Dr. Rena Costa z"l - Founder of the center
7.2.1918 - 5.12.2002
Dr. Rena Costa - honorary doctorate, will always remain in our memory for her remarkable contribution to the revival of the Yiddish language and culture in the academic world, as a memorial for the 6 million Jews annihilated in the Second World War whose native tongue, their "mame-loshn" was Yiddish.
A beloved founding member of the Friends of Bar-Ilan Association and American and World Board of Governors, Dr. Rena Costa has contributed to the development of Yiddish language and higher education and the strengthening of academic education as well as to expanding the Yiddish cultural heritage.
Dr. Rena Costa, who left Europe just before World War II, became a successful member of the diamond industry, where she was known for her integrity and acumen, this at a time when women were shut out from the world of commerce. Even though she always spoke her mind, she had countless friends who appreciated her warm personality.
The Rena Costa Center is distinguished in Israel and throughout the world for its singular devotion to the academic study of Yiddish language and culture and for its outreach to Israeli schools and the Jewish community at large
The Center’s home is in the Faculty of Jewish Studies on the Bar-Ilan University campus in Ramat-Gan. The Rena Costa Center’s courses expose its many of students to Yiddish poetry and literature, including the works of Mendele Mokher-Sforim, Sholem Aleichem, Y. L. Peretz, Isaac Bashevis-Singer, Abraham Sutzkever, Peretz Markish, the plays of Abraham Goldfaden, Jacob Gordin, Peretz Hirshbein, as well as Yiddish journalism from its roots in Europe to contemporary New York weekly Forverts, and the Yiddish theatre and cinema.
The Center’s affiliation with Bar-Ilan University’s Faculty of Jewish Studies (the largest of its kind in the world) offers the unique opportunity for synergy among Yiddish academics and leading Israeli scholars in Jewish history and literature, Bible and Talmud.
Bar-Ilan University’s Rena Costa Center for Yiddish Studies, founded in 1983, has developed a dynamic and growing program of education, outreach and research, including:
The Center’s distinguished Yiddish scholars are mentors to a new generation of Yiddish students. They expand the spheres of Yiddish studies through research chairs and original publications which generate renewed interest in all areas of Yiddish studies. Bar-Ilan University's Rena Costa Center enables its master’s and doctoral students to submit their dissertations in Yiddish, which is unique in the academic world.
The Rena Costa Center participates in educating a new generation of Yiddish scholars to teach in communities across the globe. The Rena Costa Center has conducted college level seminars and summer schools in the Yiddish language and culture in Moscow, Kiev, Odessa, Birobidzhan and even Tokyo. In Israel, the Center brings together people from all over the world to participate in special study programs. Many of the Center’s seminars and symposia are open to the public, fostering interest and active participation by the community at large.
Every year, many of Bar-Ilan University students enroll in courses in Yiddish language and culture. Students majoring in disciplines ranging from computer science and biology to the social sciences and the humanities gain insight and appreciation of the vibrant world of Yiddish heritage.
The Rena Costa Center provides in-service programs to help the Yiddish teachers enhance and enliven their school curricula. Thanks to the Center's Yiddish instructor Vered Kopel, Israel schoolchildren—native Israelis, immigrants from Russia, and children of immigrants of Ashkenazic and Sephardic heritage—learn to speak and appreciate Yiddish and Yiddishkeit. These students qualify for their high school matriculation exams in Yiddish.