Jake Schneider

Flying with the Golden Peacock: Migration in Yiddish Literature

A world map from the Yiddish Algemeyne Entsiklopedye, vol. 1

The golden peacock, a traditional symbol of Yiddish poetry, is a mythical migratory bird: always on the wing and never quite arriving. Since the language evolved through Jewish migration from Germany to eastern Europe, and its literary culture flowered during another period of mass migration, Yiddish books are full of such themes as family separation, homesickness, and assimilation.

The seminar includes readings and discussions of fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in English translation from New York, Australia, London, Berlin, and Montreal, examining the Jewish immigrant experience through the immigrants’ own eyes. The work of prominent and lesser-known authors sheds light on both traditional Ashkenazi culture and the writers’ relationships to their new environments.


  • Format: Developed as a virtual seminar with six 1-hour sessions. I can excerpt, adapt, and/or expand this material into various other formats, including a standalone talk or a seminar of a different length, online or in person.
  • Language: All readings are in English translation of Yiddish originals, and the language of discussion is English. During class, this is supplemented with music and film extracts in the original Yiddish with subtitles.
  • Readings: The reading list includes short stories, essays, and novel excerpts spanning the twentieth century by authors such as Sholem Aleichem, Chava Rosenfarb, Dovid Bergelson, Kadya Maldovsky, Pinchas Goldhar, Fradl Shtok, and more. During class, we also read poems together by poets such as Anna Margolin, A.N. Stencl, and Moyshe Kulbak.


This seminar is not currently scheduled.

It was originally offered in spring 2023 via Zoom for the Scolnic Adult Institute.


Contact me if you are interested in offering this seminar or and adaptation of it through your organization or program, or if you are a prospective student would like to be notified next time it runs.