"The Most Mexican of Us All: Yiddish Poetics in Modern Mexico"

 Spanish and Portuguese     Oct 21 2020 | 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Zoom

Please join us for a virtual talk titled “The Most Mexican of Us All: Yiddish Poetics in Modern Mexico” by Rachelle Grossman (Harvard University) with a response by Jacobo Sefamí (UCI Department of Spanish) on October 21, 2020 at 12:00 pm PST on Zoom.

Register here to register for this webinar: (http://bit.ly/YiddishMexico)

The majority of the Ashkenazi Jewish community in Mexico immigrated in the ‘20s and ‘30s, a time that coincided with the early post-Revolutionary period. In these decades, the meaning of national belonging in modern Mexico was in flux, and politicians, intellectuals, and artists debated the boundaries of Mexican national identity in the public sphere.
While in some ways Ashkenazi Jews in Mexico benefited from a racial discourse that saw them as Europeans, their linguistic, religious, ethnic, and racial differences impeded their national belonging. This is reflected in the works of two Yiddish writers, Jacobo Glantz and Yitzjok (Isaac) Berliner, and how they incorporated local themes and styles characteristic of Mexican modernism into their Yiddish poetry.
Berliner evokes Eastern Europe in a book that interrogates themes of poverty, Catholicism, and indigeneity, illustrated—curiously—by Diego Rivera. By contrast, Glantz focuses on the character of Christopher Columbus as a symbol of creation and newness in a new world in his epic poem named for the explorer. Both echo tropes from concurrent nativizing Yiddish projects in the United States, but they do so from within a radically different context with implications and problems that speak to the specificity of the Mexican case.
In looking at the works of two poets, this talk will explore how focusing on so-called “Mexican” subject matter was a way for these poets to rhetorically write Jews into the nation while preserving Jewish difference through the use of Yiddish.

Rachelle Grossman is the 2020 recipient of New Horizons in Jewish Studies Graduate Student Essay Prize. She is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Her research is concerned with the transformation of Yiddish literature in the postwar era, with a particular focus on the activities of Yiddish presses in Latin America and in the Eastern Bloc. She holds a Master’s in Jewish Education and a Bachelor’s in Modern Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as a Bachelor’s in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.

This event is presented by UCI Center for Jewish Studies and co-sponsored by UCI Center for Latin American Studies.