Professor Tom Bird
European Languages

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.



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