It seemed fitting to break away from a conference bringing together American and European scholars and researchers working on digital humanities for an old-fashioned face-to-face conversation about Yiddish. During a conference on Digital Hermeneutics at the German Heritage Institute in Washington, DC, I sat down to talk with Gerben Zaagsma, who is an assistant professor at the Centre for Contemporary and Digital History at the University of Luxembourg. In addition to being the author of the book Jewish Volunteers, the International Brigades and the Spanish Civil War (2017), Zaagsma is the curator of the invaluable online collection of links to all things Yiddish, yiddish-sources.com.
In this interview, he talks about his chance encounter with Yiddish that started him on the path to studying klezmer music and the Spanish Civil War. While researching a book on an event with global and long-lasting reverberations, he encountered the potency and the frustrations of digital research. Finally, Zaagsma looks to the future of digital studies and Yiddish.