Tag Archives: olga-litvak

As a matter of fact, I didn't go into Jewish Studies. What I did was go to Columbia in order to study with Michael Stanislawski for a few years before settling down to a real job, the only one I've wanted since the age of four: teaching. I had no particular interest in Jewish Studies, but Stanislawski proved such a gifted, inspiring mentor that I would have been prepared to go into his field no matter what it was (except, possibly, organic chemistry). I had no stake in the academic profession for the first three years of graduate school and no sense of my contribution to "Jewish Studies" until I finished my first book. Actually, I resisted studying anything that was even remotely connected to Russian-Jewish history because I worried about people assuming that I couldn't do anything else. With Stanislawski, that was not a handicap. Quite simply, he took my intellect more seriously than my background and made me see my early Jewish education and native knowledge of Russian as assets rather than liabilities. In the course of things, I met several other people whose friendship and respect I now treasure. It so happens that most of them were also working in Jewish Studies. I've come to share their interests and I think they now share some of mine. I love the fact that we read many of the same books and obsess about the same questions. And I love that they want to read my work. However, I remain firmly convinced that my professional choices were largely (and happily) contingent; I often wonder about the possibility of going back to my real roots—a lifelong obsession with narrative—and writing something about Chekhov or Dickens. But as long as I can write about Sholem Aleichem, I probably won't.