You are here

Yiddish Yesterday and Today

Yiddish Yesterday and Today

Pop-Up Program Series Explores Yiddish History, Literature, Music, and Film

Programs takes place May 10-June 13, 2018 in Skokie and Evanston

For centuries in Jewish communities in Europe and beyond, Yiddish was a key part of life. To explore and share its rich history, Jewish organizations from across greater Chicago have come together to present Yiddish Yesterday and Today, a series of programs taking place Thursday, May 10 through Wednesday, June 13, 2018. This special pop-up series explores Yiddish language, literature, music, and film.

Yiddish Yesterday and Today is presented by the nationally recognized Chicago Adult Jewish Learning Initiative, a partnership of local Jewish organizations spearheaded by Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership with funding from the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago. A trio of screenings — May 29, June 7, and June 12 — are presented with JCC Chicago as part of JCC's Arts & Ideas Programming.

Embracing the many ways in which Yiddish contributes to our understanding of Judaism and Jewish culture, Yiddish Yesterday and Today includes a program assortment — from a sing-along Fiddler on the Roof to a discussion of Yiddish performances by Holocaust survivors. All programs take place in Skokie or Evanston. The kick-off program is free, with tickets for the following programs priced at $10 to $30. Tickets and reservations are available at spertus.edu/Yiddish.

"Yiddish Yesterday and Today focuses on both traditional and contemporary aspects of Yiddish culture. Organized by Jewish organizations across the Chicago region, this project demonstrates the importance of cross-institutional collaboration and highlights the multi-dimensional nature of Jewish experiences," says Dr. Dean P. Bell, Spertus Institute President and CEO.

Dave Matkowsky, JCC Chicago Regional Vice President, Northside adds, "JCC Chicago is proud to partner with Spertus Institute and other community organizations in this upcoming installment of the JUF-sponsored Chicago Adult Jewish Learning Initiative. While our role in presenting films with Yiddish-inspired themes draws on the growing success of the annual JCC Chicago Jewish Film Festival, the overall program demonstrates the importance of offering a breadth of Jewish cultural programming for adults in Skokie, Evanston, and throughout Chicagoland."

Dr. Karen Underhill, Assistant Professor of Polish and Yiddish Literature and Polish Jewish Studies at University of Illinois at Chicago and Board Member for YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the Chicago YIVO Society, says, "Yiddish Yesterday and Today gives us a chance to explore how the work of pre-war Yiddish writers can be a bridge, connecting present generations to their European cultural roots. It allows us to consider how the questions asked by Jewish writers and thinkers in early 20th-century Europe resonate for Jewish communities living in diaspora today." Underhill will be leading a three-session mini-course about writer Itzik Manger titled Itzik's Midrash: Bridging Past and Present through Modern Yiddish Literature.

The organizations participating in this project are: the Chicago Board of Rabbis, Chicago YIVO Society, CJE: Senior Life, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, JCC Chicago, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, Mordecai M. Kaplan Center for Jewish Peoplehood, the Jewish Studies Concentration of Oakton Community College, OROT, Skokie Valley Agudath Jacob Synagogue, Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, and Temple Beth Israel.

SERIES SCHEDULE

A Bintel Brief: The Dear Abby Column of the Forverts
Thursday, May 10 at 11:00 am at Oakton Community College
7701 N. Lincoln Avenue, Skokie, IL 60077, Room A145-152
This program is free. Reservations encouraged.

Writer and humorist Dr. Khane-Faygl Turtletaub revisits the poignant and humorous letters of A Bintel Brief (Yiddish for a bundle of letters), the advice column of the Yiddish daily newspaper the Forverts. Reflecting the immigrant experience, A Bintel Brief provided a map for those drowning in a sea of strange new customs, providing guidance on everything from family to finances and romance to religion.

Dr. Khane-Faygl Turtletaub is a writer, dramatist, children's book author, lecturer, translator, and educator who has taught Yiddish at Northwestern University for the past fifteen years. Her humorous stories and articles on Yiddish language and Judaism have appeared in magazines and newspapers locally and nationally.

"And now I have to read in Jewish something"
Dr. Jeffrey Shandler on Yiddish performances by Holocaust survivors
Tuesday, May 22 at 7:00 pm at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center
9603 Woods Drive, Skokie, IL 60077
Tickets $10.

What happens when Holocaust survivors perform in Yiddish while recording videos of their life stories? The USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive — the largest collection of videotaped interviews with Holocaust survivors — includes hundreds of interviews conducted entirely or partially in Yiddish. During dozens of these recordings, survivors sing a song or recite a poem in Yiddish. Dr. Jeffrey Shandler will share interview excerpts featuring some of these remarkable performances and explore survivors' powerful commitments to the creative power of Yiddish — even in the midst of them recalling widespread destruction.

