2016-17 Fellows

Every fall, the Yiddish Book Center welcomes a select group of recent college graduates who spend the following year working as full-time staff members, gaining valuable professional experience in Yiddish language and Jewish cultural work through the Center's Fellowship ProgramThe deadline to apply for a 2017-18 fellowship is January 9, 2017.

What attracts people to the Fellowship Program? What do fellows do during their time at the Center? Read about the backgrounds of our current cohort of fellows  and learn about the projects they're working on:  

• Elissa Sperling of Dover, Massachusetts, was first exposed to Yiddish through her zeyde, who spoke it as his first language. She began formally studying Yiddish through the Workmen’s Circle in Boston while in high school and continued her study in intensive summer programs in New York, Vilnius, and Warsaw. She has also taken courses on Ashkenazi civilization at YIVO.

A former Fulbright scholar in Ukraine, Sperling triple-majored in astronomy, physics, and Russian and Eastern European studies at Wesleyan University and studied abroad in Saint Petersburg and Irkutsk. Earlier this year, she received a master’s in information studies from McGill University, where she was cochair of the university’s Librarians Without Borders chapter and took part in a service trip to Guatemala to help develop a school library there. She’ll use that background to help with cataloguing the Yiddish Book Center’s collections during her fellowship. In addition to Yiddish, Sperling has studied Russian, Spanish, French, and Hebrew.

• Jordan Brown of Palo Alto, California, was a 2015-16 Yiddish Book Center who is returning for a second year as a senior fellow. A graduate of Whitman College, Brown wrote his thesis on the role of linguistic theory in Native American language revitalization efforts. He attended the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program in 2014 and has led recreational and academic Yiddish events through his involvement with the Stanford University leyenkrayz (reading circle) and the Yiddish cultural organization KlezCalifornia. Brown has also taught students from elementary school through college in subjects as diverse as astronomy, English, mathematics, music theory, and French language and literature. 

Brown will continue to work with the Center’s Yiddish Language Institute, assisting Asya Vaisman Schulman, the director, with the creation of a new Yiddish textbook.

• Michael Yashinsky of Detroit, Michigan, is also returning for a second year in the Fellowship Program. He holds a bachelor’s in modern European history and literature from Harvard University and has studied Yiddish at the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program and at the Vilna Yiddish Language Institute. He’s also participated in several workshops of the Center’s Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture.

A stage director and playwright, Yashinsky has worked at Vienna's Theater an der Wien and at Michigan Opera Theatre, where he directed a production of the Holocaust-era children's opera Brundibár. He taught Spanish at Detroit’s Frankel Jewish Academy, where he received a grant to direct a play in Yiddish with the students. He speaks English, Yiddish, German, Hebrew, Spanish, and Italian. 

Yashinsky is the recipient of the first-ever Applebaum Fellowship at the Yiddish Book Center, made possible by a grant from the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Family Foundation of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. As a senior fellow, he’ll join Brown in working on the Center’s Yiddish textbook.

Alexis Aaeng of Boulder, Colorado, is an alumna of the Center’s Steiner Summer Yiddish Program and this past summer worked as an RA in the Great Jewish Books Summer Program for high school students. She received a bachelor’s in history and Jewish studies from the University of Colorado Boulder this spring.

At UC, Aaeng was active in the campus radio station, and she combined her love of radio and Yiddish in her thesis, which focused on the advent of radio in the late 1920s and how it affected identity formation within Yiddish-speaking communities in New York City. She’s also worked with the Post-Holocaust American Judaism Archives at CU, preparing the digital and physical collections for public use. Aaeng—who, in addition to Yiddish, speaks Arabic and Spanish—will help develop teacher resources for the Center’s teachgreatjewishbooks.org website and also will work with the communications department.

• Sadie Gold-Shapiro of Northampton, Massachusetts, is also an alumna of the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, and last year she worked as an archival assistant at the Yiddish Book Center. She is a 2016 graduate of Smith College, where she majored in history and Jewish studies. In addition to Yiddish, she has studied German, Czech, and Spanish.

Gold-Shapiro has worked as an archivist and an oral historian at the Jewish Museum of Prague, at the Terezin Institute, and in conjunction with the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI). During her fellowship year, she’ll work on the Center’s digital collections and also assist with its translation initiative.


“I would absolutely recommend the program to people who are committed to Jewish/Yiddish culture and who want to learn what it’s like to work for a cultural organization.”
Former Yiddish Book Center fellow

Apply for the 2017-2018 Fellowship Program by January 9.