MEET THE PLENARY SESSION SPEAKERS 

 

Eugene Driker

Eugene Driker, a native Detroiter, has supported the teaching of Yiddish and the dissemination of Yiddishkeit in Detroit and across the country. He currently serves as Vice-Chairman of the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, where he has been a board member for 11 years. Driker's parents, Charles and Frances Driker, were founders of the Sholem Aleichem Institute in Detroit in 1927 and remained very active in Jewish cultural affairs throughout their lives. Driker attended the Sholem Aleichem Folk Schule.

 

Driker is now in his ninth year as a member of the Board of Governors of Wayne State University, which houses the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies and other programs linked to metropolitan Detroit's Jewish community.  Driker practices law in downtown Detroit and is active in a wide variety of philanthropic and educational activities in both the Jewish and general communities.

 

 

 

 

Prof. Kenneth Waltzer

Kenneth Waltzer is Professor of History in James Madison College at Michigan State University and Director of MSU's Jewish Studies Program. He is an award winning teacher-scholar, has served as Dean of MSU's highly reputed residential college in public affairs, and -- in recent years -- has become well known as a Holocaust scholar doing path-breaking research on youths in the camps for a forthcoming book on The Rescue of Children and Youths at Buchenwald.

 

Dr. Waltzer was in the first group of scholars admitted into the newly-opened Red Cross International Tracing Service archive at Bad Arolsen in 2008 and one of the first scholars to work extensively in these documents.  While at Bad Arolsen, he discovered the rescuer of Israel Meir Lau (Lulek) in block 8 of Buchenwald. who has since been honored with Righteous status posthumously. Dr. Waltzer was also the scholar whose research unveiled the Holocaust memoir fraud, Angel at the Fence, resulting in cancellation of the book and of a planned major film. Finally, Dr. Waltzer's work is central to a new documentary that is in the making called Kinderblock 66, the story of the children's block at Buchenwald.

 

 

Michael Wex 

Author of Born to Kvetch, columnist, bon vivant and raconteur, Michael Wex has been called "a Yiddish national treasure;" Born to Kvetch, the bestselling book ever written about Yiddish, was hailed by The New York Times as "wise, witty and altogether wonderful."

 

A native of Lethbridge, Alberta, Wex has worked in virtually every area of contemporary Yiddish. Some of his songs have been recorded by such klezmer bands as Sukke, The Flying Bulgars, and 2007 Grammy winners, The Klezmatics.

 

Wex's teaching and lecture activities--a unique combination of learning, stand-up comedy and probing investigation into the nature of Yiddish and Yiddishkayt--have taken him from Toronto to Budapest, and to many points in between. His approach is so unique and appealing that his annual series of classes at Klezkamp (a yearly Yiddish cultural event in upstate New York) has been renamed Wexology--and not at Wex's instigation. The only complaint ever heard is that people are enjoying themselves so much that they forget to take notes.

 

Michael Wex's Yiddish translation has been called "the finest around", and he's got the résumé to prove it. From Mendele Moykher Sforim's The Wishing Ring to Sholem Aleykhem (Classic Yiddish Stories), Itsik Manger, testimony for projected war crimes trials and countless family documents, letters, and unpublished autobiographies, there's virtually no area of the language in which he isn't experienced.