On October 8-9, 2018, a seminar "Pearls of Yiddish Culture" was held by International Yiddish Center of the World Jewish Congress in Ivan Franko State University, located in the city of Zhitomir, Ukraine.
The event was aimed to upgrade the skills of scientists, methodologists, teachers, researchers, and students, in the field of teaching languages and literatures of national minorities of Ukraine.
The classes have been provided by WJC YC academic director, Dr. Mordechay Yushkovsky, Tetyana Batanova (teacher of Yiddish at M.A. and interdisciplinary programs in Jewish studies at the National University of "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy" and junior scientific officer at Judaica department of V. Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine), and the singer & musical pedagogue Marina Yakubovich - laureate of the Grand Prix for performing Yiddish songs at the Mikhoels festival in Moscow.
The participants got acquainted with Yiddish culture, its universal and national facets, aiming to strengthen and enrich the cultural line of teaching content on the basis of dialogue and interaction of languages and cultures.
Dr. Yushkovsky covered the following subjects: "Yiddish culture as a treasury of our collective national memory"; "Yiddish literary and theatrical creativity on the map of Ukraine".
The lectures contained a brief history of dialects and interactions between languages and cultures, especially in the territory of the former Jewish pale of settlement. Considerable attention was paid to the phenomenon of the Odessa sublanguage, much of its specifics being explained by literal translating words and phrases from Yiddish to Russian.
Amidst Dr. Yushkovsky's main points, there was a phenomenon of interaction and interweaving between Yiddish and Ukrainian languages and musical folklores. He pointed out that all the regions of Ukraine are tightly linked with Jewish culture; in Volhynia (Volyn) alone, at least 100 Yiddish and Hebrew writers (including the "grandfather" of modern Yiddish and Hebrew literatures Mendele Moicher-Sforim and a classic Haim Nachman Bialik) lived and created. The lecturer stressed that Yiddish language and culture became collective victims of the Holocaust, during which, despite disastrous situation, Jewish artists continued to create.
Non-standard presentation, large number of examples from folklore and classical literature (Sholom Aleichem, Aharon Appelfeld and others), brilliant oratorical abilities of the lecturer turned his appearances into vivid event and was rewarded with applause of grateful listeners.
Mis Batanova's lectures dealt with such topics as "Yiddish - Zhargon or Mame-loshn/Mother Tongue: Introduction to the History"; "Ukrainian-Jewish Relations in 19th-20th Centuries in the Mirror of Poetry: Yiddish Poets and Their Ukrainian Translators".
The second talk was devoted to the translations of Yiddish poetry into Ukrainian. Tetyana drew the participants' attention to the analysis of translations of Ukrainian poetry into Yiddish. During the lecture, L. Kvitko's and I. Manger's poems were recited both in the original and in Ukrainian translations.
Tetyana also presented the newly-published (edited by her) Ukrainian version of the book of a Canadian historian Henry Abramson "A Prayer for the Government: Ukrainians and Jews in Revolutionary Times, 1917-1920".
The lecture-concert of Yiddish songs "From the Holocaust to the Renaissance", performed by Marina Yakubovich and Mordechay Yushkovsky, featuring exciting songs of the Vilnius Ghetto, turned out to be the most entertaining part of the program.
In addition, the participants altogether under the skillful leadership of Marina Yakubovich, performed a colorful Hasidic nigun (tune).
The seminar became a significant cultural and educational event for the Zhytomyr University students and academic staff, who expressed their wish to develop the cooperation with WJC YC.