Dr. Jeffrey Shandler is Professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. Among other titles, he is the author of Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture, a study of contemporary Yiddish culture and, most recently, Holocaust Memory in the Digital Age: Survivors' Stories and New Media Practices.

Episodes 1 & 2 of the Israeli TV Series Shtisel: Screening and Discussion
Tuesday, May 29 at 7:00 pm at the Mayer Kaplan JCC
5050 Church Street, Skokie, IL 60077
Tickets $10 | In Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles

Winner of 11 Israeli Film Academy awards including Best Television Drama, Shtisel is an Israeli television phenomenon, both critically acclaimed and incredibly popular, with each episode anxiously awaited by viewers from every stream of Israeli society. The storyline follows an ultra-Orthodox family and their friends in the crowded Haredi neighborhood of Geula in present-day Jerusalem. Will recently widowed patriarch Shulem Shtisel see his son Akiva married soon? Or is Akiva more interested in his artistic endeavors? What about the cracks in older sister Gitis relationship with her husband? Or the secrets being kept by their teenage daughter Ruchama? A post-show discussion will be led by Dr. Malka Simkovitch, Crown-Ryan Chair of Jewish Studies and director of the Catholic-Jewish Studies program at Catholic Theological Union. Presented with JCC Chicago as part of JCC's Arts & Ideas programming.

Itzik's Midrash: Bridging Past and Present through Modern Yiddish Literature
Wednesdays, May 30, June 6, and June 13 at 7:00 pm
Hilton Garden Inn Chicago North Shore/Evanston
1818 Maple Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201
$30 for all three sessions

This mini-course focuses on one of the most beloved and widely read collections of Yiddish poetry, Itzik's Midrash. The poems represent secular retellings of the stories of the Matriarchs and Patriarchs of Genesis that transfer these stories to the then-familiar landscape of small-town Eastern Europe. Taught by Dr. Karen Underhill, Assistant Professor of Polish and Yiddish Literature and Polish Jewish Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago and a member of the Board of Directors of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Sing-along Fiddler on the Roof
Thursday, June 7 at 7:00 pm at the Skokie Theatre
7924 Lincoln Ave, Skokie, IL 60077
Tickets $10

A fun, nostalgic evening of song, theater, and film will be orchestrated by Rebecca Joy Fletcher, an internationally recognized playwright, actress, singer, and educator. A condensed version of the Oscar-winning Fiddler on the Roof will be shown, with live narration, song sheets, and singing. Presented with JCC Chicago as part of JCC's Arts & Ideas programming.

The Quarrel: Film Screening and Discussion
Tuesday, June 12 at 7:00 pm at the Mayer Kaplan JCC
5050 Church St, Skokie, IL 60077
Tickets $10

The Quarrel is an acclaimed Canadian film adapted from a short story by Yiddish writer Chaim Grade. It follows two estranged friends, both Holocaust survivors, who meet unexpectedly in Montreal in 1948. One is a deeply religious man, the other a skeptical journalist who has turned his back on God. They revisit a quarrel that divided them as boys, resulting in a passionate examination of good and evil and faith and redemption. Will their unintended meeting reunite them or tear them apart?

A post-show discussion will be led by Rabbi Dr. Joshua Feigelson, Dean of Students, The University of Chicago Divinity School. Presented with JCC Chicago as part of JCC's Arts & Ideas programming.

Spertus Institute and JCC Chicago are partners with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Image at left

Buster Keaton and a young lady reading the Forverts in the 1925 silent film Seven Chances.

Pop-Up Program Series

Yiddish Yesterday and Today
Program Schedule

A Bintel Brief: The Dear Abby Column of the Forverts
Thursday, May 10 - 11:00 am
At Oakton Community College in Skokie
Free. Reserve your spot >

“And now I have to read in Jewish something”: Jeffrey Shandler on Yiddish performances by Holocaust survivors
Tuesday, May 22 - 7:00
At the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie
$10. Reserve your spot >

Itzik's Midrash: Bridging Past and Present through Modern Yiddish Literature
Wednesdays, May 30-June 13 - 7:00 pm
At the Hilton Garden Inn in Evanston
$30 for all 3 sessions. Reserve your spot >

Episodes 1 & 2 from the Israeli TV Series Shtisel: Screening and Discussion
Tuesday, May 29 - 7:00 pm
At the Mayer Kaplan JCC in Skokie
$10. Reserve your spot >

Sing-along Fiddler on the Roof
Thursday, June 7 - 7:00 pm
At the Skokie Theatre
$10. Reserve your spot >

The Quarrel: Screening and Discussion
Tuesday, June 12 - 7:00 pm
At the Mayer Kaplan JCC in Skokie
$10. Reserve your spot >

Television and Film Screenings (in blue above) presented with JCC Chicago.

Purchase all 3 screenings