To secure the future of Yiddish at the University of Texas at Austin, the Schusterman Center for Jewish Studies and the Department of Germanic Studies have launched a campaign to create an endowment for the Yiddish Language and Culture Program at the University. UT Austin.
A strong financial foundation will enable the program to recruit and retain the best scholars in the field and strengthen UT Austin’s reputation as a center of excellence in research and teaching of Yiddish language and culture.
The Yiddish Language and Culture program has been part of UT Austin’s Germanic Studies department since the late 1970s. Since then, it has produced undergraduate and graduate students who have become important personalities Yiddish and Jewish academics and cultures.
Now entering its fourth decade, it is the only Yiddish language program in the American Southwest and, therefore, a regional hub in a larger peer network of North America’s most prestigious universities. These include Harvard, Yale, University of Michigan, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UCLA, Emory, University of Chicago, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Toronto, among others.
The Yiddish Language and Culture Program is an invaluable hub within UT Austin that connects scholars from all academic units and disciplines, including archivists and curators working with the Yiddish collections at the Harry Ransom Center.
In March 2022, an international conference at UT Austin, “New Perspectives on IB Singer,” was organized around IB Singer’s papers, held at the Ransom Center. It was sponsored by the Schusterman Center and brought together Yiddish scholars from around the world.
The Yiddish instructor at UT Austin since 2014 is Dr. Itzik Gottesman, a specialist in Jewish folklore. In 2015, in a segment called “Yiddish Is Alive Deep in the Heart of Texas”, his Yiddish lesson was featured on CBS’ “Sunday Morning”. In addition to language, Dr. Gottesman also teaches courses in Jewish folklore, immigrant Jewish culture, and Jewish humor.
The number of Yiddish speakers is growing globally and will continue to do so for the next 50 years. Yiddish speakers are found in almost every Jewish community around the world, including Dallas, Houston, and Austin. With the resources offered by a Yiddish Language and Culture Endowment, UT Austin will be well positioned to continue its leadership role in the study of Yiddish.