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Max Weinreich and the Meaning of Yiddish

Hosted By: YIVO

Max Weinreich spent the entirety of his adult life building YIVO and the field of Yiddish Studies. A ‘convert’ to the cause of Yiddishism in his adolescence, he pursued a doctorate in German philology in Weimar Germany with the explicit goal of returning to Eastern Europe to contribute to the project of building a modern, secular Yiddish culture. His study visits to Yale University and Vienna in the early 1930s proved transformational in broadening and revising his understanding of the role of the social sciences in Jewish life as a tool for strengthening Jews’ psychological and material resources. The destruction of the traditional Yiddish heartland in Eastern Europe and his experiences leading YIVO in post-WWII New York City added yet another dimension to Weinreich’s conception of the importance of both Yiddish and Jewish Studies for the future of American and world Jewry. Would Max Weinreich recognize Yiddish studies today?

Moderated by Kalman Weiser and featuring Naomi Seidman, Kenneth Moss, and Jeffrey Shandler, this panel will examine Weinreich’s evolving understanding of the meaning of Yidishe visnshaft and the role of Yiddish in Jewish life throughout his career.

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