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“MAYN YIDISHER PRONOM IZ …”: Reflections on Queer Yiddish-Language Pedagogy

Mon, December 19, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Sheraton Boston Commonwealth 3rd Floor (AV)

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


Despite the contemporary flourishing of Queer YIDISHKEYT, most Yiddish pedagogy does not yet reflect Queer Yiddish language and culture. What is the state of Queer Yiddish in Yiddish pedagogy? How can Yiddish pedagogical materials be inclusive of Queer identities? What are some approaches to teaching new vocabularies that are both thriving and transforming?

This roundtable explores opportunities to center Queer cultures and vocabularies in Yiddish language pedagogy. Responding to the Yiddish pedagogical supplement “UNDZER MISHPOKHE: A Queer Yiddish Curriculum Supplement” (Bach, Araten, Levin, and Beard, IN GEVEB 2022) as a point of departure, this roundtable brings together Queer activists, language instructors, and current Yiddish students to discuss how Yiddish pedagogy might be inclusive of Queer language and culture.

Roundtable discussants include, in alphabetical order: Rebecca Araten (undergraduate, Harvard), contributor to “UNDZER MISHPOKHE,” who will speak to her experiences of integrating Queer vocabulary with Yiddish language and culture pedagogy as a student; Alona Bach (PhD student, MIT), illustrator of and lead contributor to “UNDZER MISHPOKHE,” who will speak to the development process of these and similar pedagogical materials from a design perspective; Sasha Berenstein (independent Yiddish teacher and Queer Yiddish activist, author of the path-paving “List of Yiddish Transgender/Nonbinary Terms”), who will discuss the ongoing language evolution emerging from Queer Yiddish communities; Reb Noyekh (independent Yiddish teacher and Queer Yiddish activist, author of forthcoming “Gay Yiddish” textbook), who will speak to his communicative approach to teaching Queer self-expression in Yiddish; and Asya Vaisman Schulman, director of the Yiddish Language Institute at the Yiddish Book Center and lead author of the IN EYNEM Yiddish textbook, who will discuss language curriculum development and pedagogical training.

The conversation will be moderated by Carolyn Beard (PhD student, Toronto), contributor to “UNDZER MISHPOKHE,” who will facilitate conversation and speak to the challenges of the student experience with Yiddish pedagogy that excludes Queer language and culture.

Questions for discussion include:

- What is the role of the gender binary in contemporary Yiddish (YIVO Standard and Hasidic)? How is Yiddish language and vocabulary around gender evolving? [Berenstein]
- What is the state of Queer Yiddish in Yiddish pedagogy, both in academic and community language-learning spaces? What is the relationship between Queer Yiddish pedagogy and the academic study of Queer YIDISHKEYT/YIDDISHKEIT? Are the two in conversation? [R’ Noyekh]
- To what extent are approaches to teaching Queer vocabularies in other language contexts transferable to the Yiddish classroom? Does Yiddish language and culture present unique challenges to and opportunities for the inclusion of Queer language and culture? [Schulman]
- What are approaches to teaching burgeoning and transforming new vocabularies? [Schulman, R’ Noyekh, Berenstein]
- How can we design Yiddish pedagogical materials to be inclusive of queer identities? [Bach and Araten]
- How can we cultivate learning environments that are inclusive of Queer identities, language, and culture? [All]

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