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Home » Invitation to Participate at a Literary Workshop for Russian-speaking Jewish-Canadian Writers

Invitation to Participate at a Literary Workshop for Russian-speaking Jewish-Canadian Writers

This Literary Workshop is for Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking Émigré Writers

To be held at the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies, York University, Toronto

November 20, 2024 

“It has taken at least a generation for Soviet immigrants to find their literary bearings in the New World, and perhaps even longer to form a translingual neighbourhood—a community—both in their own eyes and in the eyes of the American and Canadian cultural mainstream.” 

— Maxim D. Shrayer, Immigrant Baggage: Morticians, Purloined Diaries, and Other Theatrics of Exile


To be held at York University on November 20, 2024, in conjunction with both a scholarly symposium on FSU’s Jewish diaspora and an archival collections initiative led by the Ontario Jewish Archives, this literary workshop and community-building event is designed for established and emerging writers and translators from Canada’s Russian-speaking Jewish community.

We invite writers and translators of fiction or non-fiction, poetry, or plays to speak about their lives and writing in Canada, and/or give readings of their work. This workshop aims to (1) showcase writing that gives voice to diverse experiences of immigration, assimilation, and the evolving demands of acculturating to a different culture, language, and values, and (2) offer professional development for writers eager to reach larger and wider audiences in both Canadian and global-Jewish literary and public circles. Presentations on, and readings of, original texts and translated works are welcome.  

As many researchers have noted, there remains a significant separation between Soviet-born Jews, their children, and the broader Canadian Jewish and non-Jewish community. Moreover, despite the lively and prolific literary output of FSU Jewry in Canada, it remains underappreciated or unacknowledged both by a large portion of Canadian readers and academics due to linguistic and cultural differences, and by the global diaspora of Jewish readers and literary scholars. Therefore, a key objective of this workshop and the conference is to build recognition and expand public visibility for the creative output of this translingual diasporic community, now fifty years old, among mainstream readers, literary critics, and academics.  

This workshop endeavours to increase awareness and encourage collaborations with members of the East Slavic Jewish literary community. The workshop will be led by published authors and others writing in Canada and the US. It will focus on Jewish experiences in the FSU and Canada, and literary works these diverse experiences shape in English, French, Georgian, Russian, Ukrainian, Hebrew, and/or Yiddish.  

Significantly, parts of this workshop will be used for the establishment of archival fonds of unpublished literary work by FSU Jewish writers at the Ontario Jewish Archives to ensure their long-term archival presence. We also hope to turn this initiative into an ongoing biannual workshop with spin-off literary activities, online and in-person readings, and other ways of platforming FSU writers, as well as providing them with guidance and access to mentors, editors, and publishers. 

We believe it is crucial to create institutional drivers to help integrate this community’s culture producers, and spur other initiatives and research to address it. This is particularly urgent in the current moment, given the influx Ukrainian and Russian Jewish refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine, who are reconsidering and reshaping their personal and familial identities. 

This workshop, along with the scholarly symposium, will lay the foundations for dedicated research on this community. Material presented at the conference, which all workshop participants are invited to attend, will inform a special volume of the journal Canadian Jewish Studies / Études juives canadiennes 

A non-exhaustive list of possible presentation proposals includes: readings of published and unpublished literary work (fiction, non-fiction, memoir, poetry); autobiographical presentations about the interplay between writing and any of the themes discussed above; the art and intricacies of translation; presentations about the state of Russian-language Jewish writing in Canada and abroad; professionalization workshops about writing, translating, and/or navigating the publishing marketplace. 

The workshop is organized by Olga Stein, David Koffman, and Joshua Tapper, with support from a SSHRC Partnership Engage Grant, the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, the Ontario Jewish Archives at the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the J. Richard Shiff Chair for the Study of Canadian Jewry, and the Association for Canadian Jewish Studies. The workshop will be held in Toronto on November 20, 2024.

Please send a presentation proposal (up to 500 words) and short biography by June 30, 2024 to Olga Stein.