Collections: Project AHEYM (Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeffrey Veidlinger) - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

AHEYM: The Archive of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories (2002-2009)

home collections


Professors Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeffrey Veidlinger interviewing Nokhem Gvinter in Bershad, Ukraine, 2008. Image © The AHEYM Project.

The Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories (AHEYM—the acronym means "homeward" in Yiddish) includes approximately 800 hours of Yiddish-language interviews with 350 individuals, most of whom were born between 1900 and 1930. The interviews were conducted in Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, Hungary, and Slovakia. The interviews include:

  1. linguistic and dialectological data;
  2. oral histories of Jewish life in Eastern Europe;
  3. Holocaust testimonials;
  4. musical performances (including Yiddish folk songs, liturgical and Hasidic melodies, and macaronic songs);
  5. folklore, including anecdotes, jokes, stories, children's ditties, folk remedies, and Purim plays;
  6. reflections on contemporary Jewish life in the region, and;
  7. guided tours by local residents of sites of Jewish memory in the region.

In the period before the Second World War, much of the Jewish population of Eastern Europe lived in small towns, or shtetls, scattered throughout the Soviet Union, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, parts of Hungary, and Czechoslovakia. In the aftermath of the war, however, surviving Jews abandoned the shtetls and the Yiddish language and found instead a future in the larger metropolises, where they lost many of the local customs, beliefs and practices that had defined Jewish identity in the prewar shtetl. There were, however, many Jews who remained in the small towns of Eastern Europe. Some returned from evacuation after the war, others came out of hiding, and some literally crawled out of mass graves to reclaim their lives. This population group that remained in their native region is the subject of the Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories.

Yiddish language and culture are intricately intertwined with the Eastern European shtetl from which they emerged. The language itself is a fusion language incorporating Hebrew, Aramaic and Slavic components into a predominantly Germanic structure, and is intimately association with other defining characteristics of Yiddish culture—its cuisine, music, plastic art, theater, and architecture—all of which are as much products of small-town Eastern Europe as they are of the traditional Jewish religious way of life. Whether it is borsht, klezmer, Jewish humor, Chagall or wooden synagogues, contemporary notions of Yiddish culture are inseparable from the territory of Eastern Europe in general and the shtetl in particular. Although literary Yiddish and highbrow Yiddish culture is most saliently a product of the city, and particularly major metropolitan areas like Vilnius, Warsaw, Kiev, and Odessa, it is the experience of the shtetl that has most captured public imagination.

The interviews address issues of Jewish life cycles, family structure, religious observance, community organization, cultural activities, education, health, recreation, cuisine, folklore, language, and linguistics. At the same time, they document and trace dialectological data in order to establish more accurate isoglosses in an effort to map out the historical division of Yiddish dialects, and to retrace the development of the Yiddish language and the dynamics of interregional connections via the spread of Hasidism, Enlightenment, and modernization.

To facilitate cataloging and discovery, this large collection has been divided the Archives of Traditional Music into subcollections by locality.

This collection is currently in production and is not yet available to the public.

Project AHEYM (Dov-Ber Kerler and Jeffrey Veidlinger) Researchers:

Dov-Ber Kerler holds the Dr. Alice Field Cohn Chair in Yiddish Studies and is Professor of Jewish Studies and Germanic Studies at Indiana University. His major field of interest is the dialectology, sociology and linguistic analysis of Yiddish. He is the author of The Origins of Modern Literary Yiddish (Oxford, 1999) and various papers and articles on Yiddish language, dialectology, and literary history. He is Co-editor of Oxford Yidish – Studies in Yiddish Language, Literature and Folklore (in Yiddish, Oxford 1995), and Yerusholaimer Almanakh, Annual for Yiddish Literature and Culture (Jerusalem 1993-1996, and 2003); and Editor of The Politics of Yiddish, Studies in Language, Literature and Society (Walnut Creek—London—New Delhi 1998), and History of Yiddish Studies (Chur—London—Paris—New York 1991).

Jeffrey Veidlinger is Professor of History and Jewish Studies, Director of the Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program and Alvin H. Rosenfeld Chair in Jewish Studies at Indiana University. Veidlinger's first book, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage, won a National Jewish Book Award and the Barnard Hewitt Award in Theatre Studies. His second book, Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire was published in 2009 by Indiana University Press. He is currently working on a book manuscript entitled Shadows of the Shtetl: Jewish Memory in Eastern Europe. In 2006, Professor Veidlinger was named a Top Young Historian by History News Network.

Moisei Lemster is Senior Bibliographer of "The Index of Yiddish Periodicals" project at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Director of the H. Leyvik Yiddish Publishing House, and the Chief Archivist of the Association of Yiddish Writers and Journalists. Before immigrating to Israel in 2000, Dr Lemster served as Director of the International Summer School in Yiddish Language and Jewish Culture in Chişinău; as a Senior Lecturer in Yiddish Language, Literature and Pedagogy at Moldova State University; and as a researcher in the Academy of Sciences of Moldova, specializing in the history of Bessarabian Jews. He is, perhaps, best known as the Host and Director of a bi-weekly Yiddish television series on Moldovan State Television that ran from 1992-2000.

Dovid Katz is Professor at Vilnius University, and research director at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, is a specialist on Yiddish linguistics, literature and stylistics, and Lithuanian Jewish culture and literature. His books include Lithuanian Jewish Culture (2004), Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish (2007), Windows to a Lost Jewish Past: Vilna Book Stamps (2008) and Seven Kingdoms of the Litvaks (2009). He has published dozens of papers in Yiddish linguistics and on Yiddish stylistics.

Copyright © 2001-2017 The Trustees of Indiana University | Copyright Complaints. Address comments to eviada@indiana.edu PARTICIPANT LOGIN