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The Stations That Spoke Your Language:
Radio and the Yiddish American Cultural Renaissance

Symposium: September 6-7, 2012
Montpelier Room, Madison Building, Library of Congress
101 Independence Ave., SE
Washington, DC

Participant Biographies and Presentation Abstracts

Laura Apelbaum
Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington

Laura Apelbaum is the Executive Director of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. Her work has centered on preservation of the 1876 historic synagogue, building the community's archives, expanding the Society's school and family programs, and outreach in the community.

Matthew Barton
Library of Congress

Matthew Barton is the Curator of Recorded Sound, Library of Congress/Packard Center for Audiovisual Conservation. He worked as an assistant to Alan Lomax in the 1980s, and later as production coordinator of the Alan Lomax Collection album series on Rounder Records. More recently, he has worked with original Library of Congress field recordings for the American Folklife Center. He contributed essays to Alan Lomax: Selected Writings, 1934-1997 (2003).

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Alan Gevinson
Alan Gevinson.
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Alan Gevinson
Library of Congress

Alan Gevinson is the editor of Within Our Gates: Ethnicity in American Feature Films, 1911-1960 (1997), associate editor of The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films, 1931-1940 (1993), and author of Library of Congress Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, Recorded Sound: An Illustrated Guide (2002). He is the curator of the exhibition Hope for America: Performers, Politics & Pop Culture at the Library of Congress (2010). He received a PhD in history from Johns Hopkins University has taught at Johns Hopkins and George Mason University.


Emanuel S. Goldsmith
Queens College of the City University of New York

Dr. Emanuel S. Goldsmith served as Professor of Yiddish Language and Literature and Judaic Studies at Queens College of the City University of New York for thirty years. His publications include Yiddish Literature in America: 1870-2000 (two volumes in Yiddish), Modern Yiddish Culture: the Story of the Yiddish Language Movement, Thinkers and Teachers of Modern Judaism, and The American Judaism of Mordechai Kaplan.

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Itzik Gottesman
Itzik Gottesman.
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Itzik Gottesman
Yiddish Forward / Forverts

Itzik Gottesman is the associate editor of the Yiddish Forward newspaper, the Forverts, now in its 115th year. He has a Ph.D in folklore from the University of Pennsylvania, and has taught Yiddish language at the University of Pennsylvania and University of Texas at Austin. He researches Yiddish folklore, especially folksong, and directs the blog "Yiddish Song of the Week," presented by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York city. For more information, see The Jewish Daily Forward.External Link

Ann Hoog
Library of Congress

Ann Hoog is a folklorist and reference specialist at the American Folklife Center, Library of Congress. She serves as series editor for the Center's geographical and topical finding aids and works closely with the Center's archive staff to improve and maintain access to collection materials. Since 1998, she has coordinated the Center's internship program, which has given more than 100 graduate and undergraduate students an opportunity to work in the Center's archive. Ann was coordinator of the September 11, 2001, Documentary Project and currently serves as curator of that collection. She holds an MA in American Studies with a concentration in folklife from George Washington University.

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Miriam Isaacs
Miriam Isaacs.
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Miriam Isaacs

Abstract: "Missing the Punch Line: Mixing Languages on Yiddish Radio." At its height, Yiddish radio reflected a society that was in a state of transition, at once looking to a future in mainstream America, while at the same time looking back nostalgically to the old homeland and life in the traditional world of the shtetl. Linguistically, many Jewish Americans were not just caught between Yiddish and English, but were also learning what it meant to live side by side with assorted other immigrant groups. This paper explores the mixing of Yiddish and English, as the immigrants found their way in America and how their resulting linguistic hodge podge wound up enriching both Yiddish and English. A great example of this transition is found in the career of the radio, theater, and variety stage comic Menashe Skulnik, a short funny-looking figure dressed in baggy clothes, and who spoke and sang in a heavy Yiddish accent. Like many others on Yiddish radio, he mixed Yiddish and English with abandon in songs like "The Scotchman from Orchard Street." This paper examins the jokes — and the wackiness, of what happens when Yiddish and English merge, cross over, mix and sort themselves out.

