Horizons Expand for TAU Summer Yiddish Program

Yiddish scholar remembered as an extraordinary researcher and teacher

The Naomi Foundation, established in the memory of Naomi Prawer Kadar, Ph.D., has provided support to expand Tel Aviv University's internationally renowned summer Yiddish program in 2012.

The summer program will include a dynamic selection of professors and visiting lecturers, workshops, evening entertainment, and conversation classes.

For five years, Tel Aviv University's summer Yiddish program has provided students from around the world with the opportunity to learn the Yiddish language and connect with Yiddish culture. As it enters its sixth summer, the program has been renamed The Naomi Prawer Kadar International Yiddish Summer Program and dedicated to the memory of Naomi Prawer Kadar, Ph.D., an American-Israeli scholar who specialized in Yiddish children's literature.

Naomi Prawer Kadar was a lifelong Yiddish educator who taught at the Tel Aviv University summer program in 2007 and 2009. The program was especially meaningful to Naomi because it combined her love of Israel and passion for Yiddish language and culture. During her private struggle with cancer, Naomi remained committed to the program, and traveling from New York to Tel Aviv to teach provided her with joy and strength. Her students felt her dedication and describe Naomi's special warmth and enthusiasm as well as her ability to make the Yiddish language come alive.

"Naomi was dedicated to improving the level of Yiddish scholarship and language study worldwide and to building community around the richness of Yiddish culture," said Avraham Kadar, M.D., Naomi's husband and President of the Naomi Foundation. "Supporting the summer program in which Naomi taught is a way for us to transmit her love and enthusiasm for Yiddish to a new generation of students and scholars, and to uphold Yiddish as a modern, relevant and culturally significant language."

In Naomi's memory, the Naomi Foundation supports the study of Yiddish, innovative teacher training, and cancer research. In past years the Naomi Foundation provided scholarships for students of the TAU summer program. The Naomi Prawer Kadar International Yiddish Summer Program is administered through Tel Aviv University's Goldreich Family Institute for Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture and supported by Beit Shalom Aleichem in Tel Aviv.

Yiddish scholars from near and far

Since its beginning, the program has been a beacon for international students. Past participants have hailed from around the globe, including Germany, Poland, Romania, Switzerland, England, Sweden, Denmark, Australia, Argentina, North America, and Japan.

"The response to the program has been astonishing," says Professor Hana Wirth-Nesher, the Director of the Institute and Co-director of the summer program with Prof. Avraham Novershtern of Beth Shalom Aleichem. Prof. Wirth-Nesher adds that each participant has a unique story and reason for wanting to learn Yiddish. "For some, including many German and Polish students, it's about their national history and collective memory. We've had students of cultural journalism, academics, people who are interested in the theatre, music, and Jewish folklore," she explains. "We've even had a Protestant minister from Basel who was a scholar of Hebrew and felt she needed to know Yiddish as well."

Planting the seeds

Quickly gaining an international reputation, the summer program put Israel, and TAU, on the map of Yiddish language and literary study. It affirmed that Israel has not turned its back on that part of the Jewish “diasporic" contribution to world literature and culture, says Prof. Wirth-Nesher. "It's not just a question of heritage, but of academic and intellectual integrity."

The seeds of Yiddish scholarship planted by the summer program have blossomed widely. In the fall, the Goldreich Family Institute will open its doors to graduate students who will be studying as part of the new Masters Program in Yiddish Literature. Funded by the Council for Higher Education in Israel and Yad Hanadiv and operated in collaboration with the Hebrew University Jerusalem and Ben Gurion University, the MA track reflects the success of the summer program and the enthusiasm of its students. TAU will be the main hub of the program, Prof. Wirth-Nesher notes.

"Students in the summer program would frequently ask us where they could continue their studies in Yiddish literature," says Prof. Wirth-Nesher. "Now, three universities are co-operating to ensure the continuation of Yiddish study for another generation — giving young researchers a chance to teach and giving Yiddish literature its proper place when it comes to literary study in Israel."

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