Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Ruth Meltzer Fellowship 

Research Topic

Old Hasidic Nigunim: Aesthetics and Semiotics  


Michael Lukin studies the traditional culture of Yiddish speakers from ethnomusicological, folkloristic, and historical perspectives. His research explores the semiotics of various musical genres, encounters with non-Jewish traditions, and the politics of Yiddish folklore scholarship. At the Katz Center, he will analyze the older layers of the Hasidic paraliturgical wordless chants (nigunim), aiming to outline their regional and Jewish contexts, their ties with other musical genres prominent among Yiddish speakers, and their musical semantics. Lukin completed his Ph.D. at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem with a dissertation titled “The Yiddish Folk Song: Poetics and Music.” He has previously been a Polonsky Fellow at Oxford and a Mandel-Scholion postdoctoral fellow at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; he has taught at The Hebrew University and Bar-Ilan University.    

Selected publications

“At the Crossroads: The Early Modern Yiddish Folk Ballad,” Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 40.2 (2022).  

“Servant Romances: Eighteenth-Century Yiddish Lyric and Narrative Folk Songs,” Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry 32 (2020).



This year is devoted to the study of sound and music as a part of Jewish life, and we are delighted to announce the cohort of scholars who will join us for a year of research, conversation, and engagement with the Penn community and with the public.