top of page

Yiddish in Chicagoland



The Chicago YIVO Society is a local affiliate of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The mission of Chicago YIVO is to entertain and educate the local community through subsidized lectures, music programs, and film screenings that reflect the rich heritage and diversity of Jewish culture, and to ensure the future of Yiddish through language education.

Nu, Chicago, WHADDYA 
No upcoming events at the moment
Salvage Poetics  The Photographs That Helped Us Reconstruct a Lost World

Salvage Poetics The Photographs That Helped Us Reconstruct a Lost World

Lecture Presented May 15, 2022 How do American Jews “know what they think they know” about pre-Holocaust European Jewish life? The Old World in Image and Imagination. How do American Jews “know what they think they know” about pre-Holocaust European Jewish life? Chicago YIVO Society hosts this free zoom event by Dr. Sheila Jelen as she examines the role that images by photographers such as Roman Vishniac played in shaping the post-Holocaust reconstruction of that world among American Jews. What rhetorical and visual strategies were used to build bridges between different kinds of Jews in different historical moments? Sheila E. Jelen Sheila Jelen is the Zantker Professor of Jewish Literature, Culture and History at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. She is the author of Salvage Poetics: American-Jewish Post Holocaust Folk Ethnographies (2020) and Intimations of Difference: Dvora Baron in the Modern Hebrew Renaissance (2007). She has edited numerous volumes, including Reconstructing the Old Country: American Jewry in the Post-Holocaust Decades (2017), Modern Jewish Literatures: Intersections and Boundaries (2011), and Hebrew, Gender and Modernity (2007). Her work has appeared in such journals as Prooftexts, The Jewish Quarterly Review, The AJS Review, Religion and Literature, Comparative Literature Studies and Hebrew Studies. She is currently working on two books. The first, titled Israeli Salvage Poetics explores the ways in which Israeli writers and scholars have represented East European Jewish life in their work from the 1930s to the present. The second, titled Testimonial Montage: A Family of Holocaust Testimonies from the Cracow Ghetto considers, through a literary lens, the testimonies of a group of Israeli Holocaust survivors who were active in the ghetto uprising. Finally, Jelen has begun work on a project titled Images and Imaginings: Menachem Kipnis’s Photographs and Folk Stories. This work will feature both folktales collected and photographs taken by Menachem Kipnis (1878–1942), a singer, critic, photographer, and ethnographer of Yiddish song who died in the Warsaw ghetto.
Duo Controverso Klezmer Concert

Duo Controverso Klezmer Concert

Concert Presented April 24, 2022 Annette Bjorling (harp) and Kurt Bjorling (clarinet, basset-horn) present a musical journey through different eras and styles of klezmer. The program includes liturgical music, virtuosic mazltovs and celebratory dances, as well as instrumental versions of traditional folk songs. Based on research and musical exploration of traditional East European Yiddish wedding music, folk songs and liturgical pieces, Duo Controverso creates a unique soundscape, presenting a program to entertain, educate and elate listeners.. ANNETTE BJORLING, harp ”The World’s First and Only Klezmer Harpist.” Beyond merely adapting Jewish tunes to the harp, Annette creates a unique voice that fits naturally within the idiom of Yiddish music. Annette is a member of several performing groups, including the international ensemble Myridián. She was co-director of the Klezmer Orchester (Germany). She has per-formed and taught at inter-national harp conferences and music festivals in Europe and North America. Annette is a private teacher of harp, ensemble music and ethnic dance. KURT BJORLING, clarinet & basset-horn Director of the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble and a member of Brave Old World, Kurt has also toured and recorded with the Klezmatics and violinist Itzhak Perlman. He has taught klezmer music style and techniques at numerous festivals and workshops in Europe and North America, and he has composed symphonic pieces based on klezmer music. In addition to his Yiddish music, he has been active playing jazz, chamber music and various styles of ethnic music, as well as performing music for theater. Kurt studied clarinet with Lloyd Scott and Larry Combs.
Corned Beef and Camaraderie: The Jewish Deli in Chicago with Ted Merwin

Corned Beef and Camaraderie: The Jewish Deli in Chicago with Ted Merwin

Lecture Presented April 3, 2022 Few locations of Jewish life rival the delicatessen for its place in the hearts—and stomachs—of Jews in Chicagoland. Especially for those who had gravitated away from shul attendance and strict religious observance, the deli became a kind of surrogate synagogue, a home away from home where Jews of all backgrounds could nurture and sustain community over no more than a beef sandwich and a glass of chocolate or raspberry phosphate. Ted Merwin will take us from the origin of Jewish delis in Eastern Europe and their growth in New York to Chicago, following Jewish delis from Maxwell Street to Lawndale to the Gold Coast to West Rogers Park to Skokie and the northwest suburbs. His talk recovers a lost chapter of Chicago Jewish history, and considers the role that Chicago delis continue to play in the life of the city and its environs today. Ted Merwin earned a doctorate in Theatre from the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. From 2000 to 2016, he taught Judaic studies at Dickinson College (Carlisle, Pa), where he directed the Milton B. Asbell Center for Jewish Life. He now serves as Senior Writer for the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA). He is the author of two books, most recently, Pastrami on Rye: An Overstuffed History of the Jewish Deli, which won a National Jewish Book Award. His articles on Jewish culture have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Haaretz, and many other major newspapers and magazines. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and three daughters.
Image by Alfons Morales


bottom of page