Series will explore the work of Yiddish modernist writer Moyshe Kulkbak over four virtual lectures Nov.-Dec.

The Moscow-based education initiative Eshkolot will host a series of four virtual lectures, in English, by Prof. Marc Caplan of Dartmouth College in November and December, exploring Yiddish writer Moyshe Kulbak’s seminal ballad sequence, “Raysn,” which addresses the Belarussian-Jewish experience. This series is supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group, and will feature four separate events:

  • Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. (Moscow), 7 p.m. (Israel), 12 p.m. (EST), 5 p.m. (London), 6 p.m. (Berlin)
  • Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. (Moscow), 7 p.m. (Israel), 12 p.m. (EST), 5 p.m. (London), 6 p.m. (Berlin)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 8 p.m. (Moscow), 7 p.m. (Israel), 12 p.m. (EST), 5 p.m. (London), 6 p.m. (Berlin)
  • Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. (Moscow), 7 p.m. (Israel), 12 p.m. (EST), 5 p.m. (London), 6 p.m. (Berlin)

If you would like to attend, please register here.

“With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to invest in new ways to develop knowledge, comprehension and a sense of shared identity among the Jewish diaspora in and beyond the former Soviet Union,” said Marina Yudborovsky, CEO of Genesis Philanthropy Group. “That includes this exciting and engaging course on the history, culture and literature of Belarussian Jewry. We believe audiences will find it as entertaining as it is informative and very accessible, as it will be held in English.”

The series will cover the paradoxes that structure “Raysn” – which is an archaic Yiddish name for Belarus – in linguistic, cultural and historical terms to understand why it deserves a central place in Yiddish literature. The poem, published in 1922, defies many expectations for interwar Yiddish writing: it is set in the countryside, rather than the shtetl; its Jewish protagonists are a family of farmers, rather than Torah scholars or artisans; there are few references to traditional religious culture; and the pivotal incident of a Jewish man’s love affair with a non-Jewish woman is passed over seemingly without moral judgement by the author.

Kulbak (1896-1937) was one of the most innovative and original Yiddish writers of his time. Prof. Caplan, who is an author an expert on Yiddish modernism, will address different themes in each lecture, over four weeks. He also led another mini course, “Berlin as the Capital of Yiddish Modernism,” during the Festival of Jewish Texts and Ideas Metropolis in Berlin in November 2019.

Eshkolot, which is hosting this series, is an educational initiative focused on providing Moscow’s young people the ability to take part in structured text-based Jewish study programs. Often using an “edu-tainment” format, Eshkolot promotes traditional and modern Jewish and Israel study in a open and engaging manner. Eshkolot’s programs are geared to a wide and diverse audience, targeting those with an interest in Jewish study of all ages and background.