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The Vilnius Yiddish Institute Newsletter, No. 5
The Summer Program Faculty
Anna Verschik's way to a flourishing career as a teacher and scholar of Yiddish sociolinguistics began in St. Petersburg, at that time Soviet Leningrad. Although her parents spoke only Russian, in her childhood Anna often heard her grandmother conversing in Yiddish with older family members-in the Belarusian dialect of Shklov; and, as she herself puts it, she "got the general idea." From that time, Yiddish remained latent within her. What began with grandmother Sonia later received its decisive impetus from the renowned Estonian linguist and humanist Prof. Paul Ariste (1905- 1990). And thereby hangs a tale.
During Anna's childhood, her family spent summers by the sea in still occupied Estonia, at that time a popular custom among Jewish families. Although the coastal area of Narva-Joesuu was almost completely Russianized as a result of Soviet policy, elements of the native Estonian atmosphere endured: an older way of life, some signs in Estonian. Anna, who never considered herself Russian, already knew as a little girl that Estonia was where she wanted to live. At the age of eleven, she also understood that a language does not just "come" to you, you have to learn it. She began studying Estonian, which by now has become her "mother tongue."
At eighteen, when she began to study Estonian philology at the University of Tartu, she was the sole non-Estonian in the department. "Who on earth, after all, would study Estonian philology beside Estonians?" In Estonia, however, there existed a kind of solidarity with Jews as yet another persecuted people of the Soviet empire, and this further strengthened Anna's sense of belonging. Occasionally, too, she heard Yiddish spoken in the streets, and Paul Ariste, the non-Jewish polyglot professor, who himself spoke Yiddish, asked her whether she did. Giving it her best, she discovered-thanks to grandmother Sonia-that she could. With Ariste's encouragement she began her graduate studies in Yiddish linguistics. Today her cultural identity is Yiddish and Estonian.
In 1990 Anna earned the B.A. degree in Finno-Ugric languages at Tartu University, where she went on to study general linguistics, specializing in Yiddish. In 1996 she completed the M.A. degree with a thesis on the multilingualism of Estonian Jews; and in 2000 she received her Ph.D. with a dissertation titled "Estonian Yiddish and its Contacts with Coterritorial Languages." During this period she also studied Yiddish in the Vilnius Summer Program and at Bar Ilan University (Israel), and Jewish Studies for a year at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies (England). She commands full fluency in Estonian, Russian, Yiddish, English, and Finnish; and she has a working knowledge of several other languages, including Lithuanian, German, French, and Modern Hebrew.
Anna's long list of publications contains numerous articles on the history, grammatical usage, and sociolinguistics of Yiddish in Estonia, and to date she has delivered fifteen conference papers in Europe and the U.S.A. on these and related topics. Among her several translations from Yiddish into Estonian, undertaken to acquaint Estonians and young assimilated Jews with Yiddish culture, are Sholem-Aleichem's Marienbad, Dovid Bergelson's When All is Said and Done, stories by I.B. Singer, and, for stage performance, S. An-ski's The Dibbuk.
Anna's teaching experience is extensive and varied. Among other courses, she has taught Introduction to Yiddish Culture, Introduction to Judaism, and a general course in Yiddish literature, all at the Estonian Institute of Humanities, where she was named associate professor. Also, she has taught Elementary Yiddish at the University of Tartu, where she headed the Department of Estonian Language and Literature, and, intensively, at Uppsala University (Sweden). Currently she is associate professor of linguistics at Tallin Pedagogical University and docent in Yiddish Studies at Helsinki University (Finland). Each summer since 1998 she has taught Yiddish in the Vilnius Summer Program.
The VYI is deeply gratified that Anna Verschik will return to Vilnius in 2003.
Remembering Sarah Schneider
Our annual academic program supported by the Reconciliation Fund of the Catholic Church in Germany
Our academic program began only eighteen months ago, but more than 120 students have already participated in it, some of them even starting research work. The numbers, quality, and motivation of our students, and the gratefully acknowledged support of our mission by the Reconciliation Fund inspire us with confidence in the future of the program. We also wish to express our gratitude to Simone Stemmler at the Embassy of the German Federal Republic in Vilnius, who put us in touch with the Fund.
Weekly seminars at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute
The seminars were attended by audiences of academics, researchers, students, and even politicians. One seminar was honored by the presence of Prof. Vytautas Landsbergis, longstanding chairman of the Lithuanian Parliament, and well-known figure in East European politics.
The seminars are convened by Assoc. Prof. Sarunas Liekis. The coordinator is Ms. Loreta Paukstyte. All inquiries should be addressed to: email@example.com, phone: +370 5 2687 187.
Signing of historic agreement
Realizing the need for mutual cooperation in studying the history of Lithuania during the Nazi regime and in commemorating the victims of the Nazi genocide, the three institutions will exchange information on their educational and scholarly projects. They will also organize joint conferences and seminars on Jewish and Holocaust studies. Separate agreements will be signed on the implementation of particular projects. This agreement is unique in the East European context, where few such research institutions exist and cooperate on issues so vital to the relevant scholarship.
News of former students
Currently Dr. Zuckermann is teaching a Cambridge University course titled "Hebrew in Relation to Yiddish: The Survival of Yiddish beneath Israeli" (i.e., Modern Hebrew). He is also preparing a book on this subject, and another, Language Contact and Lexical Enrichment in Israeli Hebrew , will soon be published. Dr. Zuckermann has studied the relationship between Yiddish, Hebrew, and Israeli, discussing how Hebrew influenced Yiddish, but focusing on how Yiddish shaped Israeli, the language that emerged in Palestine at the beginning of the twentieth century. He tells us that both his course and new book-in-progress originated during the Vilnius Summer Program. Dr. Zuckermann's 1998 Vilnius "mini-project"-the paper written at the higher levels of the Summer Program-was titled "Di hashpoe fun yidish af ivrit" (The Influence of Yiddish on Israeli).
Thanks to our friends and supporters
The Newsletter is produced by the Vilnius Yiddish Institute at Vilnius University.
Editor: Professor Sidney Rosenfeld
|2005 VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE. Solution: Neosymmetria|