“Why Are You Silent to Our Enemies, Dear God?”: Music Facing the Holocaust
Prisoners in ghettos in Romanian-occupied Ukraine created nigunim and amateur Yiddish songs addressing their plight. Based on recently discovered documents and audio recordings in the Ukrainian National Library in Kiev, this lecture discusses evocative pieces that circulated in the ghettos of Bershad, Mohyliv-Podil'skyi, Kopai, and Shargorod from 1941 to 1944.
About the Series "Songs without Words: Nigunim over Time"
Judaism has a musical tradition of tunes sung repetitively without words. These melodies, called nigunim, are as open to new interpretation as they are evocative of past worlds. This series of online lectures follows the winding paths of nigunim and their singers, from the earliest Hasidic Jews to contemporary professional musicians. They will bring to life musical worlds ranging from the synagogue to Spotify, showing how men and women have adapted the tradition for ritual, emotional expression, and art.
University of Toronto
Anna Shternshis is the Al and Malka Green Professor in Yiddish Studies and director of the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. She is the author of Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923–1939 (Indiana UP, 2006) and When Sonia Met Boris: An Oral History of Jewish Life under Stalin (Oxford UP, 2017), and most recently co-author (together with Oleg Budnitsky, David Engel, and Gennady Estraikh) of Jews in the Soviet Union: A History: War, Conquest, and Catastrophe, 1939–1945 (New York UP, 2022). Together with artist Psoy Korolenko, Shternshis created and directed the Grammy-nominated Yiddish Glory project, an initiative that brought back to life forgotten Yiddish music written during the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. A recipient of a 2020 Guggenheim Fellowship, she is currently working on a book about Yiddish music created in Nazi-occupied Ukraine tentatively titled Last Yiddish Heroes: A Lost and Found Archive of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union.
Cosponsored by the Lowell Milken Center for Music of American Jewish Experience at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Klatt Family and the Harry Stern Family Foundation.