After authoring the book on Litvak culture for the Lithuanian section at the February 2009 Jerusalem Book Fair, the editor of this website who is the founding professor of Yiddish at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute, declined to attend to chair the Yiddish culture session, when he was told not to bring to the fair Dr. Rachel Margolis, resident in Rechovot. Dr. Margolis is one of the heroic Jewish partisans defamed by the Double Genocide industry.
The Lithuanian government unit running these affairs rapidly replaced him with Dov-Ber Kerler, the Alice Field Cohen professor at the Borns Jewish Studies program at Indiana University (Bloomington), who did not have time to keep a promise to visit with Dr. Rachel Margolis in Rechovot, as a symbol of moral support for the accused Holocaust Survivors. The complete program of events paid for by the Lithuanian government is here (but note that contrary to the published-for-PR schedule, Yitzhak Arad did not — as a matter of principle — appear at the event).
Press reports on the ‘Book Fair Affair’
Within a matter of months, the Indiana export was persuaded to join a plan to dismiss Professor Dovid Katz, the VYI’s Yiddish professor, who had been his own doctoral dissertation supervisor at Oxford in the 1980s and a referee for his Bloomington post, but was now, as professor of Yiddish in Vilnius the target of the far-right antisemitic establishment in Lithuania for having mounted a defense for the accused Lithuanian Holocaust Survivors. At the 2009 Vilnius summer course, Prof. Kerler presided without public comment, as his one-time teacher, who brought him to Oxford in 1984, was purged from lists of Yiddish Institute staff and was giving lectures on Holocaust Obfuscation at private apartments (details here, reported also in the Guardian and the Nation).
“It’s a kind of post Cold War story. Even as the Soviet born guy was knifing his own former supervisor to destroy his career, in return for a summer-fun life in Vilnius, the naive old American teacher was writing one article of praise after another, proud of his former student’s achievements. But for the former student, it seems that one tenured American professorship at a top university was just not enough.”
The Soviet-style intrigue against one’s own doctoral dissertation supervisor, in service to Jewish-issue-manipulating political operatives in an East European country, is apparently unprecedented even in the unstable milieu of Yiddish studies. The previous summer, the Bloomington-AHEYM Yiddish professor’s former doctoral supervisor had published a tribute to him and his late parents, Josef and Anya Kerler (part I here; part II here). Josef Kerler was a major twentieth century Yiddish poet and proud World War II Soviet army veteran wounded in the war against Hitler. Anya Kerler was a Holocaust Survivor.
In the formal proposal prepared, the Indiana Yiddishist amazingly claims most of the credit for building up the VYI’s Yiddish programs in Vilnius, Lithuania, from 1998 onward (on the basis of employment as an instructor brought over for a few short courses during the eleven year period covered).
The formal proposal even presumes the misappropriation of thousands of hours of taped Yiddish interviews with survivors (presumably for the AHEYM project archives) that are the intellectual property of the professor (who was not informed that these negotiations were underway) who was being removed by the agreement of the two institutions at the behest of the Lithuanian far-right nationalist establishment. The AHEYM project is sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).
At the initiation of the AHEYM project in 2002, Indiana University (Borns Jewish Studies program at Bloomington) dispatched staff to Prof. Katz’s private residence in the UK to milk information, and subsequently adopted part of his questionnaire with little or no accreditation. The same occurred with the drafting of the original proposal and materials for the NEH. Subsequently Prof. Kerler, one of the two professors running AHEYM, asked Prof. Katz to provide the second AHEYM director, Prof. Jeffrey Veidlinger, with sample chapters and a detailed proposal for his unpublished book Back to the Old Country: The Last Shtetl Jews, ostensibly for consideration by Indiana University Press. There was never any communication from Indiana University Press but the conceptualization of the surviving remnant shtetl was liberally borrowed from, with no accreditation, on the AHEYM website and elsewhere. The situation is being tracked.
By 2009, the process extended to obtaining from the (by then government-controlled) Vilnius Yiddish Institute names of the ‘best informants in Latvia’ and duplicating the same interviews with a very similar questionnaire, with no credit re their original discovery from a much larger pool interviewed during many years of expeditions (financed from dedicated personal resources, not the NEH).
When the prospect of a Vilnius ‘summer playground for Bloomington Yiddish staff’ arose, depending on participation in the efforts to dismiss Lithuania’s only Yiddish professor, the Indiana recruit to the Lithuanian far-right nationalist camp went on to undermine a 2010 petition to the rector of Vilnius University that was initiated by the professor of Yiddish in Heidelberg, Germany.
It is not known how much of these activities represent a policy of the Borns Jewish Studies program or its AHEYM project, and what reaction is on the ground to the bizarre turn of events surrounding the Borns Jewish Studies program, and the Dr. Alice Field Cohn chair in Yiddish Studies at Indiana University in Bloomington. The phenomenon of Yiddish Studies interlinked with right-wing politics is attracting increased attention in the United States and elsewhere.
