Yiddish and East European Jewish Culture

Last updated: December 7, 2018 at 2:32 p.m.

The Department of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies offers undergraduates the opportunity to earn a minor in Yiddish and East European Jewish Culture. The broad objective for the minor is for students to acquire an understanding of East European Jewish culture through advanced courses in the Yiddish language, and through elective courses in Yiddish literature and East European Jewish history which situate the language in its cultural context. Each student works closely with the academic advisor for the minor to develop an individualized plan of study that addresses his or her academic interests and goals.

Students earning the minor in Yiddish and East European Jewish Culture are expected to acquire a variety of skills, abilities and understandings.

Yiddish language

  1. Students will successfully employ various strategies for advanced written and oral communication in Yiddish.
  2. Students will demonstrate an ability to comprehend and share critical reflections on literary and historical texts in Yiddish.
  3. With the advisor's guidance, students will design and carry out research in their areas of interest, using Yiddish sources.

East European Jewish Culture

  1. With the advisor's guidance, students will identify areas of interest and acquire knowledge of several aspects of East European Jewish culture through two elective courses in history, literature, culture, Jewish thought or education.
  2. These courses will offer them training in: a) reading critically and interpreting texts in light of the topics around which each course is organized; b) writing literary and historical analyses of essential texts in East European Jewish culture.

Students are encouraged to begin working toward the minor in Yiddish and East European Jewish Culture in their first or second year of undergraduate studies, and to complete the sequence of Yiddish language courses in 4 consecutive semesters. NEJS 98a or NEJS 221a may be taken in any semester after a student has completed Yiddish 40b. The two elective courses (NEJS 132b, NEJS 134b, NEJS 135a, NEJS 137b, NEJS 142a, NEJS 153a, NEJS 158b, NEJS 159b, NEJS 164a, NEJS 167a, NEJS 171a, NEJS 175a, NEJS 181a and NEJS 236b) may be taken at any point in a student's undergraduate career. (NEJS 221a may only be taken after the student has completed Yiddish 40b.)

Ellen Kellman
(Near Eastern and Judaic Studies)

The minor consists of five courses:

A. YDSH 30a (Intermediate Yiddish)

B. YDSH 40b (Advanced Intermediate Yiddish)

C. One of the following courses: YDSH 98b (Independent Study with readings in Yiddish); NEJS 221a (Reading Yiddish Literary and Historical Texts)

D. Two courses selected from the following list:
NEJS 132b Against the Apocalypse: Jewish Responses to the Holocaust
NEJS 134b Yiddish Culture in the Modern World
NEJS 135a The Modern Jewish Experience
NEJS 142a Modern History of East European Jewry
NEJS 153a Between Ecstasy and Community: Hasidism in Jewish Thought and History 
NEJS 158b Yiddish Literature and the Modern Jewish Revolution 
NEJS 159b Classic Yiddish Fiction 
NEJS 164a Judaism Confronts America
NEJS 171a History Lessons: Teaching the Jewish Experience
NEJS 181a Jews on Screen: From "Cohen’s Fire Sale" to the Coen Brothers
NEJS 221a Reading Yiddish Literary and Historical Texts 
NEJS 236b Jews of the Russian Empire

E. No grade below a C- will be given credit toward the minor.

F. No course taken pass/fail may count toward the minor requirements.

Students may double count up to two courses with another major or minor. A maximum of two semester course credits taken at other universities may be accepted toward the minor. Students are encouraged to seek advance approval from the Yiddish program advisor for all courses intended for transfer credit.

(1-99) Primarily for Undergraduate Students

YDSH 10a Beginning Yiddish
Meets for four class hours per week.
The first of a four-semester sequence, this course introduces basic Yiddish grammar. Students also develop reading, writing, and conversational skills. Yiddish songs, poetry, and folklore are incorporated throughout. Usually offered every year.
Ellen Kellman

YDSH 20b Continuing Yiddish
Prerequisite: YDSH 10a or permission of the instructor. Meets for four class hours per week.
Continues the study of grammar begun in YDSH 10a. Writing and speaking skills receive more emphasis than in the previous course, and students begin to build vocabulary and reading skills that will enable them to comprehend more complex texts. The history and culture of Eastern European Jewry are studied through Yiddish songs, films, and literature. Usually offered every year.
Ellen Kellman

YDSH 30a Intermediate Yiddish
[ fl wi ]
Prerequisite: YDSH 20b or permission of the instructor. Meets for four class hours per week.
Third in a four-semester sequence. Students continue to develop reading skills as they sample texts from Yiddish prose fiction, folklore, and memoir literature. Grammatical instruction is more contextualized than in the previous courses. Speaking and writing skills are strongly emphasized. Usually offered every year.
Ellen Kellman

