MLA Prize in Yiddish-Mark Slobin Receives Honorable Mention


New York, NY-2 December 2008-The Modern Language Association of America today announced it is awarding its fourth Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies for an outstanding scholarly study in the field of Yiddish to Gabriella Safran, of Stanford University, and Steven J. Zipperstein, of Stanford University, for The Worlds of S. An-sky: A Russian Jewish Intellectual at the Turn of the Century, published by Stanford University Press.  Chana Mlotek, of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and Mark Slobin, of Wesleyan University, will receive honorable mention for Yiddish Folksongs from the Ruth Rubin Archive, published by Wayne State University Press.  The prize is awarded each even-numbered year and is awarded alternately to an outstanding translation of a Yiddish literary work or an outstanding scholarly work in English in the field of Yiddish.  Safran and Zipperstein will each receive a certificate and a check in the amount of $500. Mlotek and Slobin will each receive a certificate.

The Fenia and Yaakov Leviant Memorial Prize in Yiddish Studies is one of sixteen awards that will be presented on 28 December 2008 during the association’s annual convention, to be held this year in San Francisco.  The members of this year’s Leviant Prize Selection Committee were Joseph Landis (Queens Coll.); David G. Roskies (Jewish Theological Seminary); and Nina Warnke (Univ. of Texas), chair.  The selection committee’s citation for the winning title reads:

Gabriella Safran and Steven J. Zipperstein’s  scrupulously edited, multidisciplinary volume represents the fullest exploration of S. An-sky’s complex life, work, and legacies to date. It includes a wide range of essays by leading scholars of their fields, a translation of an early Russian manuscript of The Dybbuk, and a CD with some of An-sky’s field recordings and modern recordings of judiciously rendered songs that An-sky collected and created. With its wide spectrum of scholarly perspectives it makes a significant contribution to the fields of Yiddish and Jewish studies and will be a fundamental resource for any scholar of An-sky and Russian-Jewish culture at the turn of the last century. This ambitious volume raises the bar for future multidisciplinary collections.

Gabriella Safran is an associate professor in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford University.  She received her BA from Yale University and her PhD from Princeton University.  Her publications include Rewriting the Jew: Assimilation Narratives in the Russian Empire, which received the Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Studies in Slavic Languages and Literatures, the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages’ Best Book in Literary or Cultural Studies award, and a National Jewish Book Award.  She is the coeditor, with Lazar Fleishman and Michael Wachtel, of Word, Music, History: A Festschrift for Caryl Emerson and, with Benjamin Nathans, of Culture Front: Representing Jews in Eastern Europe.  Her essays have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Prooftexts, Modernity/Modernism, Russian Review, and Slavic Review.  In 2007, she received the Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Steven J. Zipperstein is Daniel E. Koshland Professor in Jewish Culture and History at Stanford University.  During academic year 2008-09, he was Harvard University’s Gerald Weinstock Visiting Professor of Jewish History, and this year he is Schuyler Fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Before coming to Stanford, Zipperstein taught at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies and at UCLA.  His first book, The Jews of Odessa: A Cultural History, 1794-1881, won the Smilen Prize, and his second book, Elusive Prophet: Ahad Ha’am and the Origins of Zionism, won the National Jewish Book Award.  He is also the author of Imagining Russian Jewry: Memory, History, Identity and Rosenfeld’s Lives: Fame, Oblivion, and the Furies of Writing, which will be published in 2009. He has coedited four volumes, including, with Jonathan Frankel, Assimilation and Community: The Jews in Nineteenth-Century Europe.  He is coeditor of the journal Jewish Social Studies: History, Culture, and Society.  He is president of the Conference on Jewish Social Studies and has received the Judah L. Magnes Gold Medal from the American Friends of the Hebrew University and the Koret Prize for outstanding contributions to Jewish life.

The selection committee’s citation for the honorable mention reads:

Ruth Rubin’s singular dedication to fieldwork over a lifetime, and her commitment to keeping it simple, in the spirit of the culture bearers themselves, produced a lasting and authentic corpus. Chana Mlotek and Mark Slobin deserve praise for this meticulously edited work of Rubin’s manuscript. They avoided the pitfall of hagiography: where her theoretical or metahistorical pronouncements were out of date, they admit as much. Where Rubin showed her particular strength, they applaud her. The song texts and melodies can and will be mined by scholars for linguistic, ethnomusicological, and historic purposes and for gender, cultural, and aesthetic perspectives.

Chana Mlotek is the music archivist at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and an editor for the Yiddish Forward.  She is editor or coeditor of Perl fun der yidisher poezye, Favorite Yiddish Songs (Mir trogn a gezang), Pearls of Yiddish Song, Songs of Generations, Yomtevdike teg: Songbook for the Jewish Holidays, Twenty-Five Ghetto Songs (25 Geto-lider), and We Are Here: Forty Songs of the Holocaust.  She is also coeditor of YIVO Bibliography, Volume 2 and the YIVO journal Yidisher Folklor and compiled A List of Fifty-Five Yiddish Records and Index of Five Hundred Recorded Songs.  Mlotek is the recipient of life achievement awards from the Milken Archive of Jewish Music and Jewish Theological Seminary and the Workmen’s Circle.  She received the Performing Arts Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the Atran Prize of the Congress for Jewish Culture, and awards from the New York Folklore Society, YIVO Klezkamp, and Klezkanada.

Mark Slobin is a professor of music at Wesleyan University, where he has taught since 1971.  He received his BA, MA, and PhD from the University of Michigan.  He is the author or editor of fifteen books, including Fiddler on the Move: Exploring the Klezmer World and Tenement Songs: Popular Music of the Jewish Immigrants, both of which received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award.  Chosen Voices: The Story of the American Cantorate was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award.  His most recent book is Global Soundtracks: Worlds of Film Music.  He has been president of the Society for Ethnomusicology and of the Society for Asian Music.

The MLA, the largest and one of the oldest American learned societies in the humanities (est. 1883), promotes the advancement of literary and linguistic studies. The 30,000 members of the association come from all fifty states and the District of Columbia, as well as from Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.  PMLA, the flagship journal of the association, has published distinguished scholarly articles for over one hundred years.  Approximately 9,500 members of the MLA and its allied and affiliate organizations attend the association’s annual convention each December.  The MLA is a constituent of the American Council of Learned Societies and the International Federation for Modern Languages and Literatures.

Established in 2000 by the family of Fenia and Yaakov Leviant, the award honors those writers who have published an English translation of Yiddish literary works and scholars who have written a cultural study or critical biography in the field of Yiddish or edited a work on Yiddish folklore or linguistics.  Previous winners of the prize are Joseph Sherman (2002), Dov-Ber Kerler (2004), Amelia Glaser (2006), and Goldie Morgentaler (2006).