28 May: The Yiddish Encyclopedia Returns to Berlin

A Book Presentation with Historian Barry Trachtenberg

We are pleased to host a book presentation by historian Barry Trachtenberg of Wake Forest University, author of the new book The Holocaust and the Exile of Yiddish:  A History of the Algemeyne Entsiklopedye (Rutgers University Press). His study traces an ambitious project that started in the 1930s, right here in Berlin: to publish a comprehensive encyclopedia of general knowledge completely in the Yiddish language. This dream drastically changed course within several years as the editors fled the Nazi regime and their intended readership of Eastern European Jews was decimated by genocide, dispersed by mass migration, and diluted by cultural assimilation.

In the mid-twentieth century, the project sparked tremendous controversy in Jewish cultural and political circles: What should a Yiddish encyclopedia be for? What knowledge and perspectives should it contain? By the time the last volumes were published, in 1960s New York, both the Yiddish-speaking world and the encyclopedia itself had been completely transformed by postwar circumstances. As Trachtenberg argues, this is not only a story about destruction and trauma, but also one of tenacity and continuity, as the encyclopedia’s compilers strove to preserve the heritage of Yiddish culture, to document its near-total extermination in the Holocaust, and to chart its path into the future.

The English-language book presentation by Barry Trachtenberg will be moderated by Jake Schneider of YIDDISH BERLIN. Questions from the audience are welcome – feel free to ask them in English, Yiddish, or German. This event accompanies our current exhibition Plague | War | Mother Tongue, which you can view at the gallery, featuring artworks by Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson, Arndt Beck, and the late Helmut J. Psotta.

More information about the book here  on the website of Rutgers University Press.

Event information

  • 28 May 2022, 7pm
  • Galerie Zeitzone, Adalbertstraße 79, 10997 Berlin
  • Admission free
  • Presentation and discussion in English, questions in Yiddish or German welcome
  • Copies of the book will be available for sale

Facebook event


Barry Trachtenberg holds the Rubin Presidential Chair of Jewish History at Wake Forest University in North Carolina (USA). He is the author of The Revolutionary Roots of Modern Yiddish, 1903-1917 (2008) & The United States and the Nazi Holocaust: Race, Refuge, and Remembrance (2018).

8 March: YIDDISH BERLIN reads Yiddish poetry by women

8 March 2022: YIDDISH BERLIN Reads Yiddish Poetry by Women

In response to the war in Ukraine, which has deeply shaken us all, we adjusted the focus of our event on International Women’s Day. Many of the Yiddish poets we presented were born or lived in Ukraine. We spoke about their experiences with war, invasion, and displacement and emphasized their connections to Ukraine. We, YIDDISH Berlin, are unanimous in our support for all people living in Ukraine and used this event as an opportunity to raise awareness of Ukraine’s history and culture.

At the event, we also collected donations, which we used to acquire medications for people in need in Ukraine.

The program included recitations of poems and musical renditions of work by the following authors, all of them women:

Marina Alexeeva | Rivka Basman Ben-Hayim | Celia Dropkin |  Irena Klepfisz | Rokhl H. Korn | Anna Margolin | Kadia Molodowsky | Miriam Ulinover | Debora Vogel

The participants included:

Arndt Beck | Patrick Farrell | Hilde Haberland | Sveta Kundish | Katerina Kuznetsova | Anna Rozenfeld | Jordan Lee Schnee | Jake Schneider | Maria Stazherova

Tuesday, 8 March 2022, 6 pm

PANDA platforma
(KulturBrauerei)
Knaackstr. 97
10435 Berlin

Free admission

The event was also livestreamed, thanks to PANDA platforma. You can watch a recording of the event here:

A reader of originals and translations corresponding to the performances can be found here (pdf).

Sponsored by the Ursula Lachnit Fixson Foundation

The Poets of Raysn

Meyshe Kulbak (l.) and Izi Kharik (r.). Photos (Kulbak): Eliot Gordin Levitan (via Forward); (Kharik): yleksikon

On 31 October 2021 at 3 pm, YIDDISH BERLIN held a reading to remember two important Yiddish poets. On 29 October 1937, Meyshe Kulbak and Izi Kharik were summarily executed. They were among the first Yiddish writers to fall victim to Stalinist purges.

