Teaching About Yiddish and Jewish Life Before the Holocaust

The main process guiding the evolution of this educational website was the search for a framework within which to teach language together with the life of eastern European Jews before the Holocaust. Thus, arose the concept of educational restitution, in order to rectify the difficulties in presenting Yiddish and Jewish life before the Holocaust within Jewish educational institutions and secular universities. Students consistently respond to the study of Yiddish with great enthusiasm, but Jewish educational programs remain resistant to inclusion of Yiddish.

Many sources exist to meet this teaching goal. We introduce here only a few: Rakhmiel Peltz’s Mame-Loshn: A History of Yiddish Culture, the case study of Jewish Lublin, and a short bibliography on pre-war Jewish life in Poland, including a link to the EPYC website, a project directed by Dr. Adina Cimet for YIVO.

Mame-Loshn: A History of Yiddish Culture

Mame-Loshn PDF

Updated References for Mame-Loshn PDF

Holocaust Survivors Emphasize the Salience of Jewish Life before World War II

After many years of interviewing Holocasust survivors in New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and in Israel, Rakhmiel Peltz became convinced of the centrality of their Jewish experience growing up before the war to their ongoing developing identity and raison d’etre for surviving. This was clearest in the work with survivor artist Toby Knobel Fluek, as well as in encounters with survivor artist Samuel Bak.

Pre-war Jewish Lublin, A Case Study

In the syllabus of Rakhmiel Peltz’s course, Reconstructing History After Genocide, after introducing the concepts of educational restitution, the second half of the course is dedicated to the case study of Jewish life in pre-war Lublin, Poland.

The first texts studied are poems about Lublin, written by the Yiddish poet Yankev Glatshteyn.

Afterwards, the class reads sections from the cultural history, Jewish Lublin: A Cultural Monograph by Adina Cimet, Lublin, Poland: Maria Curie-Sklodowska University Press, 2009.

Available for study are filmed classes, lectures, a tour of Jewish sites in contemporary Lublin and of the public history and culture museum in Lublin, Brama Grodzka, as well as a shared simultaneous classroom of students in Philadelphia and Lublin. 

These filmed resources developed in Philadelphia and Lublin are found under the Global Classroom page.

Sources for the Study of Pre-war Jewish Life in Poland


Dobroszycki, Lucjan, and Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett. 1977. Image Before My Eyes: A Photographic History of Jewish Life in Poland, 1864-1939. New York: Schocken Books.

Kubiszyn, Marta. 2011. Sladami Zydow Lubelszczyzna. Lublin.

Kugelmass, Jack, and Jonathan Boyarin, with Zachary M. Baker, eds. 1998. From A Ruined Garden: the Memorial Books of Polish Jewry, 2nd ed. Bloomington and Indianopolis: Indiana University Press.

Shandler, Jeffrey, ed. 2002. Awakening Lives: Autobiographies of Jewish Youth in Poland before the Holocaust. New Haven: Yale University Press and YIVO, 2002.


Image before My Eyes – A History of Jewish Life in Poland before the Holocaust. 1981. Joshua Waletzky, director; Jerome Badanes, author. 90 minutes.


EPYC: Educational Program on Yiddish Culture: A Website for Students of Jewish History and Culture in Eastern Europe. YIVO. Adina Cimet, author and educational director. http://epyc.yivo.org