Diario Judío México - I’m sad to inform the Jewish languages list of the death of Mikhl Herzog, Professor Emeritus of Yiddish, Columbia University, at age 85.

He was buried yesterday in Toronto. Here is one remembrance from the Facebook page just set up in his memory:


From Sam Norich: “Mikhl was the great strategist and impresario of Yiddish studies as an academic discipline in the last third of the 20th century. A student and colleague of Uriel and of Max Weinreich, he took on the most important research projects they left undone: the Great Dictionary of the Yiddish Language and the Language and Culture Atlas  of Ashkenazic Jewry. But it was as an academic organizer that he had  his greatest success and impact. In a field that had no undergraduate  majors in any American university, he created the Uriel Weinreich Summer Program  in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture to identify and inspire young scholars to go into the field of Yiddish studies. He marshaled the resources of Columbia’s linguistics department and of YIVO to create an area studies program leading to a Columbia PhD. The Linguistics Department at Columbia could have been a procrustean bed for most of his students who were more interested in literature and culture than they were in linguistics. YIVO was chronically short of funds and a kind of academic structure better understood in Europe than it was in post-war America. But it had the spirit, legacy and agenda of Max and Uriel Weinreich and scholars like Raphael Mahler, Isaiah Trunk, Shlomo Noble, Lucjan Dobroszycki, Bina Weinreich, Shoshke Erlich, Chane Mlotek (tsu lange yor,) librarians and archivists like Dina Abramowicz, Bella Weinberg, Zachary Baker, Pearl Berger, Marek Web, Fruma Mohrer and Roz Schwartz.

Mikhl augmented that singular band of teachers with visiting scholars from , Europe and America: Dan Miron, Benjamin Harshav, Barbara Kirshenblatt Gimblett, Avrom Nowersztern, Ruth Wisse, Robert Seltzer and others. The result: most of the senior professors in the field of Yiddish studies teaching in American and European universities today were students Mikhl brought to the field.

Of  all his achievements as legislator, diplomat, architect, author of the Declaration of Independence, third president of the US, Thomas Jefferson chose only one credit for his tombstone: founder of the University of Virginia. Mikhl can rightly have on his keyver the title of founder of the field of Yiddish studies as an academic discipline in the American university.”

It would be great to hear others’ memories and a bit more about hisimpact on the field of Yiddish linguistics and dialectology.

Sarah Benor

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