Alexis Aaeng, who is graduating from the University of Colorado Boulder with a double Major in Jewish Studies and History in Spring 2016, received a competitive yearlong fellowship at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA for the academic year 2016-2017. The Yiddish Book Center Fellowship Program offers recent college graduates a yearlong professional experience in Yiddish language and Jewish cultural work. Fellows spend a year as full-time staff members, learning valuable professional skills and contributing to the Center’s major projects, working closely with colleagues and supervisors.
Alexis, who is an alumna of the 2015 Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, during which she began to study Yiddish, notes: “I wouldn't have began studying Yiddish if it wasn't for the Program in Jewish Studies. At the suggestion of a few of my professors, I applied for and was accepted to the Yiddish Book Center’s summer language program. And, little did I know at the time, the program would change my entire academic life.” Alexis continued studying Yiddish at CU during the current academic year, through the DILS (Direct Independent Language Study) program, which Prof. David Shneer oversees.
As a fellow and staff member at the Yiddish Book Center next year, Alexis plans to further develop her professional skills in social media, archival work, research, and oral history that she has begun to acquire and cultivate as a student at CU. While at the CU, Alexis was involved in her campus radio station, Radio 1190, where she served as chair of the Air Board, hosted weekly radio programs, and managed all social media and promotional accounts. She combined her love of radio and Yiddish in her senior thesis, directed by Prof. Liora Halperin, which focuses on the advent of radio in the late 1920s and how it affected identity formation within Yiddish-speaking communities in New York City. Alexis has also worked with the Post Holocaust American Judaism Archives at CU, preparing both the digital and physical collections for public use. These collections include the Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi Collection, which contains the writings and teachings of one of the founders of Jewish Renewal, and the Harry Mazal Collection, which includes one of the largest repositories of materials regarding Holocaust denial. “Receiving the Yiddish Book Center’s Fellowship for 2016-2017 means that I get to spend the next year sharing my love for a lively and vibrant culture through educational programs, oral history, and social media,” Alexis notes. “In a world dominated by social media, working with an organization as invested in public education projects as the Yiddish Book Center will help me further develop my communications, social media, and web development skills while combining them with my passion for learning.”
Prior to commencing her duties as the Yiddish Book Center Fellow, Alexis will return to the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program to continue her studies of the Yiddish language at a more advanced level in the summer of 2016. She will also work as a Resident Advisor at the Yiddish Book Center’s Great Jewish Books summer program for high school students, where Prof. Sasha Senderovich is on the faculty.
In 2015, Alexis was a recipient of the Barry and Sue Baer Undergraduate Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a promising undergraduate majoring or minoring in Jewish Studies who demonstrates academic success, a passion for public service, and scholarship that benefits the public good or other demonstrated evidence of a civically engaged student. As a Baer Scholar during her senior year, Alexis has served as the Vice Chair of the Undergraduate Student Advisory Board in the Program for Jewish Studies. Of her experience as a major in Jewish Studies, Alexis says: “I am forever grateful to have been involved in the Program in Jewish Studies at CU because without it, I would not have become connected to my broader intellectual and professional interests.”