We are delighted to welcome Professor Sunny Yudkoff in her new role as the director of the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture, which is now under the auspices of the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies. Founded in 2010, Mayrent is dedicated to educating students, faculty, and the wider community about the vitality of Yiddish music, literature, and art. The institute is named for Sherry Mayrent, a composer of klezmer music and an avid collector of Yiddish recordings.
Professor Yudkoff has been teaching at the UW-Madison since 2016 and has a joint appointment in the Center for Jewish Studies and the Department of German, Nordic, and Slavic. In her teaching and research, she focuses on Jewish literary production from the mid-nineteenth to twenty-first centuries. Her first book, Tubercular Capital: Illness and the Conditions of Modern Jewish Writing (published by Stanford University Press, 2019), won the Salo Wittmayer Baron Book Prize, sponsored by the American Academy for Jewish Research.
Under Professor Yudkoff’s leadership, the Mayrent Institute will offer a wide variety of events that reflect the continuing relevance of Yiddish today. Programming will introduce international musicians, artists, cultural activists, and scholars to the Madison community. Multi-day symposia will address topics such as contemporary Jewish publishing and Yiddish translation. Graduate students from across the country will gather to explore Yiddish studies collaboratively. Taken together, these events will consider Yiddish culture within the context of contemporary concerns about racial injustice, labor practices, the future of the university, and public humanities.
Professor Yudkoff is excited to be working with Mayrent to explore the content and contours of modern Yiddish culture. “The Mayrent Institute has a task that is both relevant and complicated—to dig deeply into the aesthetics, politics, and practices of Yiddish cultural activists,” she remarks. “I look forward to excavating this history, both past and present, with students, colleagues, and community members.”