Viskonsin! Tales from Yiddish Wisconsin

The Mayrent Institute is proud to announce an exciting new project: Viskonsin! Tales from Yiddish Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Workmen's Circle, Courtesy of Milwaukee Jewish Museum

Milwaukee Workmen’s Circle, Courtesy of Milwaukee Jewish Museum

With this project, we seek to uncover the hidden history of Yiddish culture in Wisconsin and throughout the upper Midwest.

Several great projects document the history of Jewish Wisconsin, but they tend to relate Yiddish experience as a small part of a much larger and longer scope. Viskonsin seeks to dig deeper to truly focus Midwestern Yiddish culture, a story that is waiting to be found and retold. It might be buried in the columns of cracked old Yiddish newsprint now found only on archival microfilm, in yellowed letters written in tiny Yiddish handscript tucked in amongst forgotten books in the attic, or even in an oft-repeated anecdote by a beloved elder relative. These individual stories make up small parts of a large and varied mosaic of Yiddish life and lore that happened not all that long ago.

Our project has three facets:

  1. Collection: We are excited to gather together primary sources from our community that will help us tell this story. Stories, pictures, artifacts, and other primary sources, as well as doing various kinds of research, to deepen our knowledge about Yiddish Wisconsin.
  2. Research: Our goal in gathering together both resources and scholars is to build upon what research exists while supporting new inquiry.
  3. Programming: Our March 2014 symposium, along with other presentations around the state, will both inform audiences and stimulate conversation that can generate yet more work on the subject.


Join us on March 28, 2014 for a symposium on the UW-Madison campus, Memorial Library room 126. Our day-long program will include presentations based on deep scholarly research as well as community oral history panels.

On the evening of Wednesday, March 26, we’ll dip into the tradition of community choral singing with a performance and sing-along featuring the Madison Yiddish Choir.

More information about the symposium, including the call for papers, available here.

This project is in its infancy, and we’re reaching out to the community to help it grow. If you’ve got stories, photos, or other artifacts that might help us tell the story of Yiddish Wisconsin, please be in touch!

Image courtesy of Jewish Museum Milwaukee

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