David Roskies

David G. Roskies is the Sol and Evelyn Henkind Chair in Yiddish Literature and Culture and professor of Jewish Literature at The Jewish Theological Seminary.

Dr. Roskies is a cultural historian of eastern European Jewry. A prolific author, editor, and scholar, he has published nine books and received numerous awards. One major focus of his work is the Holocaust. In 1971, Dr. Roskies published Night Words: A Midrash on the Holocaust, one of the first liturgies on the subject ever to appear. Night Words has entered its fifth edition, was adapted into Hebrew, and was recently reissued by CLAL as an audiocassette. In 1984, Harvard University Press published Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture, which won the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize from Phi Beta Kappa and has since been translated into Russian and Hebrew. A companion volume, The Literature of Destruction, was published by the Jewish Publication Society in 1989. In 2007, Dr. Roskies served as the J. B. and Maurice C. Shapiro Senior Scholar-in-Residence at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is currently under contract with University Press of New England to produce Holocaust Literature: A History and Guide.

A second focus of his work, since 1975, when he coauthored The Shtetl Book: An Introduction to East European Jewish Life and Lore, has been the folklore of Ashkenazic Jewry. Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985, Dr. Roskies began studying the modern Jewish return to folklore and fantasy. The fruits of his labor are The Dybbuk and Other Writings by S. Ansky (Yale, 1992) and A Bridge of Longing: The Lost Art of Yiddish Storytelling (Harvard, 1995). A thirtieth-anniversary edition of The Shtetl Book, meanwhile, was put out by Ktav in 2005.

A third focus of Dr. Roskies' work is The Jewish Search for a Usable Past, the title of a book of related essays published in 1999. Then, in 2008, he finally tried his hand at writing a memoir. Yiddishlands: A Memoir (Wayne State University Press) is the story of modern Yiddish culture as told through the lens of family history and the medium of Yiddish song. A CD of his mother singing accompanies the volume. An interview with Dr. David Roskies about Yiddishlands, published in the Forward, can be read here.

In 1981 (with Dr. Alan Mintz), Dr. Roskies cofounded Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History, published by Indiana University Press, and has served since 1998 as editor in chief of the New Yiddish Library, published by Yale University Press. A member of the editorial board of the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization, he is hard at work on Volume IX, encompassing the years 1939 through 1973.

A native of Montreal, Canada, and a product of its Yiddish secular schools, Dr. Roskies was educated at Brandeis University, where he received his doctorate in 1975.

Published Works

Nightwords: A Midrash on the Holocaust (Learn More)

Yiddishlands: A Memoir (2008)

Sholem Aleichem: Mivhar yetisrot (2008)

The Jewish Search for a Usable Past (1999)

Against the Apocalypse (1984)

The Shtetl Book (1975, 1979, 2005)


Spring 2009

LIT/MJS 5175y: The Making of Holocaust Literature, 1945–1960

LIT 5109y: The Image of the Shtetl in Yiddish and Hebrew Fiction

Fall 2009

LIT 5217x: Schlemiels and Shlimazls: Sholem Aleichem and the Comic Tradition in Yiddish

LIT 5500x: From Kasrilevke to Coney Island: An Introduction to Yiddish Literature in Translation


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