Yiddish Culture Festival

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 all things Yiddish. It is not necessary to speak or understand Yiddish to fully enjoy these events.

COVID Info: Meetings are held Sundays at 3:00 p.m. (promptly!) in Stokes Hall Auditorium (which is large enough to allow for social distancing), and all campus visitors are expected to be fully vaccinated and must wear face masks indoors. These conditions may change as the Covid pandemic situation evolves and updates will be posted here.

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 Prof. Gabriel Laufer on The Yisrael Beider Collection: Poems, Essays and Letters from the Lost Town of Trochenbrod

Sunday, September 18 at 3:00 p.m. EST

In Person in Stokes Auditorium or via Zoom

Watch the Captioned Video

This is the story of the lost town of Trochenbrod and the life work of one of its sons, the poet and essayist Yisrael Beider. Trochenbrod was unique. It was situated in the gentile world but built, populated, and self-governed exclusively by Jews. It thrived as a Jewish town to its end when erased without a trace by the Nazis and Ukrainian collaborators in the summer of 1942. Yisrael Beider and his two sons were murdered. Fortunately, much of Beider’s work survived, including letters to his family. This collection provides a peek into the Jewish life in rural Ukraine and in Trochenbrod in the years between the two world wars. It describes pogroms, abuse, and abject poverty. But at the same time, it brings to life lovingly beautiful images of nature, rich Jewish culture and yearnings for the Land of Israel.

A few of Beider’s poems and essays were published in prominent Hebrew and Yiddish publications like Ha’Olam, the official publication of the Zionist movement, or Ha-Tsefira (one of the longest running Hebrew papers in Europe) next to pieces by leaders of the Zionist movement like Yitzhak Ben Zvi, poets like Bialik and Tchernichovsky, or novelists like Kabak. In addition to its historic importance, this is a literary gem that escaped discovery and recognition. Hopefully this new translation of the collection will remedy this oversight.

The talk will include excepts from a film, narrated by Avrom Bendavid-Val, telling the story of the life and death of Trochenbrod. The full film includes interviews with survivors and their descendants along with authentic pictures that survived the town’s destruction, and will be shown in its entirety on October 23.

The film will be followed by a presentation of Beider’s biography and his work and readings of selections from its 47 poems and passages from its 7 essays and 8 letters.

Gaby Laufer is a native Israeli and a former IDF officer. He holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Princeton University. Throughout his career he worked at various capacities for Technion, NASA and the University of Virginia until his retirement in 2017 as a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

In 2018 Laufer published “A Survivor’s Duty”, a family and personal biography describing his father’s holocaust survival in the Hungarian forced labor battalions and in a German concentration camp. More recently he completed together with Andrew Cassel the translation of “Notes from the Valley of Slaughter” a diary written by Dr. Aharon Pick in the Šiauliai ghetto in Lithuania, to be published by Indiana University Press. He also recently he completed the translation of the “Beider Collection.” He is working currently on the historic novel, “The Hungarian Gold Train.”

Laufer, a widower, is the father of three grown children and grandfather of seven.

Lost Town

Sunday, October 23 at 3:00 p.m. EST

This compelling 2012 documentary film (excerpts of which were shown on Sept 18) tells the story of one man's obsessive search to get closer to his deceased father by uncovering the story of his family's town of Trochenbrod. First made famous by Jonathan Safron Foer's 'Everything Is Illuminated', Trochenbrod was the only all-Jewish town to ever exist outside of Palestine. Trochenbrod's 5000 Jews were obliterated by the Nazis, except for 33 townspeople who escaped the massacre there. This personal search triggers a resurgence of interest in the town and reconnects the few remaining survivors who hadn't seen each other in over 60 years. 'Lost Town' utilizes contemporary documentary footage, original animation, and survivor testimonials to tell the story of how far one will go to claim their sense of identity. Lost Town was directed by Jeremy Goldscheider and Richard Goldgewicht, and inspired by the book “The Heavens are Empty” by Avrom Bendavid-Val. It was produced under fiscal sponsorship of the Foundation For Jewish Culture and supported by George Lucas' Skywalker Studios. In English, Hebrew and Yiddish with English subtitles (86 minutes).

The Light Ahead (Fishke the Lame) (1939)

Sunday, November 13 at 3:00 p.m. EST

This film tells the tale of impoverished and disabled lovers Fishke and Hodel as they dream of life in the big city of Odessa, free from the poverty and stifling old-world prejudices of the shtetl. Based on Mendele Mokher Seforim's story of love frustrated by small-town ignorance, this luminous allegory of escape marries Edgar Ulmer's masterful direction with superb acting by members of New York's Artef and Yiddish Art Theaters. Film provided by The National Center for Jewish Film, www.jewishfilm.org .Yiddish with English subtitles (94 minutes – we showed this previously in 2005).


Sunday, December 4 at 3:00 p.m. EST

In Nurith Aviv’s original 2020 documentary, seven young interviewees—some Jews and some not—share their love for the Yiddish language. And they each tell of their connection to a particular poet they love, from the period between the two World Wars, a time which saw a great flowering of Yiddish culture and creativity, including of modernist, avant-garde poetry. The poets discussed in the film are Celia Dropkin, Moyshe-Leyb Halpern, Anna Margolin, Peretz Markish, Avrom Sutzkever, Debora Vogel, and Yehoyesh. In French, English, Hebrew and Yiddish, with English subtitles (61 minutes). Discussion to follow the film.

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New Directions: Enter the campus by the College Ave (back) entrance which is across 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 click the button above to make a credit card donation (Select "Other" in the Designation and list Yiddish Culture Festival in the Additional Details) or 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.