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Sun 09-12-2012
Yiddish Cities: Montreal, Melbourne, Tel Aviv.

Amsterdam Yiddish Symposium 8

Yiddish Cities: Montreal, Melbourne, Tel Aviv.

Sunday 9th of December 2012, 13-17 at the Goethe Institute

The story of Yiddish speaking people is not only restricted to the shtetl. In the course of Ashkenazi history they were also living in big cities throughout the European continent (as in Amsterdam from the seventeenth century), and cities are main centers of Yiddish culture from the middle of the nineteenth century on: as Warsaw, Vilnius, New York and Buenos Aires. In the symposium three such modern Yiddish cities will be described and analyzed: a relatively important center (Montreal), a faraway city and on the margins of Jewish life (Melbourne) and a location where Yiddish had to compete with Hebrew, the hegemonic language of the city (Tel-Aviv). The three lectures may reflect a micro historical study of Yiddish culture in the twentieth century.

Het  Menasseh  ben  Israel  Instituut  organiseert  voor  de  achtste  maal  het  jaarlijkse symposium Jiddisj, in samenwerking met het Goethe-instituut:

Programma (voertaal Engels):

13.00 - 13.15  Opening (prof. Shlomo Berger, University of Amsterdam)

13.15 - 14.00  Dr. Rebecca Margolis (University of Ottawa)


14.00 – 14.15 Discussie

14.15 – 14.30 Koffie

14.30 – 15.15 Dr. Helen Beer (University College London)

MELBURN: A YIDISH VINKL IN EK VELT (Melbourne: A Yiddish corner at the end of the world)

15.15 – 15.30 Discussie

15.30 – 15.45 Koffie

15.45 – 16.30 Gali Drucker Bar-Am, MA (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Tel-Aviv as a Center of Yiddish Culture

16.30 – 16.45  Discussie

16.45 – 17.30  Borrel

Tijd en datum: zondag 9 december 2012.  13.00 - 17.00 uur

Plaats: Goethe Instituut, Herengracht 470, Amsterdam.

Reserveringen gewenst via mbii@jhm.nl, of per telefoon: 020-5310325, of via de website www.mbii.nl (onder bestellingen)

Kosten € 10,- en voor studenten en donateurs van het MbII € 5,-


Rebecca Margolis


Montreal, Canada shifted from a minor centre of Yiddish culture to a major one after the Holocaust. The primary destination of Jewish immigrants to Canada, it developed a wide array of institutions to support Yiddish by the First World War: a Yiddish newspaper, a network of secular Jewish schools, a Jewish People’s Library. By the 1920s, the city was home to a group of local writers who published literary journals and organized community events to promote Yiddish culture. This infrastructure was bolstered by the arrival of a group of refugees and survivors of the Holocaust, many of them with international reputations, who placed the city on the international map of Yiddish culture. This talk will examine the development of the institutions as well as some of the individuals associated with Yiddish in Montreal, including J. I. Segal, Ida Maza, Melech Ravitch, Dora Wasserman and Chava Rosenfarb.

Rebecca Margolis is an associate professor in the University of Ottawa’s Jewish Canadian Studies Program. Her research interests centres on Yiddish culture in a Canadian context. Her recent book, Jewish Roots, Canadian Soil: Yiddish Culture in Canada. 1905-1945, was the recipient of a Canadian Jewish Book Award (2012).


Helen Beer

MELBURN: A YIDISH VINKL IN EK VELT (Melbourne: A Yiddish corner at the end of the world)’

The paper charts the history and development of Yiddish in Melbourne. The Yiddish story in Melbourne will be situated within an historical context of Jewish immigration to Australia with particular reference to the Yiddish-speaking community. The potential for Jewish life in Australia with Melbourne as the most vibrant and enduring home for Yiddish language and culture will be examined through the writings of Yiddish authors who visited and recorded their impressions (Perets Hirshbein, Melekh Ravich, Y.N. Shteynbarg and others).

The paper will describe the creation and evolution of Yiddish cultural institutions such as the Kadimah, the Yiddish theatre, Yiddish schools, the Bund, the Yiddish press and publications. There will be some discussion of Australian Yiddish authors with a focus on the incorporation of 'Australian' subject matter into their literary works.

The paper will be presented in Yiddish (with English summary).

Helen Beer is a native Yiddish speaker, born in Melbourne, Australia. Her first degree from Monash University, Melbourne, was in English Literature and Musicology, followed by a Diploma in Education. She completed a Master's Degree in Yiddish at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem and a D. Phil. in Yiddish literature at the Univ. of Oxford. She teaches and lectures extensively in the UK and in Europe. She is the Ben Zion Margulies Lecturer in Yiddish at University College London (UCL), where she has worked since 1999. Her main research interests are modern Yiddish literature and folklore, with a focus on Poland and Romania.
She has worked extensively on the work of Itzik Manger.


 Gali Drucker Bar-Am

Tel-Aviv as a Center of Yiddish Culture

The aim of this talk is to survey briefly attempts to create in Tel Aviv a vibrant center of Yiddish culture during the first decades of Israel, and to measure their successes (and failures) in comparison to other cultural centers on the post-WWII Yiddishland map. Some general conditions for the existence of a cultural center are discussed, and an account of the surviving remnant accomplishments in fulfilling them is detailed.

Gali Drucker Bar-Am is a doctoral student in the Yiddish program at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her work, written under the supervision of Prof. Avraham Novershtern, focuses on Yiddish literature written in Israel between the years 1948-1968. During the last three years she was a member of the 'Jews and Cities' research group at Scholion – Interdisciplinary Research Center in Jewish Studies, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.