Anna Shternshis

Al and Malka Green Professor of Yiddish and Diaspora Studies

Contact info

Anne Tanenbaum CJS
Jackman Humanities Building
Room 218, 170 St. George Street
Toronto, ON, M5R 2M8

Phone (416) 978 8131
Secretary: 416-926-2324

Office Hours

On leave fall 2021

Classes 2021-2022

On leave fall 2021


Anna Shternshis holds the position of Al and Malka Green Professor of Yiddish studies and the director of the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. She received her doctoral degree (D.Phil) in Modern Languages and Literatures from Oxford University in 2001. Shternshis is the author of Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Popular Culture in the Soviet Union, 1923 - 1939 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006) and When Sonia Met Boris: An Oral History of Jewish Life under Stalin (New York: Oxford University Press, 2017). She is the co-editor-in-chief of East European Jewish Affairs. Shternshis created and directed the Grammy-nominated Yiddish Glory project, together with an artist Psoy Korolenko, the initiative that brought back to life the forgotten Yiddish music written during the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. She lectures widely around the world and is a frequent guest on radio and TV shows worldwide (CBC, NPR, BBC, and more). Her work on Yiddish Glory, has been featured in printed media, TV and radio in over 50 countries.

Courses Taught

  • Russian and post-Soviet Jewish Culture and Society
  • Introduction to Jewish Studies
  • Yiddish for German Speakers
  • Yiddish Language for Beginners
  • Intermediate Yiddish Language
  • Advanced Yiddish Language
  • History of Yiddish Cinema
  • Introduction to the Yiddish Literature and Culture in Translation
  • Soviet and Kosher: Jewish Culture in the Soviet Union
  • East European Jewish Literature and Culture, 1800 - 2000
  • Introduction to the Diaspora Studies
  • Knights and Dybbuks: German and Jewish Storytelling before 1700
  • Jewish Storytelling from Around the World
  • History of Yiddish Cinema
  • Music, Diaspora and Violence

Articles and Book Chapters (Refereed)

