What Does That Dybbuk Want? A Century of Remembering and Forgetting

Grupa ludzi - na piewrszym planie dwie kobiety, jedna - stojąca tyłe - podtrzymuje drugą, która słania się
Kadr z filmu "Dybuk" w reż. Michała Waszyńskiego. Fot. Materiały prasowe

One hundred years ago, just days after the death of its author, the celebrated writer and ethnographer S. Anski, his play The Dybbuk opened in Warsaw. First staged by the legendary Yiddish company, the Vilna Troupe, the play went on to international renown, inspiring audiences in a dozen languages and as film, ballet and opera throughout the world.

But this lecture will trace the tracks of the Dybbuk in Poland: from its meanings for its earliest audiences, the Yiddish-speaking Jews of what was then the cultural capital of the Jewish world, then past the Holocaust and into a multitude of post-war and post-communist Polish incarnations. Why is it that while the word dybbuk means nothing today to Americans or American Jews or Israelis, it continues to resonate in Poland?

Michael Steinlauf is professor of history and director of the Holocaust and Genocide Studies Program at Gratz College in Philadelphia. He is the author of Bondage to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust as well as numerous studies of Yiddish theater and press in Poland. Professor Steinlauf has also been active in various kinds of Jewish memory work in Poland including serving for several years as chief historical advisor and curator of modern Jewish culture for the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. He is currently at work on a study of the Yiddish writer and activist Y. L. Peretz.

Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN

The lecture is organized within the Global Education Outreach Program.

The lecture was made possible thanks to the support of the Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture, the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, and the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland.