The "Round Trip: from Germany to Ukraine and back. Rediscovering Yiddish culture" project deals with the history of Yiddish culture and the heritage of Ashkenazi Jews. Yiddish culture flourished briefly in Soviet Ukraine at the turn of the 20th century, and this brief period is highlighted here. Many of the country's artists fled to the West in the 1920s, when they were heavily persecuted and built Jewish communities in Poland and Germany.
The participants of the youth exchange are teens aged 14-17 and volunteers as work as counselors and educators at ages between 18-27. The starting point for their research was the biographies of Jewish authors and artists of the time, who organized themselves under the protectorate of the Kultur Lige (Culture League) ([a secular socialist Jewish organization established in Kiev in 1918, whose aim was to promote Yiddish language literature, theater and culture (Wikipedia)]. The majority of the participants cover the aspects of their own cultural heritage. This allows them to ask questions about their own social or cultural affiliation, social homogenization tendencies, and the tension between universalism and particularism.
With several online meetings, the participants explore specific aspects of Jewish-German-European history and gain an insight into contemporary political and social conditions. They work on creative workshops, resulting in artistic works, such as theater tours, dance shows, concerts and an illustrated book. In Berlin, the young people staged a performance about the tragic lives of Yiddish writers. At the Yiddish Summer Weimar festival, they organized a theatrical-musical performance in front of 300 people, that was based on children’s and adult books by Yiddish poets and writers. They also created a podcast as an interview format with David Markisch (the son of the Yiddish writer Perez Markisch, shot on August 12, 1952 in Moscow).
A significant number of participants were directly affected by Russia’s full-scale invasion. It is clear that the youth exchange concept is a huge success, both in terms of how the participants handle the situation and the answers they find to personal and historical concerns.
The young people deal with their own and other people's cultural heritage through music, literature, and gastronomy, while literary works are processed audio visually through cinema, animation, theater, songs, postcards, podcasts, and interviews with contemporary Yiddish speakers.
The results of this Youth Exchange 2022 were presented at the award ceremony of the "My Family Story" competition at the ANU Museum in Israel in June 2023. As part of the youth encounter 2022, the participants of the art studio wrote a handmade book and had their story illustrated by Immanuel Eyngorn, the event participant from Berlin, who later became a prize winner. Immanuel Eyngorn, a student from Berlin, attended the award ceremony and talked about the project.
Along with several webinars and workshops, J’Arteck organized a commemorative event at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin courtyard to mark the 90th anniversary of the Nazi’s book burning. It was important for the participants and organizers to pay tribute to these historical events and to be aware of their significance.
The event was inspired by Svetlana Petrovskaya, who was present as the guest of honor. Ms. Petrovskaya is a Ukrainian teacher and founder of the Janusz Korczak Society in Ukraine. She was awarded the Order of Laughter for her work with children. A war refugee, she was evacuated in 1941 and again in 2022 at the age of 88.
Check out the results of their creative work