History of Yiddish at UW

by CJS Admin

1890: Jewish immigrants who begin to arrive in Madison are almost entirely Yiddish speakers.

1915: A Madison chapter of the Workmen’s Circle, a Jewish socialist-Yiddishist society, was established alongside an Orthodox synagogue, several fraternal societies and charitable organizations, and one of the oldest chapters of Haddassah.

1916: The first Yiddish class on any U. S. college campus was taught at UW–Madison.

1924 – 1930: UW–Madison becomes the site of the country’s second Hillel Foundation chapter, and during an era of quotas on Jewish attendance at public and private schools in the East, the University of Wisconsin welcomed Jewish students from far and wide and became known as a popular destination for Jewish undergraduates by 1930.

1930s: Courses on Yiddish literature attract growing numbers of students, a phenomenon which continues through the present day.

1980s: Former UW–Madison Chancellor Carolyn “Biddy” Martin served as a teaching assistant for one of these courses while she was a graduate student in the German department.

1983: Irving Saposnik begins teaching Yiddish literature in translation at the UW Madison.

1995: Yid Vicious, a band known for their blend of traditional and contemporary klezmer music, founded in Madison.

2003: As part of his Arts Residency Program, Madison musician Ben Sidran invites the traditional Yiddish ensemble Hank Sapoznik and the Youngers of Zion to UW-Madison.

2004: Mark Louden, professor of German and affiliate in the Center for Jewish Studies at UW-Madison, teaches first Yiddish language class.

2009: Henry Sapoznik comes to UW as Arts Institute Interdisciplinary Artist in Residence and brings KlezKamp Road Show to Madison.

2010: Establishment of the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture with $1 million endowment from Sherry Mayrent and Carol Master; Henry Sapoznik hired as director of the Institute.

2011: First Madison KlezKamp runs concurrently with Greenfield Summer Institute, and UW undergraduates establish the student Yiddish Culture Club.