Miriam Isaacs specializes in Yiddish language and culture, as well as sociolinguistics. Retired from the University of Maryland, she pursues research on Yiddish culture and its uses as a tool of empowerment in the Displaced Person's camps in the immediate aftermath of World War II, and Yiddish language among Hasidic Jews. Her articles include "Languages Sometimes in Contact: Components in Yiddish Hasidic Children's Literature," in Yiddish After the Holocaust (2004); "Haredi, Haymish, and Frim: Yiddish Vitality and Language Choice in a Multilingual Community" and "Contentious Partners: Yiddish and Hebrew in Haredi Israel," in Pious Voices: Languages of Ultra-Orthodox Jews, in the International Journal of the Sociology of Language (1999); and "Yiddish in Orthodox Communities of Jerusalem," in The Politics of Yiddish: Studies in Language, Literature and Society (1998). She has taught at and organized conferences on Yiddish culture, language, and society. She is a native speaker of Yiddish who grew up listening to Yiddish radio in Montreal (CJAD) and New York (WEVD). Recently, she was awarded a fellowship to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to research the Ben Stonehill Collection.

Eve Jochnowitz
Workmen's Circle and the YIVO institute

Eve Jochnowitz, Yiddish instructor at Workmen's Circle and the YIVO Institute, is a lecturer in Jewish Culinary History at Living Traditions Klezkamp. She recently completed a doctoral dissertation on the subject of Jewish culinary ethnography in the department of Performance Studies at New York University. She writes a blog in English and Yiddish, In Mol Araan,External Link and is the co-host with Rukhl Schaechter Ejdelman, of Est Gezunterheyt! a cooking show in Yiddish. She has lectured both in the United States and abroad on food in Jewish tradition, religion, and ritual, as well as food in Yiddish performance and popular culture.

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Jenna Weissman Joselit
Jenna Weissman Joselit.
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Jenna Weissman Joselit
George Washington University

Jenna Weissman Joselit, the Charles E. Smith Professor of Judaic Studies and Professor of History at The George Washington University, also directs its Program in Judaic Studies and its brand-new MA in Jewish Cultural Arts. She has the good fortune to be a former Distinguished Visiting Scholar of the Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, where she conducted research on America's embrace of the Ten Commandments, the subject of her current book project.


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Sherry Mayrent
Sherry Mayrent.
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Sherry Mayrent
KlezKamp

Sherry Mayrent has been the Associate Director of KlezKamp, the Living Traditions Yiddish Folk Arts program, since 2001. For sixteen years, she was the clarinetist and musical director of the Wholesale Klezmer band, before turning her attention to amassing the Mayrent Collection, the largest and most comprehensive private collection of Yiddish and Hebrew 78rpm commercial recordings, which she is in the process of digitizing and donating to the Mills Music Library at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She is also a record producer and a prolific composer of traditional klezmer tunes, and has published several books of klezmer charts, as well as creating a volume of traditional klezmer styles for PG Music's auto-accompaniment program, "Band in a Box." Her passion for traditional Yiddish culture is equaled only by her passion for traditional Hawaiian culture.

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Roberta Newman
Roberta Newman.
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Roberta Newman

Abstract: "The Golden Door: American Jews, Holocaust Survivors, and the Radio Programs of the United Service for New Americans, 1947-1948." In 1947-1948, the United Service for New Americans (USNA), a Jewish refugee aid organization, joined with other civic organizations in a public campaign for the liberalization of American immigration quotas, with the hope that larger numbers of Holocaust survivors would be permitted to enter and settle in the United States. With this goal in mind, USNA produced press releases, brochures, media events, and about two dozen radio broadcasts, which included dramatic plays, music shows, and broadcasts of speeches. These programs were primarily aired over New York area radio stations, but were also disseminated to local radio stations throughout the United States. They addressed not only general public attitudes about immigration, but also, indirectly, postwar anti-Semitism. This paper will examine sample USNA radio programs as one of the first postwar political expressions of the American Jewish community, which, in the wake of World War II, found itself playing a newly prominent role in world Jewish affairs.

