The Purim Shpiel Throughout History with Miriam Borden

Miles Nadal JCC in Partnership with UJA Committee for Yiddish Presents:


The Purim Shpiel Throughout History, with Guest Speaker Miriam Borden


Recorded Live on Zoom, Thursday, March 17, 2022


One of the most beloved and raucous traditions of the Jewish holiday Purim is the “shpil”, the Yiddish for ‘play’. Usually a dramatization of the biblical story of Esther, these plays now often include modern settings, pop culture references, political satire and parodies. What are the origins of these performances? Were they influenced by similar European celebrations or plays? Did they have any hidden meanings? Discover the fascinating history of these centuries-old presentations.

Miriam Borden is a PhD candidate in Yiddish Studies at the University of Toronto, where she teaches Yiddish language and culture classes. Beyond the university, she is actively involved in preserving and publicizing the Yiddish history of Toronto. She works closely with the Ontario Jewish Archives on a number of Yiddish initiatives, including creating social media posts featuring a #YiddishWordoftheWeek, leading walking tours of Kensington Market, and translating Yiddish materials from the collection. She has been a fellow in the oral history and Yiddish pedagogy programs at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. And she is currently leading a project to catalogue and preserve over 2,000 Yiddish books housed at the Morris Winchevsky Centre. In addition, Miriam is currently translating the poetry of Shimon Nepom, the College Street streetcar conductor who was Toronto’s most prominent Yiddish poet in the 1930s, and working on a dissertation about the great Canadian Yiddish folksong collector Ruth Rubin.