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Reading Circle + Discussion: Race in Yiddish Literature, Part 2
June 11, 2020 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm PDTFree!, donations encouraged
This week’s Yiddish reading circle is a continuation of last week’s. We are reading Joseph Opatoshu’s short story “Lintsherai” (“A Lynching”), translated into English by Jessica Kirzane. Dr. Marc Caplan will be facilitating the reading and discussion. All proceeds from this event are going to Black Visions Collective. Details below:
***You do not have to have been at last week’s reading circle to participate in this one. Please join us if you are interested!***
Following the murders of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, Breonna Taylor on March 13, Ahmaud Arbery on February 23, and countless other Black Americans throughout our history, we would like to affirm our solidarity with the survivors, and our fellow combatants in the struggle against racism. As a Yiddish organization, we condemn all kinds of violence and are committed to justice.
We are reflecting on how to support and show up for Black lives in America, and we hope that this dialogue will be ongoing. Yiddish literature and Yiddish activism have gone hand in hand throughout the 20th century, as effectively and radically in the United States as anywhere in the Yiddish-speaking world. Though Yiddish-speaking activists across the political spectrum were sympathetic to the freedom struggle of African Americans at the beginning of the 20th century, linguistic and cultural barriers between the two groups made the prospect of genuine and committed cooperation or coalition-building often easier said than done.
During this reading circle, we will examine one of the most intensive condemnations of anti-Black racism ever achieved in Yiddish. Yet, in spite of the author’s good intentions, we will see that unwittingly he inherits many rhetorical assumptions of contemporary white racism of his times. We hope to start a discussion about what needs to happen in today’s Yiddish circles to progress in our understanding and our anti-racist efforts.
Dr. Marc Caplan is a native of Louisiana and a graduate of Yale University. In 2003, he earned his Ph.D. in comparative literature from New York University. Since then he has held professorial appointments at Indiana University, Johns Hopkins University, and Yale as well as research fellowships at the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, the Universität Konstanz (Germany), the Center for Jewish History (New York), and the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor). In 2011, he published “How Strange the Change: Language, Temporality, and Narrative Form in Peripheral Modernisms–a comparison of Yiddish and African Literatures” (Stanford University Press).