2017-18 Yiddish Book Center 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 2018-19 fellowship is January 7, 2018.

What attracts people to the Yiddish Book Center 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:  

Miranda Cooper of Pittsburgh received a BA in English with a concentration in Jewish studies from Williams College in 2016 and is excited to be returning to western Massachusetts from New York City, where she has spent the past year studying at Columbia University, freelance writing, and interning at literary institutions, including Tablet Magazine, Literal Latte, PEN America, and the Wylie Agency. She has also interned at Fig Tree Books, a publisher that specializes in literature of the American Jewish experience. She has written for Tablet, reviewed books for the Jewish Book Council, and participated in creative writing seminars and institutes.

Miranda is particularly interested in the Yiddish foundations of Jewish-American literature. Her undergraduate thesis, about Philip Roth’s image in Jewish-American fiction, received highest honors. While at Williams, she also received the 2015 Edgar Bronfman Summer Fellowship in Jewish Studies for research on the contemporary Jewish-American novel. She has studied Yiddish at Columbia and at the YIVO Institute’s Uriel Weinreich Summer Program. In addition to Yiddish, she has studied French and a bisl Hebrew and Latin.

Raphael Halff grew up Teaneck, New Jersey, and Paris and has struggled to re-create the romanticized European shtetl in every place he has resided: he sustains himself strictly on herring, favors (pricey) apartments that were formerly tenements, and of course surrounds himself with Yiddish literature. 

Raphael graduated from the Columbia University/Jewish Theological Seminary Joint Program in computer science and Jewish literature. He believes at the Yiddish Book Center he can, with God’s help, fruitfully combine these fields. He has studied Yiddish at Columbia, the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, and the Center’s Steiner Summer Yiddish Program.

He is also an avid bicyclist, sometime set designer, and baker—unfortunately at a goyish bakery where you can’t get challah or even a kikhel.

Zeke Levine of Princeton is an alumnus of the Center’s 2016 Steiner Summer Yiddish Program. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s of music in jazz bass performance and a certificate in conflict resolution and peace studies. While living in Austin, he worked as a freelance musician in the city’s jazz, rock, folk, and R&B scenes.

While at UT, Zeke studied Yiddish language and Jewish-American history while gaining familiarity and experience with klezmer music through rehearsal and performance with an Austin community klezmer band.

• Elissa Sperling, of Dover, Massachusetts, was a 2016-17 Yiddish Book Center who is returning for a second year as a senior fellow. She 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.

“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 2018-2019 Fellowship Program by January 7, 2018.