Sunny Yudkoff named director of Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture

September 18, 2020
Sunny Yudkoff, director of Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture

We are excited to share this news from the Mosse/Weinstein Center for Jewish Studies: Professor Sunny Yudkoff has been named 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, the Mayrent Institute 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 the donor of our Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings.

Professor Yudkoff has been teaching at 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.”

We look forward to working with her as she incorporates the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings into her work! The collection is unique in its comprehensive scale and scope. The over 9,000 78rpm discs include Yiddish theater, popular and traditional music, cantorial songs, klezmer music, poetry, drama, and event ballads and from locations as diverse as the United States, Eastern Europe, Latin America, South Africa and Israel. The contents offer an unparalleled audio entrée into the vibrant, fascinating cultural practices of early- mid 20th century Yiddish life..