  • “Are Your Hands Covered in Jewish Blood? Jewish Red Army Soldiers Encountering the Aftermath of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union,” forthcoming in East European Politics, Societies and Cultures.
  • “A Child Who Cannot Ask: The Holocaust Poetry of Moisei Teif” in No Small Matter: Features of Jewish Childhood. United States, Oxford University Press, 2021, 217 – 231.
  • „Идиш Глори“: поющий архив еврейской истории. Философические письма. Русско-европейский диалог, т. 3, вып. 3, сентябрь 2020 г., сс. 192-15, with Psoy Korolenko.
  • “Hitler Hanging on the Tree: Humor and Violence in Soviet Yiddish Folklore of World War II,” book chapter in Laughter After: Humor and the Holocaust, edited by Avinom Platt, David Slucki and Gabriel Finder (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2020), pp.15 – 37
  • Humor and Russian Jewish Identity”, in A Club of Their Own: Jewish Humorists and the Contemporary World. Studies in Contemporary Jewry. An annual XXIX. Edited by Gabriel Finder and Eli Lederhendler (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), pp. 101 – 112.
  • “Virtual Village in a Real World: Russian Jewish Diaspora On-Line,” in The New Jewish Diaspora: Russian-speaking immigrants in the United States, Israel, and Germany, edited by Zvi Gitelman, Rutgers University Press, 2016, 229 - 245.
  • “Salo in Challah: Soviet Jew’s Experience of Food in the 1920s- 1950s, in Jews and Their Foodways: Studies in Contemporary Jewry. An annual XXVIII. Edited by Anat Helman. (Jerusalem: Oxford University Press, 2015), 10-27.
  • “Between Life and Death: Why Some Soviet Jews Decided to Leave and Others Chose to Stay Home in 1941”, Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 15, 3 (Summer 2014): 1–28.
  • ‘Gender and Identity in Oral Histories of Elderly Russian Jewish Migrants in the United States and Canada’ in A Companion to Diaspora and Transnationalism (eds A. Quayson and G. Daswani), Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2013, ch. 16, 279 – 292.
  • “Russian Militia Singing in Yiddish: Jewish Nostalgia in Soviet and Post-Soviet Popular Culture” in Lara Rabinovitch, Goren Shiri, Hannah Pressman, eds, Choosing Yiddish: New Frontiers of Language and Culture (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2012), 179- 194.
  • “From the Red Cradle: Memories of Jewish Family Life in the Soviet Union” in Catherine Wanner, editor, State Secularism and Lived Religion in Soviet Russia and Ukraine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 63-92.
  • “Between Red and Yellow Stars: Ethnic Identity of Soviet Jewish Veterans of World War II in New York, Toronto and Berlin,” in The Journal of Jewish Identities, Special Issue: Russian-Jewish Immigrant Identity post-1970, Rachel S. Harris & Anna P. Ronell (eds.) Journal of Jewish Identities, Vol. 4 No. 1, (January 2011), 45 - 63.
  • “White Concert Piano from the Real Shtetl: Material Culture and Ethnic Identity in the Post-Soviet Jewish Urban Community”, Jewish Social Studies, 16 (2) Winter 2010, 111-126.
  • "Sur les bancs de Brighton Beach" (On the Benches of Brighton Beach), Cahiers du judaïsme, 26, 2009, 74-84.
  • ‘May Day, Tractors and Piglets: Yiddish Songs for Little Communists’, in Barbara Kirshenblatt Gimblett and Jonathan Karp, eds., The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times ( Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, pp. 83 – 97.
  • “Kaddish in a Church: Perceptions of Orthodox Christianity among Moscow Elderly Jews in the Early 21st Century ”, Russian Review 66 (2) 2007, 273–294.
  • ‘Choosing a Spouse in the USSR: Gender Differences and the Jewish Ethnic Factor,’ Jews in Russia and Eastern Europe, Winter 2(51) 2003, pp. 5 - 30.
  • ‘Molodezhnaya kultura evreiskogo mestechka v 1930-e gody’ (Soviet Shtetl Youth Culture in the 1930s), Diaspory, 4 (2002), pp. 6- 26 (in Russian).
  • ‘From the Eradication of Illiteracy to Workers’ Correspondents: Yiddish-Language Mass Movements in the Soviet Union’, East European Jewish Affairs, volume 33, no. 1, 2002, pp. 120– 137.
  • ‘Отражение в песнях на идиш основных социальных процессов в Советском обществе 20-30-х годов.’ (Reflection of Soviet Society in Yiddish Songs During the 1920s and 1930s), Judaica Rossica 1(2001) pp. 202-222 (in Russian).
  • ‘Passover in the Soviet Union, 1917 – 41’, East European Jewish Affairs, volume 31, No. 1, summer 2001, pp. 61-76.
  • ‘Soviet and Kosher in the Ukrainian Shtetl’, in Gennady Estraikh and Mikhail Krutikov, eds., The Shtetl: Image and Reality ( Oxford: Legenda, 2000), pp. 133- 151.
  • ‘The Jewish Experience as Reflected in Soviet Yiddish songs.’Evreiskaia muzyka (1998) 100-104.
  • ‘The Red Hagaddah: Anti-Religious Propaganda in the Soviet Union’, Di Pen Oxford, 2 (1998), (in Yiddish).
  • "Рабби Деникин" и "рабби Колчак": мотивы Исхода в советской антирелигиозной пропаганде среди евреев в 20-30-е годы XX века. (Rabbi Denikin and Rabbi Kolchak: Exodus in Soviet Anti-Religious Propaganda among Jews in the 1920s – 1930s) От Бытия к Исходу (From Genesis to Exodus) (Moscow: Sefer, 1998), pp. 243-252 (in Russian).

