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Dr. Miriam Isaacs

‘Life Reborn’ Fellowship for the Study of Displaced Persons
"Oral Culture in Transition: The Legacy of the Benjamin Stonehill Collection"

Professional Background

Dr. Miriam Isaacs is Retired Affiliate Visiting Associate Professor of Yiddish Language and Culture, University of Maryland College Park (USA). She received her Ph.D., M.A. in Linguistics from Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y. She is a native speaker of Yiddish and has language skills in English, French, German, Modern Hebrew and Russian. Recent lectures include Hasidic Yiddish at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, 2011; teaching at Klezkamp, 2012; lecture at the Jewish Genealogic Society and at Georgetown University Center for Jewish Civilization in Washington, D.C., 2011; Scholar in Residence at the Sarasota Florida Reconstructionist Community, 2011; and a lecture at Bard College. While in residence in the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, Dr. Isaacs conducted research on her project entitled, “Oral Culture in Transition: The Legacy of the Benjamin Stonehill Collection.”

Dr. Isaacs has written many articles including the article, “Jewishness: Expression, Identity, and Representation” in Jewish Cultural Studies (2008), “La literature enfantine en Yiddish dans les communautes hassidiques americaines” in Les cahiers du judaisme (2010), “Hebrew-Yiddish Bilingualism Among Israeli Hasidic Children” in Issues in the Acquisition and Teaching of Hebrew(2009) and “Shards” in Second Generation Voices: Reflections by Children of Holocaust Survivors and Perpetrators (2001). Dr. Isaacs organized a conference on DP Camps at the University of Maryland in 1999, the first of its kind. She has also participated in a past conference held at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Life Reborn Conference: Yiddish press in a panel and a workshop on Yiddish newspapers in Yiddish in January of 2000.

Fellowship Research

For her ‘Life Reborn’ Fellowship for the Study of Displaced Persons, Dr.Isaacs analyzed the Ben Stonehill Oral History Collection held by the Museum. The Stonehill collection is powerful in that it captures the moment in which the refugees are looking back to their old homes while just newly ready to engage with their new locale in America, some having just come from DP camps. She studied this archive which contains a wealth of raw information on music, culture, dialect and most of all, on the emotional condition of the newly arrived refugees, their ordeals, their reactions to loss of home and family, and also their hopes and loyalties and even their humor and resilience. Dr. Isaacs began to organize, sort, annotate, chart, and transcribe substantial parts of this largely undeveloped audio resource. Through her work this material can be explored in thematically important ways to better understand the resilience of refugees and specifically of Survivors in Displaced Persons Camps. While at the Museum she also accessed more than thirty-three reels of microfilm containing Newspapers that were published in various Displaced Persons Camps.

Dr. Miriam Isaacs was in residence at the Center from March 1 to August 31, 2013.