Roberta Newman is an independent scholar, writer, and researcher. From 1987 until 1992, she was the Curator of Iconographic Collections at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. She was the senior producer of the DVD-ROM edition of Heritage: Civilization and the Jews (Thirteen-WNET) and the Illustrations Editor of The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe (2008). Her fiction writing has been published in JewishFiction.net and Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal. Along with Alice Nakhimovsky, she is currently writing a book on brivnshtelers, Yiddish letter-writing manuals, for Indiana University Press.

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Peggy K. Pearlstein
Peggy K. Pearlstein.
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Peggy K. Pearlstein
Library of Congress

Peggy K. Pearlstein has served almost thirty years on the staff of the Hebraic Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division of the Library of Congress. In 2007, she was appointed Head of the Section. She received a B.A. in Education from Queens College of the City University of New York, an M.S. in Information Science from Southern Connecticut University, an M.A. in Jewish Studies from the former Baltimore Hebrew University, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from George Washington University. Peggy K. Pearlstein is a past president of the Research, Archives, and Special Collections Division of the Association of Jewish Libraries and a past president of the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. In addition to articles published in the Encyclopaedia Judaica, Judaica Librarianship, Southern Jewish History, and Jewish Women: a Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia, she edited the newly released Perspectives on the Hebraic Book: the Myron M. Weinstein Memorial Lectures at the Library of Congress.

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Betsy Peterson
Betsy Peterson.
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Elizabeth Peterson
Director, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Elizabeth "Betsy" Peterson became the Director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in January of 2012. Dr. Peterson succeeded Dr. Peggy A. Bulger, who retired from federal service December 31, 2011. Since 2009, Betsy Peterson has been a consultant, specializing in folklife-related cultural planning, program planning and assessments, development, meeting facilitation, writing, and research. Her primary clients have included the American Folklore Society, the Wyoming Arts Council, the Association of Western States Folklorists, the Houston Arts Alliance and the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. In her consulting work for the Center, Peterson helped develop a national documentation project focusing on the transformation of work in twenty-first century American life. She brought together scholars and other stakeholders from folklore, oral history, anthropology, public policy, private philanthropy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services leading to a partnership agreement between the American Folklife Center and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. She co-directed a project team that coordinated and presented a 2010 symposium, Work and Transformation: Documenting American Workers at the Library of Congress. Prior to her work as a consultant, Peterson was executive director (2004-2009) and program director (1998-2004) of the Fund for Folk Culture. 

David Rein

David Rein was born and lives in Brooklyn NY. He is a collector of cantorial recordings and a scholar and researcher of their history.

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Alexander Russo
Alexander Russo.
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Alexander Russo
The Catholic University of America

Alexander Russo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in American Civilization from Brown University and his B.A. in American Studies and History from Wesleyan University. His research interests include the technology and cultural form of radio and television, sound studies, radio and television criticism, the development of "old" new media, the history of music and society, the relationship between media and space, and the history of popular culture. Dr. Russo is the author of Points on the Dial: Golden Age Radio Beyond the Networks (2010), and has published on localism and radio formatting in satellite radio, considerations of aural attention in the reception of postwar transitcasting, the idea of liveness in sound-on-disc transcriptions, and the role of race in The Green Hornet. He has forthcoming publications on communities of memory and the meaning of work in The Wire, Pappy O'Daniel and hybrid cultural forms, industrial discipline and the development of musical clocks, and on the role of BMI in postwar radio formatting. During the 2011-2012 academic year he will also be a contributor to FLOWTV.org.

