Kent State student earns spot in exclusive global Yiddish program


Photo courtesy of Joshua Kogan

Emily Wilbur

Joshua Kogan, a junior integrative studies major at Kent State, was one of 18 students worldwide to have been chosen to participate in the intermediate level Steiner Summer Yiddish Program at the Yiddish Book Center.

Chaya Kessler, director of the Jewish Studies program, said Kogan was the first student from Kent State to be accepted into the program. The Steiner Summer Yiddish Program took place during June and July.

Kogan found out he was accepted into the program last April.

The Yiddish Book Center is an organization that works “to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing, translating and (distributing) Yiddish books” and providing educational programs that allow students to understand modern Jewish identity, according to their website.

Kogan said the seven-week program, which took place in Massachusetts, gave him the opportunity to engage in the Yiddish language and culture in Central and Eastern European Jewish history.

A regular day at Steiner would consist of learning grammar, Yiddish culture and Yiddish literature, Kogan said. After class he would then attend a daily seminar. In addition, members of the program were taken to New York City, where they toured Yiddish-speaking neighborhoods and attended cultural events.

There are two levels of the program; beginner and intermediate. Kogan applied directly to the intermediate level after learning the basics of Yiddish back in Mexico City, where he is originally from.

In order for Kogan to have been accepted into the intermediate level, he had to show his knowledge of the Yiddish language and culture by writing an essay in Yiddish, including having a Yiddish background.

Kogan said the Jewish Studies Department at Kent State helped him greatly with recommendation letters and the application process while he was also busy preparing his essay last December.

From this experience, Kogan said he has built lifelong relationships with people having similar interests as him.

“The best part was being around 17 other people that are exactly the same as me. All 18 of us have the same interest, which is Yiddish,” Kogan said. “I still keep in touch with all of them and continue to learn more.”

Sophia Witt, a senior communication studies major, said she took Introduction to Jewish Studies and Jewish Waves of Integration into America with Kogan.

“He is very humble and will never admit he’s a great student,” Witt said. “He helped me so much with learning, he was one of the best in our class.”

Kogan said he encourages other students to experience what he has.

“If you are very, very passionate about Yiddish and Yiddish culture, apply and go,” he said.

Applications can be found on the Yiddish Book Center website and at the Jewish Studies Department.

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