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South of the Border: The Jews of Latin America

South of the Border:

The Jews of Latin America


A weekend program with Ilan Stavans at the Yiddish Book Center

diego mexican image.jpg
Illustration: Diego Rivera/Shtot fun palatsn, published in Mexico in 1936

Who are the Jews of Latin America? How have their lives and cultures been shaped by the history of Jews in Spain and Portugal, Russia and Poland? What is their place in the societies of South and Central America today? These are some of the questions at the heart of our upcoming weekend course, South of the Border: The Jews of Latin America.

Taught by renowned author and scholar Ilan Stavans(Amherst College), this course will delve into the historical, political, and social contexts of this complex Jewish community that has roots in both Eastern Europe and pre-Columbian Spain. Informed by his life-long investigation of language and identity, and his own experiences as a Jew growing up in Mexico City, Stavans will illuminate the cultural landscape in which the Jews of Latin America search for their roots.


South of the Border will include:

  • A welcome by Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center
  • Four lectures by Ilan Stavans
  • Discussion groups in Spanish, English, or Yiddish
  • Screening of the award-winning comic film My Mexican Shiva, based on a short-story by Stavans
  • Course packet and books for recommended reading (provided in English or Spanish)
  • tour of the Yiddish Book Center’s 49,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Amherst, Massachusetts
  • An exhibit of books and materials related to Jewish life in Latin America
  • Once@9:53am, a fotonovela exhibit by Ilan Stavans and Marcelo Brodsky; a fictional account of a Buenos Aires neighborhood several hours before the devastating terrorist attack in July 1994
  • A wine and cheese reception with Ilan Stavans
  • Three kosher, catered meals, beginning with Shabbos dinner

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. Born and raised in Mexico, Stavans attended Yiddish day school with other children of Eastern European immigrants. He came to the U.S. in the 1980s as a graduate student, and is now an internationally known, award-winning cultural critic, linguist, translator, public speaker, editor, short-story writer, and TV host. His latest work, Return to Centro Histórico: A Mexican Jew Looks for His Roots, makes it possible to understand the intimate role that Jews have played in the development of Hispanic civilization. 

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