Yiddish con Salsa: The Jews of Latin America, 2013

Monday, September 30, 2013 - Monday, October 28, 2013

An online course with Ilan Stavans

Registration for this event is closed. We hope you'll join us for future online courses!

"The roots of Spanish Jewry are there to be discovered – they were quiet, they were hidden, they were implicit, and only in recent years has there been an effort to connect the dots between the various diasporas and see that even though we are Yiddish speakers or we are Ladino speakers, there was something that came before that, that is also identifiable as Jewish."         -- Ilan Stavans                    

Ilan Stavans




Yiddish con salsa

Yiddish theater poster,
Buenos Aires, 1930s


Register now for this online course, and join author and cultural critic Ilan Stavans for an exploration of the complexity, the beauty, and the epic nature of Jewish life in Latin America.

Through four engaging lectures, provocative readings, archival materials, online discussion, and a live Q&A with Professor Stavans, students will learn about the unique and multifaceted role Jews have played in Latin American history and culture.


Praise for Ilan Stavans from "Yiddish con Salsa" Students:

"His lectures have beautiful breadth and depth. They are a pleasure to listen to!"

"What a fabulous teacher!"

"The four lectures were extraordinary! Outstanding!"

"Not only a brilliant scholar, but a mensch."





The details:

  • Class runs for four weeks, September 30 - October 28, 2013. Readings and interactive online discussion will be available during these four weeks only. Lectures will remain available for viewing and downloading for four additional weeks (through November 25).
  • Includes four downloadable lectures by Ilan Stavans; introduction by Aaron Lansky; suggested readings and resources; an online discussion forum; and a real-time Q&A with Professor Stavans.
  • One new lecture is posted each week. You watch and respond at your own convenience.
  • Live Q&A with Ilan Stavans: October 21 from 12-1 pm EST. For those who are unable to participate at that time, the Q&A will be recorded for subsequent viewing.
  • Cost: $100 Yiddish Book Center members & full-time students; $140 non-members. 
  • Class is not for credit.
  • Technical requirements: The Yiddish Book Center's online learning system supports all major modern internet browsers. We recommend that you use Internet Explorer 8.0, Firefox 4.0, or Google Chrome, with the latest version of Adobe Flash installed for rich media support.
  • We will be in touch with registered students before the class begins with information about how to log in and view class materials.

Join or renew your Yiddish Book Center membership now to take advantage of the member discount! 

The lectures:

Week 1 - Jews and Latinos: Unlikely Partners
An introduction to Jewish life in the Hispanic world, from its inception after the fall of the Second Temple to the present time. This lecture will concentrate on the aftermath of the 1492 expulsion from Spain and the diasporic journeys across the Americas, highlighting the social, ideological, cultural, and religious challenges Jews have faced. Several themes will be explored, including anti-Semitism, assimilation, religious fervor, the Holocaust, as well as Israel and Zionism.

Week 2 - The Converso as Metaphor: The Legacy of Secrecy
A reflection on the impact of the Spanish Inquisition on Jews in both Spain and the Americas. This lecture will examine the roots and evolution of the Inquisition, the policies of forced conversion, the emergence of a new class of citizens known as "new Christians", and the endurance of faith through secrecy. It will scrutinize the shaping of national, collective, and individual identities among Jews from 1492 until today.

Week 3 - Magical Realists with Yarmulkes: The Writer as Activist
An examination of Jewish literature in Latin America through the voices of important writers such as Alberto Gerchunoff, Jacobo Timerman, and Moacyr Scliar. This lecture will highlight the significant place these writers occupy alongside non-Jews like Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, and Mario Vargas Llosa. It will examine the tradition of activism among Jewish writers and their embrace of magical, exotic themes in their art.

Week 4 - Yiddish con Salsa: Adventures of Mame Loshn in the Hispanic World
An exploration of the linguistic journey of Jews in Spain and the Americas, starting with Spanish, Portuguese, and Ladino, and continuing to Yiddish, Hebrew, and English. This lecture focuses on the arrival of Yiddish in Argentina in the late nineteenth century. It looks at the uses of Yiddish among the immigrant generation and the strategies that subsequent generations have employed to keep the language alive. The lecture will highlight the uses of Yiddish in education, politics, and entertainment.


Professor Bio

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. Born and raised in Mexico, Stavans attended Yiddish day school with other children of Eastern European immigrants. He came to the U.S. in the 1980s as a graduate student, and is now an internationally known, award-winning cultural critic, linguist, translator, public speaker, editor, short-story writer, and TV host. His book, Return to Centro Histórico: A Mexican Jew Looks for His Roots (Rutgers), makes it possible to understand the intimate role that Jews have played in the development of Hispanic civilization. He is also the author of the memoir On Borrowed Words (Penguin), the graphic novel El Iluminado (Basic), and the children’s story Golemito (NewSouth), among other books. He edited the three-volume set of Isaac Bashevis Singer: Collected Stories for Library of America and has translated Juan Rulfo, Pablo Neruda, and Jorge Luis Borges into English.

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