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Henry Sapoznik
Henry Sapoznik.
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Henry Sapoznik
University of Wisconsin

Henry Sapoznik is an award-winning author, radio and record producer and performer of traditional Yiddish and American music. Among numerous anthologies, reissues and new recordings, Sapoznik co-produced the ten-part series the Yiddish Radio Project for National Public Radio's All Things Considered in the spring of 2002, which won the Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. Sapoznik is a five-time Grammy award nominee and producer of reissues of historic Yiddish, country, blues and early American popular 78 rpm records. He is currently finishing a biographical essay on actor/banjoist and blackface singer Harry C. Browne, "The Banjo Evangelist: Harry C. Browne and Decline of Minstrelsy," for a forthcoming box set on Archeophone Records. Sapoznik is the Founding Director of the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture at the University of Wisconsin, where he oversees the thousands of Yiddish 78s in the Mayrent Collection, teaches, and runs public and academic programs.

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Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel
Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel.
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Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel
New York Public Library

Amanda (Miryem-Khaye) Seigel is a Yiddish singer, songwriter, actor, and researcher in the field of Yiddish culture. She has performed, lectured and taught internationally. By day, she is a librarian in the Dorot Jewish Division, The New York Public Library.


 

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Roberta Shavver
Roberta Schaffer.
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Roberta Shaffer
Associate Librarian of Congress, Library Services

Roberta I. Shaffer became associate librarian for Library Services in January 2012, and before that served as Law Librarian of Congress since August 2009.  Prior to her tenure as Law Librarian, Shaffer served as executive director of the Federal Library and Information Center Committee (FLICC) and the Federal Library and Information Network (FEDLINK) in the Library of Congress. A former Fulbright Senior Scholar, Shaffer has been an active member of the American Bar Association, the American Association of Law Libraries, ARMA International (Records Management) and the World Future Society. She is the current president of the International Council of Scientific and Technical Information, serves as the Library of Congress official representative to the council, and is the former chair of its Information Policy Committee. She has also maintained longstanding advisory positions with the DigIn Program at the University of Arizona, the library science program at San Jose State University, and the Information School at the University of Texas at Austin, where she previously served as dean. Shaffer is a graduate of Vassar College and Tulane University School of Law, and has a master’s degree in library science from Emory University. She did graduate work at American University in arts management and has a certificate in negotiation and mediation from The Harvard Law School.

Pete Sokolow

Pete Sokolow, a Brooklyn native, is a jazz and klezmer pianist and reed player whose klezmer roots in the Catskills span older and newer generations of Jewish musicians. Sokolow has played with many major figures in klezmer history, including Dave Tarras, the Epstein Brothers, and Ray Musiker, and been an important figure in the revival of klezmer music. Sokolow has orchestrated numerous albums, musicals and films. His albums include Klezmer Plus, by the group Klezmer Plus, which he co-founded with Henry Sapoznik in 1982. He wrote the transcriptions and technical introductions to Henry Sapoznik's book, The Compleat Klezmer (1997). He is founding faculty member of KlezKamp and his latest recording is as a member of the Michael Winograd band dedicated to the music of Dave Tarras.

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Aaron Taub
Aaron Taub.
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Aaron Taub
Library of Congress

Aaron Taub is Head of the Israel and Judaica Section at the Library of Congress. He has published three volumes of poetry under his Hebrew name, Yermiyahu Ahron Taub: Uncle Feygele (2011), What Stillness Illuminated/Vos shtilkayt hot baloykhtn (2008), and The Insatiable Psalm (2005). His Yiddish and English language poems have appeared in numerous print publications. Taub was born and raised in an ultra-Orthodox community in Philadelphia. He received his secondary education in yeshivot in his hometown and in Baltimore. A Phi Beta Kappa and summa cum laude graduate of Temple University, he received an M.A. in history from Emory University and an M.L.S. from Queens College, City University of New York.

Max D. Ticktin
George Washington University

Max Ticktin is the Assistant Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature at the George Washington University. He also was interim chair of its Judaic Studies Program (2007-08). He teaches Hebrew language, contemporary Israeli literature, history of Modern Hebrew Literature, Yiddish language, Modern Jewish literature, "Roots of Western Civilization," Hebrew Prophets, and Biblical Wisdom Literature. He was Trained at the Jewish Theological Seminary and at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

 

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