How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish

Decade of Discovery event at the Vilna Shul | Boston, MA

AUTHOR TALK | How Yiddish Changed America and America Changed Yiddish

Date:            Sunday, May 31, 2020
Time:            2:00 PM
Location:     Vilna Shul
                     18 Phillips Street
                     Boston, MA 02114

How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish
Edited by Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert

Is it possible to conceive of the American diet without bagels? Or Star Trek without Mr. Spock? Are the creatures in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are based on Holocaust survivors? And how has Yiddish, a language without a country, influenced Hollywood? These and other questions are explored in this stunning and rich anthology of the interplay of Yiddish and American culture, edited by award-winning authors and scholars Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert.

It starts with the arrival of Ashkenazi immigrants to New York City's Lower East Side and follows Yiddish as it moves into Hollywood, Broadway, literature, politics, and resistance. We take deep dives into cuisine, language, popular culture, and even Yiddish in the other Americas, including Canada, Argentina, Cuba, Mexico, and Colombia. The book presents a bountiful menu of genres: essays, memoir, song, letters, poems, recipes, cartoons, conversations, and much more. Authors include Nobel Prize-winner Isaac Bashevis Singer and luminaries such as Grace Paley, Cynthia Ozick, Chaim Grade, Michael Chabon, Abraham Cahan, Sophie Tucker, Blume Lempel, Irving Howe, Paula Vogel, and Liana Finck.

Readers will laugh and cry as they delve into personal stories of assimilation and learn about people from a diverse variety of backgrounds, Jewish and not, who have made the language their own. The Yiddish saying states: Der mentsh trakht un got lakht. Man plans and God laughs. How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish illustrates how those plans are full of zest, dignity, and tremendous humanity. Most of all, the book shows us that Yiddish, far from being an endangered language, is more vibrant than ever.

COST:           General Admission | $10

Information and tickets for this event will be available on the Vilna Shul website in early 2020.

The Decade of Discovery is a new initiative of the Yiddish Book Center designed to foster a deeper understanding of Yiddish and modern Jewish culture. Beginning with the Center’s 40th anniversary in 2020, and continuing for each of the next ten years, the Center will select an annual theme around which it will hold special events, courses, conferences, exhibits, performances and other programs, often in partnership with other organizations. In doing so, the Center will create new relationships with individuals and institutions to expand and strengthen engagement with Yiddish and modern Jewish culture - creating spaces for collaboration, testing of ideas, and the discovery of new perspectives.

​The Decade of Discovery is made possible in part through the generous support of the Leona and Ralph W. Kern Foundation.