Meet TAU International's
Stanford-bound Russian scholar takes a TAU detour to delve into Yiddish language and culture
With a Bachelors degree in Russian Literature and Language from Wellesley College and a Masters in European Literature from Cambridge University, Adrien Smith has a passion for all things Russian.
Originally from Massachusetts, she has lived in Russia for many years, both as a Fulbright scholar in the far north of the country and as an urbanite in the capital of Moscow. This fall, Adrien will return stateside to begin a PhD program in Stanford University in Slavic Languages and Literature — with a stop along the way at Tel Aviv University to study at The Naomi Prawer Kadar International Yiddish Summer Program headed by Professor Hana Wirth-Nesher.
As her love of Russian literature blossomed, Adrien says that she sought out an education in Yiddish language and culture to help her gain a deeper understanding of 19th and 20th century Russian writers, including a group called the "Odessa School" from the city where Yiddish language and Jewish culture have had an influential impact on Russian culture.
She chose TAU's renowned Yiddish summer program at the Goldreich Family Institute for Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture to help her prepare for her forthcoming PhD studies, a decision supported by her program director at Stanford. "There are other international programs, but I had never been to Israel before," Adrien said, explaining that it was a tempting opportunity to be immersed in another type of Jewish culture. "I am familiar with American Jewish culture and Russian Jewish culture, but not Israeli."
Through this program, her interest in Yiddish has taken on a life of its own: "The delight the teachers take in teaching Yiddish here is contagious. It makes me want to learn more and even teach it one day," says Adrien, who now envisions her Yiddish learning taking an important place alongside her academic studies rather than the supporting role she had initially intended.
Augmented by passionate teachers and outstanding cultural programming including exposure to Yiddish music, Adrien is impressed by her experience in the four week intensive program. "We are all learning together through literature, stories, conversations, and more. There is an emphasis on discovery and a feeling of always improving," she says.
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