This coming fall the Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies will bring together a group of Yiddish scholars, poets, translators, language teachers, and cultural leaders to discuss and research around the theme of “Yiddish Matters.”

The University of Michigan has emerged as one of the world’s leading centers for Yiddish studies, so it is fitting that the Frankel Institute will be a site for fresh explorations of the linguistic, literary, historical, political, and social significance of the language and the varying cultures it has engendered and continues to animate.

In recent years, the culture of Yiddish has continued to develop in exciting and unexpected ways. The success of Joel Grey’s Yiddish translation of Fiddler on the Roof--in which U-M Yiddish language instructor, Mikhel Yashinsky, is currently performing off Broadway--is only one of many indications of the continued appeal of Yiddish. It has been reclaimed both nostalgically and rigorously through scholarly and creative engagements with its literary traditions, music, film, and more. The effort to grasp the full resonance of Yiddish culture is still very much a work in progress, and the fellows at the Frankel Institute will contribute to this enterprise using a variety of approaches and methodologies.

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be working with a group of scholars and intellectuals with such wide-ranging expertise and experience,” says Julian Levinson, the head fellow of this year’s group. “Yiddish studies has become an incredibly dynamic field, and we’ll have folks from history, anthropology, linguistics, and literary studies, as well as translators working on new projects. I look forward to sharing our collective work with the broader community, within the university and beyond!”

The 2019-2020 fellows include scholars from Israel, America, and Poland. Some are just beginning their careers, having studied the language at summer programs and in graduate school. Others were born into Yiddish-speaking families, and, having studied disparate topics during their graduate years, subsequently returned to their mother tongue to emerge as the world’s leading scholars of Yiddish language and culture. They work on a wide range of topics, including Yiddish space, food, poetry, and fiction in the Americas, Europe, and Israel. Several scholars examine Yiddish as a language of catastrophe; others celebrate the joy of Yiddish life.

“Next year’s fellows stand as a testament to the vibrancy of scholarship on Yiddish culture,” says Jeffrey Veidlinger, director of the Frankel Institute. “I look forward to learning with this esteemed group ,and invite everybody from the university and beyond to join us for the public events that will be organized around the theme.”

The Frankel Institute for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan provides annual fellowships for scholars and artists from around the world to conduct research in relation to a given theme. Established through a generous financial contribution from the Jean and Samuel Frankel Jewish Heritage Foundation, the Frankel Institute is committed to interdisciplinary, multilingual work spanning ancient times through the contemporary era. By combining intellectual autonomy with the ideal of a scholarly community, it offers global leadership in Jewish Studies.


The 2019–20 Frankel fellows and their fields of research are:

Justin Cammy, Smith College, "The Yiddish Trace in Contemporary Jewish Fiction and Popular Culture"

Yaakov Herskovitz, Tel-Aviv University, “Bilingualism Reimagined: Yiddish-Hebrew Literature in an Age of Monolingualism”

Eve Jochnowitz, Workmen's Circle and YIVO, “A kosherer top un a kosherer lefl: Yiddish Reactions to Modern Jewish Food Practices”

Dov-Ber Kerler, Indiana University, “By the Wayside: Contemporary Yiddish Poetry and the post-postvernacular”

Amy Kerner, Brown University, “Fragile Inheritance: Yiddish in Buenos Aires, 1930-1970”

Mikhail Krutikov, University of Michigan, “Urban Space in Jewish Literature(s)”

Jack Kugelmass, University of Florida, “Traveling in Yiddish”

Julian Levinson, University of Michigan, “A Translation of Isaiah Spiegel’s flamen fun der erd (Flames from the Earth), an Autobiographical Novel of the Łódź Ghetto”

Harriet Murav, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, “Archive of Violence: The Literature of Abandonment and the Russian Civil War (1917-1922)”

Anita Norich, University of Michigan, “Yiddish Novels by Women”

Hannah Pollin-Galay, Tel-Aviv University, “My Foreign Mother Tongue: Khurbn Yiddish and the Cultural Contours of Trauma”

Eli Rosenblatt, Northwestern University, “Enlightening the Skin: Yiddish Culture in the Black Atlantic”

Karolina Szymaniak, University of Wroclaw, “A Little Something in Yiddish? Entangled Histories of Yiddish Polish Cultural Contacts in the First Half of the 20th Century (up to 1948)”

Nicholas Underwood, University of California Berkeley, “Yiddish Culture and Jewish Migration in Post-Holocaust France, 1944-1962”

Saul Zaritt, Harvard University, “Yiddish, Translation, and Jewish Language Afterlives: A Taytsh Manifesto”