Yashinsky Named First Applebaum Fellow at the Center

The fellowship recognizes a commitment to Yiddish learning and Jewish leadership.

Michael Yashinsky has been awarded the first-ever Applebaum Fellowship at the Yiddish Book Center.

Yashinsky received the fellowship, made possible by a grant from the Eugene and Marcia Applebaum Family Foundation of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, in recognition of his extensive background in and commitment to Yiddish learning and Jewish leadership, as well as his meaningful connection to the Detroit area. The foundation awarded the grant to help advance and maximize Yashinsky's scholarly efforts and practical experience during the course of the yearlong fellowship. As part of the fellowship, Yashinsky will travel to Detroit this spring to deliver several talks about his work.

Yashinsky traces his roots in Detroit's Jewish community to his grandparents, all Yiddish speakers who were born in the city or settled there from far-flung places. "My mother’s parents, Rubin Weiss, z”l, and Elizabeth Elkin Weiss, z”l, were career actors who produced and performed in countless Jewish productions in the city," he says. "It is from the spirited atmosphere of my grandparents’ and parents’ homes, and the synagogues and day schools of Detroit, that I derive my yidishkayt. I feel deeply honored, and a sense of bashertkayt, that my fellowship at the Yiddish Book Center is supported by the Applebaum family, who have dedicated themselves to keeping the flame of Jewishness burning bright in our city, where winters are cold but where Jewish hearts like theirs give a life-affirming warmth."

Aaron Lansky, president and founder of the Yiddish Book Center, notes that it’s fitting that Yashinsky’s fellowship is made possible by the Applebaum Family Foundation, given the family’s longtime support of the Center. The Applebaum-Driker Theater at the Center is named for Eugene Applebaum’s parents, as well as the parents of fellow Detroit native Eugene Driker, president of the Center’s board. “The Applebaum Family Foundation’s commitment to Michael and his work is only the latest example of the family’s dedication to preserving Jewish culture, and to enabling younger scholars to advance that culture in new and exciting ways,” Lansky said.

Yiddish Book Center fellows work as full-time members of the organization's staff, contributing to existing programs and helping develop new projects. Yashinsky, one of three Center fellows for 2015-16, divides his time among the Center’s translation and curation initiatives, its Wexler Oral History Project, and its Great Jewish Books Teacher Workshop. His first months at the Center found him reading Yiddish translations of Emily Dickinson poems at a local poetry festival and traveling to Mexico City to help organize the rescue of thousands of Yiddish books from a day school there.

An alumnus of the Yiddish Book Center's Steiner Summer Yiddish Program for college students, Yashinsky also has participated in three workshops through the Center’s program for twentysomethings, Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture. He holds a bachelor’s degree in modern European history and literature from Harvard and has studied at the Vilna Yiddish Language Institute. Prior to joining the Center, Yashinsky taught Spanish at his alma mater, West Bloomfield’s Frankel Jewish Academy, where he received a grant to direct a play in Yiddish with the students. A stage director and playwright, Yashinsky has worked at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna and at Michigan Opera Theatre in Detroit, where he directed a production of the Holocaust-era children’s opera Brundibár.

Yashinsky will be in the Detroit area in April for the following events:

  • On Tuesday, April 12, he will return to Frankel Jewish Academy, where he will teach a class on Yiddish language and literature for students at the school. At 2:20 p.m., he will give a talk at the school's Beit Midrash, open to the public, about the beauty and enduring vitality of Yiddish and his experiences studying and working in the language. Lansky will introduce him at the afternoon talk.
  • On Wednesday, April 13, at 12 p.m., Yashinsky will speak and perform at an event presented by the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University, focusing on homegrown Yiddish literature and theatre in Detroit. He will be introduced by Lansky.
  • On Thursday, April 14, at 7 p.m., he will speak at the Berman Center for Jewish Education at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield about his work with the congregation's archives of Yiddish and Hebrew books and the treasures he found there.

Now in its seventh year, the Yiddish Book Center Fellowship Program is open to recent college graduates with training in Jewish studies or related fields, a working knowledge of Yiddish, and a commitment to Yiddish language and culture. Alumni of the program have gone on to further study in Yiddish literature, Jewish history, and related subjects and to careers in academia, the arts, and cultural organizations.