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Farewell to Communism: Howard Fast and Soviet Yiddish Writers
October 7, 2014


Poster for the film Spartacus (Universal Studios, 1960), based on the novel by Howard Fast.
Gennady Estraikh, Albert B. Ratner Visiting Scholar in East European Jewish Literature; NYU

Click here to watch the video in our Program Archive.

Admission: Free
RSVP Required: | (212) 294-8301 x5167

If the best-selling novelist Howard Fast (1914-2003) is remembered today, it’s as the blacklisted author of Spartacus, the basis for the 1960 film starring Kirk Douglas. Fast joined the Communist Party in 1943 and became its leading intellectual, awarded the Stalin Prize for “helping to strengthen the cause of peace between the people” in 1954. But when Stalin’s murderous campaigns, including the execution of Yiddish writers in 1952, came to light, Fast quit the party. In this talk, Gennady Estraikh (YIVO; NYU) digs into YIVO archival exchanges between Fast and Paul Novick, the editor of the Yiddish daily Morgn-Frayhayt, and reveals the debates that raged in the American Yiddish press in reaction to Fast’s departure, as well as the devastating impact his decision had for American Jewish Communists.

The Ruth Gay Seminar in Jewish Studies was established in 2008 in honor of Ruth Gay (1922-2006), the noted American Jewish historian and writer, with a generous gift from the family of Ruth Gay. The seminar series is given by scholars who have conducted research in the YIVO Archives and wish to share their work with the public. For inquires related to Ruth Gay Seminars, please contact Senior Archivist, Fruma Mohrer, at or (212) 294-6143.

Professor Gennady Estraikh is the inaugural Albert B. Ratner Visiting Scholar in East European Jewish Literature at YIVO in fall 2014. As part of his tenure, Dr. Estraikh will participate in two public programs and teach a class. For information about his second program visit here, and to learn more about his class, "Modernism and the Yiddish Imagination," visit here.


Gennady Estraikh is the first Albert B. Ratner Visiting Scholar in East European Jewish Literature at YIVO in fall 2014, and Clinical Associate Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies and Rauch Associate Professor of Yiddish Studies at New York University. An internationally recognized authority on Yiddish language and literature and Eastern European Jewish history, Estraikh has worked at the Oxford Institute of Yiddish Studies and the London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies. He is the author of numerous publications including, Soviet Yiddish: Language Planning and Linguistic Development (Oxford University Press); In Harness: Yiddish Writers’ Romance with Communism (Syracuse University Press); and In Yiddish Literary Life in Moscow (in Russian, forthcoming). He is also the co-editor of The Captive of the Dawn: The Life and Work of Peretz Markish (Legenda); 1929: Mapping the Jewish World (NYU Press, National Jewish Book Award); Uncovering the Hidden: The Works and Life of Der Nister (Legenda); and Soviet Jews in World War II: Fighting, Witnessing, Remembering (Academic Studies Press), among others. He is on the editorial boards of several serials and periodicals, including East European Jewish Affairs.

Venue: YIVO Institute at the Center for Jewish History  |  15 West 16th Street - NYC   view map

For directions and parking information, click here.

All public programs are wheelchair accessible. A limited number of assistive listening devices are available for deaf and hard of hearing individuals upon request.