting with a group of Vilnius Yiddish Institute teachers at a favorite late night café (named Brodvejus after a certain street in Manhattan) led to her interest in the institute. As her own contribution to "furnishing" the just refurbished premises of the institute, in the university's Philological Courtyard, Ms. Suchina sculpted a bust of the institute's cofounder and current director, Mr. Mendy Cahan, which she contributed to the institute and which was unveiled at the graduation ceremony of the fifth annual summer course at the end of August this year. Be sure to visit the bust of our director when you next come to the institute!
Thank you for your support!
The Vilnius Yiddish Institute is thankful for the help and support received from its friends and from charitable and cultural institutions. Together we are building a new institution in Vilna to ensure that authentic Yiddish culture not only survives as an object of study, but that it develops and thrives.
The Hanadiv Charitable Foundation, The Polish Institute in Vilnius, The Goethe Institute, Arlene Schwartz, Bente Kahan, Chic Wolk, Jonathan Beare, Zane Buzby, Mr. Gorlin, Rod Freedman, Dr. C. Feinstein and Stanley H. Barkan have generously contributed in recent weeks. Thanks to you all!
Remember that all American contributions are tax-deductible. Official charity status in Britain and Canada is due to be finalized in the near future.
The Newsletter is produced by the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University.
Editor: Professor Sidney Rosenfeld
|2005 VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE. Solution: Neosymmetria|