The Borns Jewish Studies Program and the Alice Field Cohn chair in Yiddish have yet to make public their views on the Lithuanian government efforts to stigmatize the last Holocaust Survivors as ‘war criminals’ while using a one-month Yiddish course as a durable PR smokescreen for naive foreign Jews unfamiliar with the local realities.
Will Indiana University’s Bloomington Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism comment on contemporary Lithuanian and Baltic antisemitism, and the manipulation of its own home department in an effort to abuse Judaic Studies as PR cover for state and academia sponsored antisemitism in Eastern Europe?
Tragically for Yiddish Studies, the plot carried out at the behest of antisemitic elites in Vilnius envisages a university-level Yiddish institute (the only one in Eastern Europe) without a Yiddish professor (or for that matter, any Jewish academic staff at all) during the academic year. In other words ‘Yiddish’ is reduced to a PR toy that is not treated with any of the same measure of academic seriousness as any other subject in the university. An excellent one-month summer course is used to cover for the rest of the Yiddish-free year. It is manipulated by the Lithuanian government’s proxies as a potent tool for its political ‘Jewish agenda’ based on short events making use of ‘really useful foreigners’. Around half of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute’s LA based board resigned in protest, including S. Chic Wolk, Professor Sidney Rosenfeld, and Zane Buzby. The remainder, who are said to be directly or indirectly instrumentalized by the Lithuanian nationalist far right, include LA polling-meister Richard Maullin; Bloomington, Indiana physician Daniel Berg, and, in a surprise to many, Steven Spielberg’s brother-in-law Dan Opatoshu.
May 2010: Lithuanian court legalizes public swastikas.
August 2010: Lithuania’s last Jewish professor successfully ousted.
August 2011: And then there were two: Academic Advisory Duo for ‘Academic Yiddish Studies at Vilnius University’.’
September 2011: Borns Jewish Studies Program director Jeffrey Veidlinger is one of the Center for Jewish History (CJH) Academic Advisory Council members contacted by the France based Society for the Promotion of the European Human Rights Model concerning the invitation to the Lithuanian foreign minister to be ‘guest of honor’ at a Yivo evening (in memory of the Vilna Ghetto…), at the same time as Lithuanian authorities started a campaign against another Holocaust survivor. Details here.
September 2011: When Yivo’s director sent out appeals for support for his decisions to honor the Lithuanian foreign minister, capitulate on Yivo’s claim for return of looted books in Lithuania, and trash colleagues who dare to disagree, he received and circulated one clear statement of support: from Professor Jeffrey Veidlinger, head of the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Bloomington, which he included unabridged in his own circulated memo of 13 September. The proposed public statement (aborted once leaked), which Professor Veidlinger so rapidly rubberstamped, was replete with inaccuracies fed by the Lithuanian government’s PR machine, inter alia on swastikas in Lithuania, the foreign minister’s 2010 antisemitic ‘analysis’ in an address to his party in parliament, and the disturbing trivialization of the latest Lithuanian government campaign against a Holocaust survivor. The text of Veidlinger’s ‘academic blessing’ for all this follows:
“This is an excellent response. I do hope that you will plan on releasing it publicly at some point. There has been a great deal of distortion on this issue perpetuated by the blogosphere, and it is useful to have this misinformation corrected.
Rosenfeld Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of History
Director, Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program
Goodbody Hall 326
Bloomington IN 47405″
November 2011: S. Liekis, Kerler’s J-handler in Lithuania, the director of the for-eleven-months-a-year Yiddish-free Yiddish institute, is sent to Jerusalem to trash Kerler’s former teacher and supervisor and his own former colleague Dovid Katz. The ensuing scene made the Jerusalem Post.September 2012: Vilnius University puts on an exhibition honoring an antisemitic and homophobic designer whose “designer envelopes” include crude caricatures of Jews, Holocaust survivors, Holocaust historians, gay people, and Lithuanians who support tolerance and diversity. Silence from the Yiddish institute a few yards away, its Bloomington-Borns partners, Bloomington-Borns’s Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism.
October 2012: The Alice Cohen Yiddish chair at the Borns Jewish Studies Program at Indiana University (Bloomington) arranges for a second self-publishing Soviet-Israeli poet to serve as nominal “Professor of Yiddish studies” at Vilnius University’s “Vilnius Yiddish Institute.” The new professor is also the head of his settlement on the West Bank and will have to juggle roles. Details here.
December 2013: Dr. Daniel Berg of Bloomington, Indiana, resigns from the Board of Friends of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute.
Yiddish for Lithuanian Nationalism Today
Vilnius Yiddish program t-shirts, featuring image of Bloomington, Indiana Yiddish professor, dedicated not to Yiddish language, literature or culture, but to… PR for: Lithuania and Vilnius...