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Yiddish Book Center

Regenerating Jewish Culture

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Focus On Yiddish Theater

September and October’s Decade of Discovery theme, Yiddish Theater, highlights the extensive contributions to the theater by women actors, playwrights, and more. Below you will find a love letter to the Yiddish stage, a presentation by singer and scholar Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel about Jennie Goldstein, and an original Yiddish song set to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York."

The Yiddish Book Center's Decade of Discovery is an initiative launched by the Center to mark our 40th anniversary in 2020. Its aim is to foster a deeper understanding of Yiddish and modern Jewish culture. 


אויסגעקליבן Handpicked Sonia Gollance

Sonia Gollance smiling, black and white illlustration

Sonia Gollance is Lecturer in Yiddish (Assistant Professor) at University College London. Her research interests include Yiddish studies, German-Jewish literature, gender studies and performance studies. She has taught previously at the University of Vienna, The Ohio State University, and the University of Göttingen. Her book, It Could Lead to Dancing: Mixed-Sex Dancing and Jewish Modernity (Stanford University Press, 2021) was a National Jewish Book Award finalist. Her ongoing translation of Tea Arciszewska's play Miryeml was supported by a Translation Fellowship from the Yiddish Book Center. She is currently developing a project on women who wrote plays in Yiddish. In addition to her scholarship, she is also a Yiddish dance leader.

The Chained Wife, an Excerpt

Shockingly, to my knowledge, no Yiddish play by a woman has been published in translation in its entirety (although fortunately that situation should change within the year). The Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellowship has played an important role in supporting translations of plays by women. I teach this excerpt from Chloë (Zisl) Piazza’s translation of Di agune (The Chained Wife) by Maria Lerner because it’s the first known play by a Yiddish woman writer––and currently the most accessible English-language example of Yiddish dramatic literature by a woman.


Paula Pryłucki’s one-act play Aktor (Actor) brilliantly satirizes the acting profession and sharply criticizes men who pursue the arts at the expense of their families’ practical needs: while an actor’s wife labors in childbirth offstage, her husband and two of his colleagues debate whether the child should follow the father’s career path.

Dos amolike yidishe Varshe (Jewish Warsaw That Was)

The impressive anthology Dos amolike yidishe Varshe (Jewish Warsaw That Was), edited by Melekh Ravitch, contains works by 139 Yiddish writers, including a scene from Tea Arciszewska’s modernist play Miryeml and an essay about her friendship with I. L. Peretz.

Shirley Zaft Benyas's Oral History

Although I literally grew up on Second Avenue in New York City, Michigan was the “Old Country” for me in childhood due to my grandparents’ Midwestern roots. In this Wexler Oral History interview, singer and Yiddish theater actress Shirley Zaft Benyas discusses the Sholem Aleichem Institute in West Bloomfield, MI, of which my relatives Dr. Peter G. Shifrin z”l (the person who suggested I learn Yiddish) and Esther Shifrin z”l were members.

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