Meyer Weinshel is a PhD candidate from the Department of German, Nordic, Slavic & Dutch. He received his BA from Macalester College and MA from the University of Minnesota. His research and teaching interests include German Jewish literature and culture, modern Yiddish literature and culture, and translation studies. He is completing his dissertation, “Dos eygne Daytshland: Anthologizing Jewish Multilingualism in and beyond the Habsburg Empire.” The project traces the ways German-language poetry in Yiddish translation shaped modern Jewish cultural developments in/beyond Central Europe. He studied Yiddish at YIVO’s Uriel Weinreich Summer Program (2015, 2017) and at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute (2016). In 2018-19, He has also completed research in Jerusalem at the National Library of Israel and began study modern Hebrew.
Besides teaching German studies coursework at the university, he also teaches Yiddish classes in the Twin Cities. He designed beginner Yiddish curricula for Jewish Community Action, a Minneapolis non-profit organization focused on racial and economic justice issues across Minnesota. Each 10-session course introduced students (who ranged in age from high school to retirement age) to Yiddish language and culture in an accessible format. Creating these educational resources also coincided with his work piloting In eynem, the forthcoming Yiddish textbook published by the Yiddish Book Center (Amherst, MA), and one of the few Yiddish language textbooks to be published in North America since the Second World War. He worked as the TA for elementary Yiddish at the Yiddish Book Center’s Steiner Yiddish Summer Program in 2020.
As a prior volunteer with the Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, he has met with high school theater students at the Sabes Jewish Community Center, and spoke about the linguistic and cultural diversity of Jewish life before the Second World War. He also conducted interviews with guest speakers at the Center that later appeared on the Center website. He led a discussion at the 2019 Minneapolis Jewish Film Festival following the screening of “Black Honey,” a documentary about Yiddish poet and Vilna Ghetto survivor, Avrom Sutzkever. He has also appeared with Yiddish and Ojibwe language speakers about the role of language revival efforts (and the challenges these efforts face) following genocide and displacement.
In his work as an educator (whether teaching German, Yiddish, or TA-ing for the Center’s affiliated faculty), Meyer foregrounds the diversity of pre-war Jewish life when teaching students about the genocide of European Jewry and its aftermath within broader trends. When George Floyd was murdered, and protests erupted around the world, he was working remotely with the Yiddish Book Center due to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Distance learning due to the pandemic, and while living in the city at the center of a global protest movement, he wanted to convey to beginner students of Yiddish Yiddish writers’ own (and very complicated) attitudes toward the racialized hierarchies they encountered upon immigration to the United States in the first half of the 20th century. Some Yiddish-speaking immigrants tried and failed to effectively grapple with anti-Black racism. Others (including many who remained in Europe and were later killed by Hitler or Stalin) organized around their political affiliations and protested with Black writers and activists in the United States. Teaching about moments like these further cemented his obligations—toward students and society at large—to place the study of, and resistance against, mass violence within a global context.