Book Reviews

  • Violence Deconstructed: Political Scientists Discuss Pogroms, book review of Jeffrey Kopstein and Jason Wittenberg, Intimate Violence: Anti-Jewish Pogroms on the Eve of the Holocaust, Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2018, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, December 2019
  • Where the Jews Aren’t: The Sad and Absurd Story of Birobidzhan, Russia’s Jewish Autonomous Region. By Masha Gessen. New York: Schocken, 2016, Antisemitism Studies, Volume 2. Issue 1, Spring 2018
  • Soviet Jews in World War II: Fighting, Witnessing, Remembering. Ed. Harriet Murav and Gennady Estraikh. Slavic Review, vol. 74, no. 3 (Fall 2015), 657 – 659,
  • Sanitisation to Sanity: The Holocaust in Soviet Culture, Jewish Quarterly, 2013, 60:3-4, 150-152.
  • Soviet Jews in World War II: Fighting, Witnessing, Remembering. Ed. Harriet Murav and Gennady Estraikh. Slavic Review, vol. 74, no. 3 (Fall 2015), 657 – 659.
  • Jarrod Tanny, Cities of Rogues and Schnorrers: Russia’s Jews and the Myth of Old Odessa, Slavic Review Vol. 72, No. 4 (Winter 2013), pp. 913-914.
  • Mikhail Krutikov, From Kaballah to Class Struggle: Expressionism, Marxism and Yiddish. Literature in the Life and Work of Meir Weiner. Slavic Review, Vol. 71, No 1 (Winter 2012) pp. 205 – 206.
  • Arkadii Zeltser, Evrei sovetskoi provintsii: Vitebsk i mestechki 1917–1941 (Jews of the Soviet provinces: Vitebsk and shtetlekh 1917–1941). Moscow: Rosspen, 2006, in Studies in C ontemporary Jewry, 2011, Vol. 25 , 177-178.
  • Kenneth B. Moss, Jewish Renaissance in the Russian Revolution, Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2009, The American Historical Review, Vol. 116, No. 1 (February 2011), 245.
  • Joel Schechter, Messiahs of 1933: How American Yiddish Theater Survived Adversity through Satire. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008, Modern Drama, Volume 52, number 3, Fall 2009, 380-381.
  • Joseph Sherman, Gennady Estraikh, eds. David Bergelson: From Modernism to Socialist Realism. Leeds: Legenda, 2007, published by H-Judaica, January 2009.
  • Benjamin Harshav, The Moscow Yiddish Theater: Art on Stage in the Time of Revolution, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, Slavic Review, 2008, vol. 67, no. 4, pp. 1038.
  • Olga Gershenson, Russian Theatre in Israel, A Study of Cultural Colonization, Peter Lang. Publishing, 2005, book review Russian Review, forthcoming.
  • Jeffrey Veidlinger, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage. Bloomington : Indiana University Press, 2000, Jewish Quarterly Review. Volume 97, Number 3, Summer 2007, pp. e116-e118.
  • Wallace Daniel, The Orthodox Church and Civil Society in Russia ( College Station : Texas University Press, 2006), book review Russian Review 66 (2007) 3, 542-543.
  • Joseph Sherman, ed., Yiddish after the Holocaust ( Oxford : Yarnton Centre for Jewish Studies, 2004), book review Outpost, July 2005, 31-33.
  • Mikhail Beyzer, Evrei Leningrada: Natsional'naia zhizn' i sovetizatsiia 1917 - 1939 Book review in East European Jewish Affairs volume 32, Fall 2001, 45-46.
  • 'Some notes on the Development of the Modern Jewish Folklore Study', Di Pen Oxford, 4 (1997), (in Yiddish).

Encyclopedia Entries

  • “Beggars and Begging”, in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, edited by Gershon David Hundert, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, volume I, 136 - 138.
  • “Dogs” in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, edited by Gershon David Hundert, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, volume I, 413 – 415.
  • “Pigs”, in The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, edited by Gershon David Hundert, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, volume II, pp. 1355 – 1356.

Non-Refereed Publications

  • When Jewish humour Divides us, Canadian Jewish News, March 5, 2020
  • There is no YIVO without its librarians, Canadian Jewish News, February 6, 2020
  • Addressing Racism Here at Home, Canadian Jewish News, December 10, 2019
  • Respect Thy Parents and Thy Planet, Canadian Jewish News, October 10, 2019
  • Dredging a Shameful Past, Canadian Jewish News, August 16, 2019
  • The Connections between Chernobyl and Modern Jewish History, Canadian Jewish News, June 12, 2019
  • A Jewish Guide to Surviving in a Real World, Canadian Jewish News, June 4, 2018
  • Yiddish culture is Booming, Canadian Jewish News, June 27, 2018
  • Going Viral in Russian, Canadian Jewish News, September 2, 2018
  • Should We Talk about Sexual Violence during the Holocaust, Canadian Jewish News, October 24, 2018
  • The Face Behind None is Too Many, Canadian Jewish News, December 2018
  • Should We Talk about Sexual Violence during the Holocaust, Canadian Jewish News, October 2018
  • Going Viral, in Russian, Canadian Jewish News, September 2018
  • Yiddish Culture is Booming, Canadian Jewish News, June 2018
  • A Jewish Guide to Surviving in a Scary World, Canadian Jewish News, June, 2018
  • The Holiday with Tears in the Eyes, Canadian Jewish News, April 2018
  • Parfenov’s Documentary Frames the Old Stereotypes into a fancy package, April 2018
  • Yoshke from Odessa Goes to America, Canadian Jewish News, March 2018
  • The Spiritual Death of Immigrants, Canadian Jewish News, February 6, 2018
  • The Yolka is a Tradition in the Russian Jewish Diaspora, Canadian Jewish News, December, 2017
  • The Shoah’s Incalculable Impact on Jewish Contributions, Canadian Jewish News November 8, 2017
  • Society Has Changed; We Must Teach to Our Students’ Strength, Canadian Jewish News, December 6, 2017
  • A Yolka Has Become a Firm Russian Jewish Tradition in the Diaspora, Canadian Jewish News, January 4, 2018
  • The Case for Enrolling in Jewish Studies, Canadian Jewish News, June 30, 2017
  • Why Are Russian Jews the Way They Are, Canadian Jewish News, March 24, 2017
  • With David Shneer, Editors’ Introduction, East European Jewish Affairs , 2016, 47-48, pp. 239-240
  • Global Yiddish Culture, East European Jewish Affairs , 2016, Volume 46 , Issue 2 , pp. 137 - 138.
  • With Zeev Levin and David Shneer, Jews in the Soviet Union during World War II: German occupation, Soviet evacuation, and the imagined relationship between these two experience, East European Jewish Affairs, 46:1.
  • Explication de texte: “Adventures of Menakhem-Mendl,” Sholem Aleichem in Moscow, Oxford, and Toronto. The Cambridge Journal of Postcolonial Literary Inquiry, 3, pp.135-141.
  • David Shneer & Anna Shternshis (2015) Why Jewish Museums?, East European Jewish Affairs, 45:2-3, 151-152.
  • “East European Jewish Affairs: New Borders and Boundaries." East European Jewish Affairs 44.2-3 (2014): 151-3. (with David Shneer),
  • “Heimat und ihre Bedeutung”: Das «Centre for Diaspora Studies» an der University of Toronto als Projekt und Notwendigkeit, Tachles, August 6. 2014. Available at, retrieved on January 29, 2015.
  • “As a professor of Jewish Studies, how do you perceive your responsibility to the Jewish community?,” an opinion piece, AJS Perspectives, a magazine of the Association of Jewish Studies, New York: Association of Jewish Studies, Fall 2012, p. 61 also available at, retrieved on April 29, 2013.
  • “Jewish Culture and Alternative Passover in the Soviet Union” in Secular Culture and Ideas, 2011,
  • It Is No Longer Just about the Master’s Thesis, Canadian Jewish News, 13 January 2011.
  • “Koscheres Schweinefleisch”, in Identitäten, Berlin: Berlin Jewish Museum, 2010, 240 - 241.
  • ‘Gefilte Fish or White Piano’ in Secular Culture and Ideas, 2008.
  • Piety, Klezmer and Queer: Yiddish in the 21 st Century,” Ideas, Fall 2006, pp. 36 -39.

