Rice conference to explore Yiddish language, culture and identity March 19-20


David Ruth

Jeff Falk

Rice conference to explore Yiddish language, culture and identity March 19-20

HOUSTON – (March 1, 2016) – Leading international scholars will gather at Rice University March 19-20 for “Inside/Outside Yiddish,” a conference that will explore the Yiddish language, culture and identity through its storied history. 

Credit: shutterstock.com/Rice University

Credit: shutterstock.com/Rice University

Hosted by Rice’s Minter Chair in the Humanities, Program in Jewish Studies and Humanities Research Center, the conference is free and open to the public. All conference presentations will be in the Humanities Building, Room 117, 6100 Main St. The conference will also include a screening of the film “The Muses of Isaac Bashevis Singer” at 6 p.m. March 19 at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center of Houston, 5601 S. Braeswood Blvd. The screening will feature a Q-and-A session with the film’s director, Asaf Galay.

Notable conference presenters include Jean Baumgarten, scholar of medieval Yiddish and director of research at Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris, and Emile Schrijver, general director of the Jewish Historical Museum and the Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam. For the full conference agenda and list of speakers, go to http://jewishstudies.rice.edu/Yiddish-Conference.     

Yiddish was once the international language of Ashkenazic Jews (the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and their descendants). It is a fusion language that incorporates grammatical and lexical elements of many European languages as well as Hebrew and Aramaic.

At its height less than a century ago, Yiddish was understood by an estimated 11 million of the world’s 18 million Jews, and many of them spoke Yiddish as their primary language. Today less than a quarter of a million people in the United States speak Yiddish, about half of them in New York City. But in recent years, Yiddish has experienced a resurgence and is now being taught at many universities, according to conference organizers.

The conference is being organized by Rice’s Diane Wolfthal, the David and Caroline Minter Chair in the Humanities and professor of art history, and Melissa Weininger, the Anna Smith Fine Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies.

Members of the media who want to cover the conference must RSVP to Jeff Falk, associate director of national media relations at Rice, at 713-348-6775 or jfalk@rice.edu.

Media are advised to park in the Founder’s Court Visitor Lot near Lovett Hall. For a map of Rice’s campus, go to www.rice.edu/maps/maps.html.


Follow Rice News and Media Relations via Twitter @RiceUNews.

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,910 undergraduates and 2,809 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for best quality of life and for lots of race/class interaction by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/AboutRiceUniversity.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.