​Yiddish seminar for "Tkuma" - Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust studies

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On July 27 – 30, 2017 the seminar for scholars and educators of the "Tkuma" institute and professional historians from Ukraine was held by the World Jewish Congress Yiddish Centre in Vilnius.

The audience included such persons as head of the department of the Institute of ethnology, history, politology and law Prof. Mykola Zerkal, rector of the Regional institute of educational sciences Prof. Yurii Nikitin, dean of the historic department of Zaporizhzhya National University, head of the department for contemporary history of Ukrainian Catholic University (Lvov) Prof. Oleksandr Zaytsev, associated professors, directors, research fellows of other educational institutions.

The International Yiddish Centre was represented by two lecturers: the academical director of the WJC YC Dr. Mordechay Yushkovsky and Prof. Dov-Ber Kerler.

Dr. Yushkovsky focused on Yiddish culture and literature, whereas Prof. Kerler focused on the Yiddish language. The subjects of his lectures were: "Short course of Yiddish - from its originating until second half of 19th century" and "From slang until Yiddish: formatting of national language and culture of East European Jewry".

Both lecturers hold the audience spellbound and after the lectures received rousing reception with loud applauses of the audience. The participants emphasized that the lectures were even more interesting due to a very good sense of humour of both presenters.

As usual, two study tours were provided for the group: one on foot, another by bus. The excursion on foot, as usual, was dedicated to historical Jewish Vilnius, whereas the bus trip was general sightseeing of Vilnius, including Ponary. Both excursions were led by the professional guide Nikita Meytin.

The seminar was closed with lecture-concert, provided by lecturer Dr. Mordehay Yushkovsky and Yiddish songs performer Mikhail Yablonski. The lecturer narrated every song and the singer illustrated it live.

After the seminar, the organizers came into oral agreement with a few heads of high schools in Ukraine, thus

the Yiddish center is going to cover the major part of educational system of Ukraine.

Here are some feedbacks of the participants:


It is very important and honourable for the Ukrainian Institute for Holocaust studies "Tkuma" that the International Yiddish Center for the second time provided a wonderful opportunity to take part at the seminar "Pearls of Yiddish Culture".

Studying the history of Yiddish civilization, i.e."Yiddishkeit", is of great interest to Ukrainian historians and educators, considering that Yiddish is the language of the cultural heritage of Jewish people. The Holocaust, which destroyed millions of the Eastern European Jews, did not spare the unique spiritual culture of the Jewish nation. Therefore, providing of scientific conferences and seminars on this topic is extremely important for studies of the history of Jewish nation in general and the culture of Eastern European Jewry in particular.

It is important to note the informational richness of lectures conducted by the experts of Yiddish history and culture from the USA and Israel, which were combined with fascinating excursions around Jewish Vilnius. Such a thought-out programme allowed the participants to get acquainted with the features of the Yiddish civilization and the historical part of the "Yerushalayim Da Lita".

Separately it is worth mentioning the high level of organisation of the seminar and the professionalism of the staff of the center, which, of course, was one of the key reasons for the success.

We are sincerely grateful and we hope that this seminar will contribute to the positive development and strengthening our relations, and our knowledge and impressions will help in carrying out special classes and lessons on Yiddish in schools and universities of Ukraine.

With respect and hope for further cooperation,

Igor Shchupak, Doctor of History, Director of the Institute for Holocaust studies "Tkuma", the Museum of Memory of the Jewish People and Holocaust

In my opinion, the program is well thought out. Naturally, for 3 days of work it is not possible to study all the Yiddish culture, but the lecturers for this period managed to convey the most important things – main colour and soul of the culture. Of course, I did not acquire knowledge of Yiddish world, but I did a progress in understanding it. It is important that much attention was paid to the interaction and mutual influence of Yiddish culture and Ukrainian culture, to the place of Ukraine in Yiddish world was shown.

Denis Shatalov, Dnipro, the Institute for Holocaust studies "Tkuma"

Issues, which were covered at the seminar, were not only interesting, but also cognitive, and, most importantly, scientific. The main thing is a desire to study literature of the Holocaust, to share with colleagues, students ... I hope, one day such a seminar will be organized in Odessa!

Svetlana Shkliayeva, Odessa, secondary school teacher

The program was very interesting and rich. The topics of literature, the interaction of Jewish and Ukrainian cultures should be read at the humanities faculties. Therefore, such lectures should be a must in Ukraine schools. Many thanks to the lecturers for their fascinating lectures and professionalism.

Elena Talegova, Kiev, the State Institute for modernization of education