Voices from the Shtetl: The Yiddish Memories Project

“Beginning in 2002, scholars, librarians, and archivists at Indiana University, Bloomington, embarked on a systematic effort to document the Yiddish language as it is spoken in its Eastern European heartland. Their project is called The Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories or AHEYM, a word which means “homeward” in Yiddish.  Over a ten-year period–and with support from two NEH grants–the project team, led by linguist Dov-Ber Kerler and historian Jeffrey Veidlinger, conducted interviews with some 380 elderly Yiddish speakers in Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia. Particular attention was given to the denizens of the shtetls–the small towns in which most East European Jews had lived in the 19th and early 20th centuries, before millions responded to the call of the metropolis, departed for America and other lands, or were murdered by the Nazi Germans and their collaborators during the Holocaust.  It was in these small, tightly knit communities that many of the defining features of Yiddish culture took shape–its traditional cuisine, music, art, theater, architecture, and religious practices.” (via NEH.

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