Prof. Gershon Winer z”l (1922 – 2003) - The first director
The Rena Costa Center of Yiddish Studies was established as a Cathedra in 1983 and was upgraded to the status of a center in 1994.
The Center owes its longtime existence to its first chair, Prof. Gershon Winer, who succeeded in raising funds for its activities throughout the U.S. and Canada. Prof. Winer was born in Widze, Poland. He was eight years old when his family came to Canada and settled in Toronto. He attended there Harbord Collegiate and received a Jewish education at several local Hebrew schools and yeshivot.
He went on to study at Yeshiva College and Columbia University in New York City. He was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1948 and later earned a PhD from Michigan State University.
He served as a congregational rabbi in the United States for 14 years, and was dean and professor of Yiddish literature at the Jewish Teachers Seminary in New York for 10 years prior to making aliyah in 1970.
In Israel, he served as city manager for the town of Dimona and as secretary to the Academy of Hebrew Language. After his retirement as the Yiddish chair at Bar Ilan University, he organized the Yiddish department at the TURO college branch in Moscow, Russia.