Kulbak and Kharik were both born in Belarus – Raysn in Yiddish – where they spent much of their lives and where they were also murdered. The notion of home and finding home, as well as the tensions between the shtetl and the big city, were central themes for both poets.

Although their lives and their literature moved in rather different directions, they share many commonalities beyond the dark day of their death.

YIDDISH BERLIN read prose and poetry by Kulbak and Kharik (in Yiddish) as well as stories about the poets’ lives (in English).

Our event paid tribute to their immense literary legacy while celebrating living Yiddish culture.

In cooperation with Base Hillel Deutschland

14 August 2021: YIDDISH BERLIN DERMONT: Night of the Murdered Poets

Night of the Murdered Poets. Design by Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson

Every year since 2018, YIDDISH BERLIN has marked the anniversary of the summary execution of the members of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee on 12 August 1952 in the basement of the Lubyanka Building in Moskow. This tragedy became known to history as the NIGHT OF THE MURDERED POETS because the lives cut short that night included those of five prominent Yiddish poets: Dovid Bergelson, Itsik Fefer, Dovid Hofshteyn, Leyb Kvitko, and Perets Markish.

This year, we marked this anniversary with a reading from the trial transcripts (in German, Russian, and English) as well as Yiddish poetry, music, and performances.

Beck | Bernhardt | Haberland | Kuznetsova | Ponizovsky Bergelson | Rozenfeld | Schnee | Sorek | Stazherova

14 August 2021, 8 pm
Free admission

NOVILLA (outdoors)
Hasselwerderstr. 22
12439 Berlin-Schöneweide

Supported by the Berlin Senate Department of Culture and Europe via the Stiftung für Kulturelle Weiterbildung und Kulturberatung (Foundation for Cultural Education and Cultural Consulting as part of the DRAUSSENSTADT initiative.

Flyer as PDF | Facebook event

The Paper Brigade

Saving Yiddish Culture in Vilnius

SCREENING

23 January 2020, 8pm

Shmerke Katsherginski at Jewish Museum of Vilna, about 1945, still

In 1941 the Nazis arrived in the Lithuanian capital. They set about murdering Jewish people and destroying the rich cultural heritage of the city: its many Jewish libraries. A handful of Jewish intellectuals in the Vilnius ghetto bravely resisted by trying to save this heritage. They were called the Paper Brigade. Among them: Avrom Sutzkever.

On the basis of unseen archival material, interviews with protagonist and their descendents as well as historians, this documentary shines a light on an important chapter of spiritual resistance.

Director: Diane Perelsztejn, Belgium, France 2018, 60 min.

Language of the film: German

Admission free – donations welcome!

In Honor of Avrom Sutzkever

POETRY | MUSIC | ARTWORK

19 January 2020, 6pm

Avrom Sutzkever, ca. 1990, photo: Layle Silbert, source: Back cover of Selected Prose and Poetry

Sutzkever is one of the great poets of the twentieth century. I do not say this lightly. He is not a philosophical poet; there was no sophisticated philosophy in Jewish culture. Nor is he a descriptive poet; the language of Modernism was opposed to description, and the fictional worlds of Sutzkever’s poetry are presented through evocation and allusion rather than direct statement. But the language of his poetry — the profound sound orchestration and the metaphorical and mythopoeic imagery — is as dense, unmediated, and suggestive as that in the poetry of Mandelstam or Rilke. And his responses to historical reality are as sharp as any in the verse of Brecht. The paradoxical amalgam of these two extremes of twentieth-century poetry — self-focused poetic language and ideological engagement — is successful in Sutzkever’s work because both are presented through the events of the poet’s own biography.

Benjamin Harshav

Sutzkever: Life and Poetry, Intodruction to A. Sutzkever, Selected Prose and Poetry, Berkeley, Los Angeles, Oxford, 1991, p. 3

Avrom Sutzkever, artwork: Arndt Beck, 2019 (detail and intermediate state)

On the eve of Avrom Sutzkever’s 10th yortsayt we are commemorating him and his work.

