Through the good offices
of Professor Joseph C. Landis, the indefatigable first Director
of Jewish Studies at Queens College, I had the pleasure and privilege
of meeting Isaac Bashevis Singer, Avrom Sutzkever, Chaim Grade,
Chone Shmeruk, Ida Kaminska, Itche Goldberg, and Elias Schulman.
They opened the world of Askenazic Jewry to me and I enrolled in
the Jewish Teachers Seminary and the Uriel Weinreich Program at
Columbia University,co-sponored by the YIVO Institute. Yudl Mark,
Chaim Kazhdan, Shmuel Lapin, and - above all - Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter
- were my mentors in the arena of Yiddish Studies.
Several of these major figures made me aware of the tendency in
the West to minimize the value of Soviet Yiddish writing - partly
from political bias and partly from a lack of acquaintance with
the canon. I became persuaded that this nationally-conscious Jewish
literature had, in fact, attempted to maintain the Jewish heritage
under utterly hostile conditions.
This conclusion, over the past twenty years, led me to focus on
Yiddish literature, especially in its Soviet context. My courses
have included the first three semesters of Yiddish language, a course
on Soviet Yiddish Literature, another on The Image of the Jew in
Russian Literature; and a two-semester course: The Jews in Tsarist
Russia; and The Jewish Communities of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991.
Institutionally, I have served as Director and Co-Director of the Jewish Studies
Program at Queens College, CUNY; a member of the editorial board
of Yidishe shprakh; as secretary and chairman of the Yiddish Section
of the Modern Language Association, and as Treasurer and Vice-President
of The League for Yiddish
My surveys, reviews, critical articles, and translations
of Yiddish language and literature have appeared in Encyclopedia
of World Literature in the 20th Century, Leksikon fun nayer yidisher
literatur, Afn shvel, The Modern Language Journal, Soviet Jewish
Affairs, Jewish Currents, World Literature Today, Yidishe kultur,
Yugntruf, The Night of the Murdered Poets, Britannica Book of the
Year, and BeyleSchaechter-Gottesman's Lider.