Editor’s Note: Samantha Shokin, Manager of Public Programs at the Museum, recently published an article on Tablet about how she came to love Yiddish. Below, she writes about how an upcoming program at the Museum has become a personal project for her as well as a professional one.
By Samantha Shokin, Manager of Public Programs
Gearing up for next month’s Yiddish Glory performance at the Museum got me thinking a lot about my family’s relationship with Yiddish, and the historical reasons why the language had not been passed down to me from my Yiddish-speaking grandparents. In the Tablet piece, I write about my mother and aunt, who had giggled at their grandmother’s Yiddish accent while growing up in Soviet Ukraine. At first glance, this seems like a childish thing to do (and for good reason! They were mere children). But reading into it more deeply, I reflected on the fact that their impressions of Yiddish had to have been colored by anti-Yiddish sentiment, which by then had become prevalent throughout the USSR. “After WWII and the Holocaust,” I write, “Yiddish culture was irreparably damaged, and Soviet Jews abandoned their heritage language both to protect themselves from antisemitism and to better assimilate into Soviet society.”
Thankfully, Yiddish language and culture is now experiencing a tremendous revitalization, with the Grammy-nominated Yiddish Glory project as one testament to this fact. Last year, the Yiddish Glory cohort was honored with a Fiddler on the Roof award presented by the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia. In her acceptance speech, Anna Shternshis thanked the ethnomusicologist Moisei Beregovsky, who preserved the songs that Shternshis and her team resurrected 75 years later. I am thrilled that the Museum is serving as host to this important and moving program for its New York City debut.