YIVO Jewish Culture Series



The Yivo Jewish Culture Series programs focus on Yiddish literature, culture, history, language and Jewish heritage. They are presented several times across the course of the year on Sunday afternoons at 2PM and take place in Riverdale Temple's sanctuary. Their speakers and subject matter experts draw a large audience for this popular event.

The faculty for the series draws on the extensive network of scholars affiliated with the YIVO Institute. The events are open to the broader community.

“We are delighted with the success of YIVO’s Jewish Culture Series at Riverdale Temple over these last four years. The overwhelming response to these lectures and events demonstrates the great need for substantive programming about Jewish history and culture for the public.” —Jonathan Brent, YIVO Executive Director

2017-2018 Program Year


December 10, March 18, June 3 

Sunday afternoons at 2pm in the sanctuary at Riverdale Temple

Entry is FREE to all. (Donations are welcome)

December 10th-Strange But True Stories from the Yiddish Press

An underground history of downwardly mobile Jews, this talk by Jewish scholar Eddy Portnoy exposes the seamy underbelly of pre-WW11 New York and Warsaw, the two major centers of Yiddish culture in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. With true stories plucked from the pages of the Yiddish newspapers, Eddy Portnoy introduces us to the drunks, thieves, wrestlers, poets and beauty queens and more whose misadventures were immortalized in print. One part Isaac Bashevis Singer and one part Jerry Springer, this irreverent, unvarnished and frequently hilarious compendium of stories provides a window into an unknown Yiddish world that was.  You will find no better chronicle of the daily ignominies of urban Jewish life than in the pages of the Yiddish press.   

Dr.Eddy Portnoy is the Senior Researcher & Exhibition Curator at the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research as well as YIVO’s Academic Advisor for the Max Weinreich Center.  He received his Ph.D. from the Jewish Theological Seminary.

March 18th--Brigid Coleridge and Lee Dionne play a concert of Jewish violin music

With the encouragement of Russian composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a group of young Jewish musicians at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory were inspired to organize the Society for Jewish Folk Music in 1908.  Its main purpose was to create a modern national style of Jewish concert music.  This growing interest in Jewish nationalism and Yiddish folk culture resulted in the study of Jewish folk music through fieldwork, public lectures, publications and concerts. 

This concert features violinist Brigid Coleridge and pianist Lee Dionne performing works of Jewish violin music from this tradition.

Brigid Coleridge is an Australian violinist who is currently a doctoral candidate studying with Daniel Phillips. She is a frequent recitalist and performs regularly with duo partner, pianist Lee Dionne (most recently at Royal Albert Hall’s Elgar Room in London, and touring Holland).  Her appearances as a concerto soloist have included the works of Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Mendelssohn and Shostakovich.  She is also a committed chamber musician.

Pianist Lee Dionne enjoys an active career as a soloist and chamber musician, performing frequently as a core member of Cantata Profana and with Ensemble Connect (formerly Ensemble ACJW a joint program of Carnegie Hall, the Julliard School, and the Weill Institute).  Lee has performed in venues throughout the United States and around the world.

June 3rd- Stefanie Halpern discusses the Yiddish theater with a multimedia presentation

This talk by Yiddish theater scholar Stefanie Halpern will situate the Yiddish theater as essential to a more complete understanding of the American theatrical institution, looking at the ways in which Yiddish drama, performance, artists, and audiences transitioned from the American Yiddish theater to the Mainstream American English language stage. By exploring the Yiddish stage in America as a site of crossover, this multi-media lecture will demonstrate that it was not merely an ethnic theater that existed on the margins, but rather an important cultural phenomenon that was part and parcel of the American theatrical institution.

Stephanie Halpern received her PhD from the Jewish Tehological Seminary.  Her articles have appeared in the Drama Review and the Journal of Riotual Studies. She was the associate curator on the exhibition “New York’s Yiddish Theater from the Bowery to Broadway” at the Museum of the City of New York.  A project archivist at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, she is also the content specialist for YIVO’s Shine Online educational series, whose newest class on Yiddish theater will launch on May, 2018.