YDSH 40b Advanced Intermediate Yiddish
[ fl hum ]
Prerequisite: YDSH 30a or permission of the instructor. Meets for four class hours per week.
The fourth in a four-semester sequence, this course is a continuation of YDSH 30a. Students discuss assigned texts in Yiddish. Written assignments emphasize the development of fluency and grammatical accuracy. Skills for using Yiddish in academic research are taught. Usually offered every year.
Ellen Kellman

YDSH 98b Independent Study
Usually offered every year.
Staff

YDSH Elective Courses

NEJS 132b Against the Apocalypse: Jewish Responses to the Holocaust
[ hum ]
Provides an overview on the multifaceted Jewish responses to the Nazi destruction of European Jews in the years 1945-1961. Familiarizing students with Jews' historical, legal, cultural, political, religious and commemorative reactions to the Holocaust, it refutes the unwarranted claim of a postwar Jewish silence. Usually offered every second year.
Laura Jockusch

NEJS 134b Yiddish Culture in the Modern World
[ hum ]
An examination of the rise of modern Yiddish secular culture in Eastern Europe and North America with a focus on the literature it produced. Music, criticism, journalism, drama, film, and painting are also studied. Usually offered every third year.
Ellen Kellman

NEJS 135a The Modern Jewish Experience
[ hum ]
Themes include Enlightenment, Hasidism, emancipation, Jewish identity in the modern world (acculturation and assimilation), development of dominant nationalism in Judaism, Zionism, European Jewry between the world wars, Holocaust, the creation of the State of Israel, and contemporary Jewish life in America, Israel, and Europe. Usually offered every year.
ChaeRan Freeze or Eugene Sheppard

NEJS 142a Modern History of East European Jewry
[ hum ]
A comprehensive survey of the history (economic, sociopolitical, and religious) of the Jewish communities in Eastern Europe from the middle of the eighteenth century until World War II, with emphasis placed on the Jews of Poland and Russia. Usually offered every fourth year.
ChaeRan Freeze

NEJS 153a Between Ecstasy and Community: Hasidism in Jewish Thought and History
[ hum ]
Explores Hasidism, from the 18th century until today, as one of the dynamic forces in Jewish life, mixing radicalism and reaction, theology, storytelling and music, thick community and wild individualism, deep conformity and spiritual abandon. Usually offered every third year.
Yehudah Mirsky

NEJS 158b Yiddish Literature and the Modern Jewish Revolution
[ hum wi ]
Students with reading knowledge of Yiddish may elect to read the original texts.
Surveys and analyzes Yiddish fiction, poetry, and drama of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Readings include several works of the classic Yiddish writers, but the primary focus is on works by succeeding generations of modernist writers. Taught in English using texts in translation. Weekly additional section for students with advanced reading knowledge of Yiddish who elect to read some texts in the original. Usually offered every second year.
Ellen Kellman

NEJS 159b Classic Yiddish Fiction
[ hum wi ]
Reading and analysis of the major works of fiction and drama by the best Yiddish writers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with a focus on the role of literature in reconfiguring Jewish gender identities. Taught in English using texts in translation. Weekly additional section for students with advanced reading knowledge of Yiddish who elect to read some texts in the original. Usually offered every second year.
Ellen Kellman

NEJS 164a Judaism Confronts America
[ hum ]
Examines, through a close reading of selected primary sources, central issues and tensions in American Jewish life, paying attention to their historical background and to issues of Jewish law. Usually offered every second year.
Jonathan Sarna

NEJS 171a Teaching and Learning Modern Jewish History, the Holocaust, and Israel
[ hum ]
Examines why we teach history, how students learn history, the uses of public history, and what history means within a Jewish context. Special emphasis is placed on teaching with primary sources, digital resources, and oral history. Includes an oral history project in cooperation with the Jewish Women's Archive and Keshet (a Jewish LGBTQ organization), and an introduction to Holocaust education with Facing History and Ourselves. Usually offered every third year.
Jonathan Krasner

NEJS 181a Jews on Screen: From "Cohen’s Fire Sale" to the Coen Brothers
[ hum ]
Open to all students.
Survey course focusing on moving images of Jews and Jewish life in fiction and factual films. Includes early Russian and American silents, home movies of European Jews, Yiddish feature films, Israeli cinema, independent films, and Hollywood classics. Usually offered every second year.
Sharon Rivo

NEJS 221a Reading Yiddish Literary and Historical Texts
Prerequisite: YDSH 30a or 40b.
Examines modern Yiddish literary and historical texts. Introduces genres and texts of Yiddish literature and scholarship in modern Jewish history. Journalistic texts are studied to prepare students to conduct research using the Yiddish press. Grammatical concepts are reviewed as needed. Usually offered every year.
Ellen Kellman

NEJS 236b Jews of the Russian Empire
A discussion of Jewish life in the Polish lands, and the Jews under tsarist rule and Imperial rule, the confrontation of traditional Jewish community with modernity, the haskalah movement, the Jewish family, popular culture, anti-Jewish violence, the rise of new political and cultural movements, and emigration. Usually offered every third year.
ChaeRan Freeze