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War in Ukraine: Elegy for Odessa

elegy odessa ukraine

The participants who attended the panel discussion on Monday, March 28, 2022, “Elegy for Odessa,” were treated to a two-hour master class on the literature, art, history and politics provoked by the city of Odessa, both the city as geographical reality and arena of dreams, as disputed territory and the forge of Jewish identities. As Dr. Val Vinokur described it, Ukraine is, at the same same time, then and now, a literal and metaphorical breadbasket and a crossroads of armies.

As Dr. Olson so eloquently put it, “Odessa’s modernity, its vision of building an opening to the larger world, runs very deeply in the dynamics of the city. Odessa was a place for Jews of newness, of exceptionalism, a cosmopolitan city at a time when cosmopolitanism in the Russian context was still developing, a place where a new Jewish man could rise in Russia while living in a jewel of a city on the Black Sea.”

The richness of this discussion was underscored by the knowledge of the dangers it faces from the current Russian invasion, and the encomiums paid by the panelists to its many depths and beauties only strengthened the resolve of those on the panel and in the virtual audience to do what they can do to save Odessa from demolition and Ukraine from disaster.

The Panelists:

Dr. Amelia Glaser

  • Associate Professor at University of California San Diego and an Endowed Chair in Judaic Studies
  • Research Interests: Russian Literature (19th and 20th Century); Modern Yiddish Literature; Comparative Literature; Cultural Studies; Transnational Jewish Literature; The Literatures of Ukraine.

Amelia Glaser received a BA from Oberlin College in Comparative Literature in1997, an MSt. from the University of Oxford in Yiddish in 2000, and a Ph.D in Comparative Literature from Stanford University in 2004. She held fellowships at the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and was a lecturer in Jewish Studies and at the Center for Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies at Stanford University before joining UCSD's Literature Department in 2006. Her research and teaching interests include Russian literature and film, transnational Jewish literature, the literatures of Ukraine, the literature of immigration to the US, the Russian critical tradition, and translation theory and practice. She is currently writing about poetry and performance in contemporary Ukraine.

Dr. Val Vinokur

  • Associate Professor of Literary Studies at New School
  • Director of Jewish Culture (Minor)

Dr. Vinokur’s book, The Trace of Judaism: Dostoevsky, Babel, Mandelstam, Levinas, was published by Northwestern University Press and was a finalist for the 2009 AATSEEL Award for Best Book in Literary/Cultural Studies. His translation of Isaac Babel’s stories was published in 2017 by Northwestern University Press. He is the founding editor of Poets & Traitors Press and is the author of Relative Genitive: Poems, with Translations from Osip Mandelstam and Vladimir Mayakovsky. His other works includes translations and multiple publications in such works as Common Knowledge, The Boston Review, McSweeney's, LitHub, The Russian Review, Zeek, The Massachusetts Review, Journal of Religion and Society, The Literary Review, and New American Writing.

Dr. Jacob Wisse

  • Associate Professor of Art History, Yeshiva University
  • Director, Yeshiva University Museum (2009–2020)

Dr. Wisse specializes in Jewish art and visual culture, as well as in northern European art of the Renaissance and early modern era. His book, City Painters in the Burgundian Netherlands, drew upon extensive firsthand documentation from municipal accounts and records to reconstruct the origins and development of the official city painter over the course of the fifteenth century. As the former director of the YU Museum, he guided its exhibitions and collections and its educational and public programs.

Dr. Tanya Yakovleva

Dr. Yakoleva has lived in Ukraine, Germany, Italy, and the United States. She studied Yiddish in Vilnius, New York, Tel-Aviv, and Moscow, and she received a Ph.D. in Slavic-Jewish Studies from the University of Regensburg, Germany. She studied Comparative Literature, Classical, Slavic, Jewish, and Media Studies at the universities of Kharkiv, Regensburg, Bari, and San Diego. She currently teaches for YAAANA (The Yiddish Arts and Academics Association of North America). She is currently writing a book about Odessa 1905 in Russian Jewish Literature.

Dr. Jess J. Olson (moderator)

  • Associate Professor of Jewish History

Dr. Olson is interested in questions of nationalism, religion, and Jewish identity in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe. His areas of research include the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Germany, history of Zionism and Jewish nationalism, and the intersection between Jewish Orthodoxy and political engagement. He has published Nathan Birnbaum and Jewish Modernity: Architect of Zionism, Yiddishism and Orthodoxy (Stanford University Press, 2013) along with multiple articles on all of these topics.

Dr. Selma Botman

  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr. Botman holds a B.Phil. in Middle Eastern studies from Oxford University and an M.A. in Middle Eastern studies and Ph.D. in history and Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University. A scholar of modern Middle Eastern politics and society, she has published three books and a number of scholarly articles. She has also taught a range of courses on the modern Middle East and international development.

Other events in the series: