Yiddish Culture Festival

Yiddish Culture Festival 2023

In Memoriam Professors Seth Brody, Dan Gillis, Sid Perloe, and Mel Santer

This free, informal gathering meets periodically to enjoy film, music and speakers encompassing Yiddish and Eastern European culture. It is not necessary to speak or understand Yiddish to fully enjoy these events.

COVID INFO:Meetings are held Sundays at 3pm (promptly!) in Stokes Hall Auditorium (which is large enough to allow for social distancing), and facemasks are optional. These conditions may change as the Covid pandemic situation evolves; check our website www.haverford.edu/ycf for up-to-date information.

For more information or directions, contact Jeff Tecosky-Feldman (jtecosky [at] haverford.edu, 610-896-1199). All are welcome! Organizers: Andrew Cassell, Jeff Tecosky-Feldman.

NOTE: These programs will be held during inclement weather UNLESS the campus is closed, which happens only rarely. You should call campus security (610-896-1111) to check.


For more information contact Jeff Tecosky-Feldman.

  • jtecosky [at] haverford.edu

A talk by Dr. Nerina Visacovsky on Progressive Jewish Culture in the Americas

Sunday, September 10 at 3:00 p.m.

A talk by Dr. Nerina Visacovsky on Progressive Jewish Culture in the Americas. The Progressive Jewish movement in the Americas was inspired by the transnational initiatives of the Popular Front with its call for Unity to fight fascism, anti-Semitism and in defense of Yiddish culture. The creation of the Yidisher Kultur Farband Federation (YKUF) during the Congress of Jewish Culture held in Paris in 1937 and the one held in Buenos Aires in 1941 (ICUF) embodied this spirit. The YKUF/ICUF brought together existing pro-Soviet secular Jewish institutions and collaborated to create new ones. The new federation gave them a political-ideological framework for their representation within the Jewish community's mainstream institutions and their relationship with the Communist Party. The Progressive Jewish movements in the US and Canada took distinct paths. This lecture (in English) introduces the Progressive Jewish movement in Argentina in the context of the YKUF's impact in the Americas. Presented in coordination with Haverford’s Distinguished Visitor program and Prof. Ariana Huberman of the Spanish Department. Refreshments provided before the talk at 2:30 p.m.

Nerina Visacovsky holds a Ph.D. from the Philosophy and Literature Faculty of the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet), a professor of Politics and Government at the School of the National University of San Martín, and director of the Pinie Katz Documentation Center and Library (Cedob) from the ICUF. She has written several articles for national and international journals. Among her books are Argentinos judíos y camaradas: tras la utopía socialista (2015) y La tribuna icufista: tiempo de aportes (2021). She has also edited a collection of essays, Cultura judeo progresista de las Americas (2022).

A talk by Dr. Eugene Orenstein on the Yiddish modernist poetry of Yude-Leyb Teller

Sunday, October 22 at 3:00 p.m.

A talk by Dr. Eugene Orenstein on the Yiddish modernist poetry of Yude-Leyb Teller (1912-1972, aka Dr. Judd L. Teller). Arriving in the U.S. from eastern Galicia in the Austrian Empire at the age of nine, in 1921, he began to write poetry in Yiddish very early in life. Yude-Leyb Teller was one of the most original and challenging of the American Yiddish poets. The talk will include the fascinating story of Teller’s life and milieu, and readings of his selected poems in the original Yiddish, with English translations.

Dr. Orenstein is a retired Associate Professor in the Department of Jewish Studies at McGill University, where he specialized in the area of modern Jewish social and intellectual history, with particular emphasis on the Jewish labor and socialist movement in Eastern Europe, North America and pre-state Israel as well as the development of modern Yiddish culture. He also taught at the Uriel Weinreich Summer Program in Yiddish Studies; the Summer Program in Yiddish Studies at the Postgraduate Centre for Hebrew Studies, Oxford University; University College, London; the Centre for the Study of Jewish Civilization, Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and at the International Yiddish Summer Program, Tel Aviv University.

Ver Vet Blaybn? (Who Will Remain?)

Sunday, November 12 at 3:00 p.m.

