Mazel Tov to Colleen McCallum-Bonar, the first person to earn a PhD in Yiddish and Ashkenazic studies from Ohio State University.
Oh, and she happens to be a 41-year-old African-American.
Her doctoral dissertation, “Black Ashkenaz and the Almost Promised Land: Yiddish Literature and the Harlem Renaissance,” compares the Yiddish-language poetry of Jewish immigrants to America and the poetry of African-American writers between 1915 and 1935.
And to apply my extremely limited Yiddish, some people are real shmucks:
McCallum-Bonar has felt all too plainly the racial divide that exists even today between the black and Jewish worlds. “You know the saying ‘Siz schwer tzu zein ein Yid?’—It’s difficult to be a Jew? It’s difficult to be a black woman studying Yiddish. There are people I’ve come across who look at me with suspicion, or will have absolutely nothing to do with me,” McCallum-Bonar said.
Though she says OSU’s Germanic Languages and Literatures department and Melton Center for Jewish Studies have given her “nothing but support,” McCallum-Bonar says she is often excluded from informal gatherings of Yiddishists at academic conferences and programs beyond Ohio State’s campus.
(Via The Forward)