Arndt Beck | Irad Ben Isaak | Horst Bernhardt | Patrick Farrell | Charles Green | Hilde Haberland | Sveta Kundish | Ekaterina Kuznetsova | Elisabeth Landenberger | Timothy McKeon | Anna Rozenfeld

Discussion in German, poetry in Yiddish.

Free admission

farbloyte feder | lekoved avrom sutzkever

Accompanying our exhibition farbloyte feder | lekoved avrom sutzkever, we organized a rich program of accompanying events, all at Galerie ZeitZone in Kreuzberg.

You can see photos from the exhibition and events here on the German version of this blog.

17 January, 8pmOPENING EXHIBITION Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson | Arndt Beck

19 January, 6pmYIDDISH BERLIN IN HONOUR OF AVROM SUTZKEVER DE | YI

20 January, 7pmPOETRY EVENING Vos iz mer vi lebn? Anna Rozenfeld | Arndt Beck EN | YI

22 January, 8pmCONCERT Sveta Kundish & Patrick Farrell

23 January, 8pmSCREENING The Paper Brigade – Saving Yiddish Culture in Vilnius DE

25 January, 7pmTRILINGUAL READING Ode tsu der toyb Beck | Bernhardt | Schnee DE | EN | YI

26 January, 8pmSCREENING of Black Honey – The Life and Poetry of Avrom Sutzkever EN | HE | YI

27 January, 12 noonCONVERSATION with Hadas Kalderon by Lihi Nagler EN

29 January, 8pm: FINISSAGE | CLOSING PARTY

All events on Facebook

di farbloyte feder | berliner zeydes

To accompany our exhibition Di farbloyte feder | berliner zeydes, we organized a rich program of events celebrating Yiddish culture and literature.

22 August – 3 September 2019

Galerie ZeitZone
Adalbertstr. 79
10997 Berlin-Kreuzberg

21 August: EXHIBITION OPENING with Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson | Arndt Beck

22 August: SLOW READING with Ekaterina Kuznetsova EN | YI

23 August: Staged reading: Dovid Bergelson’s Berlin short storTsvey rotskhim with Arndt Beck | Horst Bernhard | Jordan Lee Schnee

25 August: Lecture: Anshel, undzer zeyde: Bashevis Singer’s Yentl from a Trans Perspective with Jonathan-Rafael Balling

27 August: SLOW READING with Irad Ben Isaak EN | YI

28 August: CONCERT with Anna Margolina & Alexey Wagner

31 August: Lecture and Screening: “Beyle Schaechter-Gottesman: The Artist and her Legacy” with Janina Wurbs

1 September: CONCERT Sveta Kundish & Patrick Farrell

2 September – “Der alef-beys fun der libe. An evening of Celia Dropkin’s poetry” – Poetry lecture with Anna Rozenfeld | Lothar Quinkenstein | Jordan Lee Schnee

3 September: FINISSAGE | CLOSING PARTY

Berlin’s Most Yiddish August Ever

August 2020 was probably the most Yiddish month that Berlin had ever seen. It began on Monday the 5th with a screening of the film Black Honey about the poet Avrom Sutzkever. The program included Daniel Kahn playing several songs and an introduction to the poet’s life and work by Arndt Beck.

The marathon continued on 12 August. Not only did Paris’s Medem Library launch its annual Yiddish summer program, this year on the campus of the Freie Universität, but that same evening was also an event commemorating the darkest postwar chapter of Yiddish literature and history: the liquidation of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee – including the writers Dovid Bergelson, Perets Markish, Leyb Kvitko, Dovid Hofshteyn, and Izik Fefer.

If you have any time to spare with all the events going on, you should read Jordan Lee Schnee’s English translations of poems by Dvoyre Fogel in Asymptote or listen to Anna Rozenfeld’s recitation of them in the original.

di farbloyte feder
Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson | Arndt Beck: Di farbloyte feder

Then, on 21 August, the exhibition Di farboyte feder with Ella Ponizovsky Bergelson und Arndt Beck opened in Kreuzberg, followed by a rich two-week program of concerts, readings, and talks.