Central & Eastern European Jewish Studies


Elizabeth Loentz, Germanic Studies
Karen Underhill, Polish, Russian, and Lithuanian Studies

This group will identify and discuss theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of Jewish history and culture in the modern period in its diverse intersections with European and global socio-cultural and historical trends.


September 10, 2019 from 6 - 7:30 PM

Narratives of Pluralism in Lithuania’s Past and Present: A Presentation and Panel Discussion with Lithuanian Poet Tomas Venclova

Jonathan Brent (Executive Director of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York)
Mindaugas Kvietkauskas (Minister of Culture of Lithuania)
Faina Kuklianksy (President of Jewsh Community of Lithuania)
Moderator: Karen Underhill (UIC)

Location: SCE Room 302, 750 South Halsted

March 2 -3, 2020

This event has been cancelled.

April 24, 2020 from 12 - 2PM

Anita Norich, University of Michigan Emeritus: Luncheon Reading and Translation Talk on Prof. Norich’s new translation of Yiddish author Kadya Molodowsky’s novel “A Jewish Refugee in New York: Rivke Zilberg’s Journal” (Indiana UP, 2019).

Erica Lehrer: Awkward Objects Of Genocide

Central & Eastern European Jewish Studies Working Group

May 3, 2019 from 3:45 – 5:30 PM

Erica Lehrer, History Department, Concordia University, Montreal
Canada Research Chair in Museum & Heritage Studies, Interdisciplinary Studies

“Awkward Objects of Genocide: Vernacular Arts, Ethnographic Museums, and Holocaust Bystander Memory in Poland”

What insights can be gleaned about Polish Holocaust memory and testimony by examining “folk art” made by Polish “vernacular” artists, documenting the German occupation of Poland? How might a range of disciplinary approaches, including art history/visual culture studies, oral history, anthropology, and museum studies, tell us about the motivations, functions, and ethical implications of such seeming “arts of witness”? Based on preliminary research, this talk considers the status of “art naïve” in the contexts of Holocaust art history; ethnographic museology; and bystander testimony.

Erica Lehrer is a sociocultural anthropologist and curator. She is currently Associate Professor in the departments of History and Sociology-Anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal, where she also is Founding Director of the Curating and Public Scholarship Lab (CaPSL). She is the author of Jewish Poland Revisited: Heritage Tourism in Unquiet Places (2013); and co-editor of Curatorial Dreams: Critics Imagine Exhibitions (2016); Jewish Space in Contemporary Poland (2015); and Curating Difficult Knowledge: Violent Pasts in Public Places (2011). She curated the exhibit Souvenir, Talisman, Toy in 2013, and in 2018 co-curated Terribly Close: Polish Vernacular Artists Face the Holocaust, both at the Kraków Ethnographic Museum.

May 3, 2019 from 3:45 – 5:30 PM

Location: room 1501 UH

A Poetry Reading and Discussion with Irena Klepfisz, Jewish Lesbian Author, Academic and Activist

March 11, 2019 from 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Irena Klepfisz is a poet, Yiddish translator and activist, and has recently retired as a scholar and teacher of Jewish Women Studies at Barnard College. She was born in 1941 in the Warsaw Ghetto, where the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising claimed the life of her father, Michal Klepfisz, a resistance fighter and a Bund activist. Klepfisz escaped with her mother to the Polish countryside where they survived the Second World War, and then moved to the United States in 1949.

Klepfisz has been active in feminist, lesbian, Jewish secular and peace organizations. She began publishing her poetry in 1971 and soon focused her research on Yiddish women writers (e.g. Kadya Molodovsky and Fradl Shtok). She co-founded the feminist literary magazine Conditions and served as the Yiddish editor of the Jewish feminist magazineBridges. She also co-edited The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Woman’s Anthology. She is the author of A Few Words in the Mother Tongue (Poetry) and Dreams of an Insomniac (Essays). While teaching Jewish Women’s Studies at Barnard College, Klepfisz also taught for ten years at a maximum security women’s prison. She received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry and was recently awarded the prestigious Adrienne Cooper Dreaming in Yiddish Award 2016.