One of the most beloved and raucous traditions of the Jewish holiday Purim is the shpiel - Yiddish for ‘play’. Discover the fascinating history of these centuries-old presentations.


Guest speaker: Miriam Borden 

One of the most beloved and raucous traditions of the Jewish holiday Purim is the shpiel – Yiddish for ‘play’. Usually a dramatization of the biblical story of Esther, these plays 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. Presented in partnership with UJA Committee for Yiddish.


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.


UJA Committee for Yiddish was created in the early 1960’s under the auspices of the Canadian Jewish Congress to coordinate, foster and promote Yiddish cultural activity in Toronto. To this day, the Committee for Yiddish continues to fulfil this goal through a variety of activities that include classes in Yiddish language and literature, theatre workshops, concerts and lectures, and through its support of Yiddish programming by various other Toronto organizations and groups. For more information please visit

Presented by:

A Kultura Collective Member

In Partnership with:

Committee for Yiddish

Start Date: March 17, 2022

1:30 PM to 3:00 PM






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