Conferences And Workshops Organized

  • Global Yiddish Culture, 1938 – 1948, University of Toronto, April 19-21, 2015 (together with Doris Bergen and Jeff Kopstein)
  • Jewish Life and Death in the Soviet Union During World War II, University of Toronto, March 24 – 26, 2012 (together with Doris Bergen)
  • Jews and Africans in Modern Literary Imagination, University of Toronto, March 3, 2011, International Symposium (together with Ato Quayson)
  • Ethnography, Culture and Oral History of Yiddish Speakers in Contemporary Eastern
  • Europe, University of Toronto, March 7, 2010. International symposium.
  • Staging Minority Voices: Jews and Turks Performing in Germany , University of Toronto, 19-21 April 2009, international interdisciplinary academic conference (together with Erol Boran)
  • “Yiddish in North American Higher Education: Problems and Challenges,” round table at the annual meeting of American Association of Jewish Studies Association, Toronto, December 2007
  • Technology and Language Learning , University of Toronto, workshop, March 2007 (together with Mike Hager)
  • ReJewvenation: Futures of Jewish Culture, University of Toronto, 28–31 October, 2005. International interdisciplinary academic conference and mini-festival (together with Andrea Most and Louis Kaplan).
  • Soviet and Kosher: A Century of Jewish Culture in Russia , University of Toronto, 26–27 October, 2003. Academic conference and mini-festival (together with Peter Solomon and Sterling Beckwith).

Selected Topics for Public Lectures

  • Soviet Yiddish Humor During World War II
  • People Die Like Flies: How Yiddish Songs Documented Holocaust in the Soviet Union
  • Last Yiddish Heroes: Lost and Found Songs of World War II (together with artist Psoy Korolenko)
  • Red Star over the Shtetl: Nostalgia in Post-Soviet Yiddish Culture
  • Nostalgia in Post-Soviet Yiddish Music
  • Dark Family Secrets in the Land of Eternal Happiness: How Soviet Jews Did Not Forget the Holocaust
  • Between the Red and the Yellow Stars: Soviet Jewish Veterans of World War II in the US, Canada and Germany
  • Escape and Evacuation of European Jews to Central Asia during World War II
  • White Piano from the Russian Shtetl: Trends in the Post-Soviet Jewish Popular Culture
  • Soviet Jewish Culture in the 1920s and 1930s
  • Identity and Culture of Soviet Jews
  • Marriage, Divorce and Jewish Identity among Soviet Jews
  • Ethnicity and Choice of Careers among Soviet Jews