The Yidisher visnshaftlekher institut, known by its acronym YIVO, was founded in 1925 as the first organization dedicated to scholarship in Yiddish and about the culture and history of Yiddish-speaking Jewry. Many argued that it could only be established in Vilna, historically a center of Jewish learning and in the interwar period a hub of secular Jewish culture sometime called „the capital of Yiddishland.” Yet its founders originally envisioned Berlin as YIVO’s home and created branches throughout the world, most importantly in New York. YIVO affiliates in Warsaw were a source of both support and persistent tension, as they championed a significantly different view of the institute’s mission. In this talk we will consider the main loci of YIVO’s work and what they can tell us about competing models of Yiddish culture, its funding base, and its relationship to the Jewish masses.
Dr Cecile E. Kuznitzis an associate professor of history and the director of Jewish Studies at Bard College. Her articles have been published in The Yivo Encyclopedia of the Jews in Eastern Europe; S. Ansky at the Turn of the Century; The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Studies; Yiddish Language and Culture: Then and Now.She has held fellowships at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and the Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. In 2014 her bookYIVO and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture was published.