Ver Vet Blaybn? (Who Will Remain?)is a documentary film by Hadas Kalderon, Emily Felder, and Christa Whitney that follows one woman’s journey to understand her grandfather, the Yiddish writer Avrom Sutzkever. (60 minutes, in English, Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles.)Attempting to better understand her grandfather Avrom Sutzkever, Israeli actress Hadas Kalderon travels to Lithuania, using her grandfather’s diary to trace his early life in Vilna and his survival of the Holocaust. Sutzkever (1913–2010) was an acclaimed Yiddish poet—described by the New York Times as the “greatest poet of the Holocaust”—whose verse drew on his youth in Siberia and Vilna, his spiritual and material resistance during World War II, and his post-war life in the State of Israel. Kalderon, whose native language is Hebrew and must rely on translation of her grandfather’s work, is nevertheless determined to connect with what remains of the poet’s bygone world and confront the personal responsibility of preserving her grandfather’s literary legacy.

Woven into the documentary are family home videos, newly recorded interviews, and archival recordings, including Sutzkever’s testimony at the Nuremberg Trial. Recitation of his poetry and personal reflections on resisting Nazi forces as a partisan fighter reveal how Sutzkever tried to make sense of the Holocaust and its aftermath. As Kalderon strives to reconstruct the stories told by her grandfather, the film examines the limits of language, geography, and time.

Discussion will follow the film. Learn more information about the film and filmmakers.

An afternoon of Yiddish song and music (Live!)

Sunday, December 3 at 3:00 p.m.

An afternoon of Yiddish song and music (Live!): Tenor Richard Lenatsky, accompanied at the piano by Alexander (Sender) Botwinik, return to the Festival after giving many previous concerts to perform an eclectic collection of songs. The program will include rarely heard gems from the 150-year illustrious history of Yiddish Art and Theatre Songs, with stories about the artists who recorded and performed them around the world; and a few surprises. English translations will be provided.

Richard Lenatsky was born in 1944 and grew up near Temple Sholom Synagogue (in the Philly “shtetl” of Oxford Circle) where he attended Hebrew School and was Bar Mitzvahed. It was there that he enjoyed the chanting of the cantor, the great Zvi Aronivitz (he would later change his name to Zvi Aroni and hold cantorial positions in New York and Miami). Lenatsky was a member of Cantor Zvi's childrens' choir at the age of seven, and was mesmerized by his singing and nusach (musical style of prayer). During his teenage years. Lenatsky was spellbound listening to the 78 RPM recordings of Golden Age cantors Yosselle Rosenblatt and Mordechai Hershmann, and operatic tenor Jan Peerce. In the late fifties and early sixties he attended many concerts by Jan Peerce and the actor/singer/Yiddishist Theodore Bikel. In time, developing a friendship with Mr. Peerce and his wife Alice, he was invited to their home in New Rochelle, NY for breakfast and to informally sing an aria to see if his voice had any potential. The Peerce's sent him to their close friend and colleague, the voice teacher Alex Lorber of Manhattan, with whom he studied from 1964 to 1968. A frequent performer at the Yiddish Culture Festival over the last 25 years, he earns a living growing cactus and succulent plants for wholesale distribution in his commercial greenhouse in Chester County.

Alexander (Sender) Botwinik is a Yiddish instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, and teaches Hebrew and music at Har Zion Temple. Sender prepared the book From Holocaust to Life presenting the compositions of his father David Botwinik (1920-2022). A CD of his father's art songs followed; and Sender is now getting ready to release a second CD -- this time featuring his father's children's songs.

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Directions: Enter the campus by the College Ave (back) entrance which is just opposite from 780 College Ave (NOT the Lancaster Ave/Rt 30 main entrance). Stokes Hall is the first building you see on the left as you enter campus. You can continue straight or make the first left in front of Stokes Hall to find parking. Park in any spot marked FACULTY/STAFF – you cannot park in spaces marked for STUDENTS.

  • Chase Hall
    Stokes Hall

Support the Festival: We need your contribution to support this ongoing celebration of Yiddish culture, so please send a check made out to Haverford College, with Yiddish Culture Festival written on the check or on an accompanying note to: Haverford College, Advancement Services, 370 Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041

Support the Festival