Ruth R.Wisse

Ruth R. Wisse made major contributions to Yiddish literature as both a scholar and an editor. Wisse earned an MA at Columbia with an award-winning thesis on Abraham Sutzkever’s poem “Green Aquarium” before going on to a PhD at McGill with what became her first book on Yiddish literature, The Schlemiel as Modern Hero, published in 1971. Wisse began teaching at McGill in 1968 and helped found their pioneering department of Jewish studies. She also became a regular contributor to Commentary, discussing Yiddish literature and culture, and published political essays in The New Republic and The Jerusalem Report. Wisse was the first editor-in-chief of the Library of Yiddish Classics and published a number of anthologies of Yiddish literature. She also wrote literary histories and political commentaries, most famously If I Am Not for Myself...: The Liberal Betrayal of the Jews. In 1993, she became a professor of Yiddish at Harvard. In 2000, she won the National Jewish Book Award for The Modern Jewish Canon, which discussed books written in Yiddish, German, Russian, Hebrew, and English by a wildly varied group of noted authors.


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President George Bush presents Professor Ruth Wisse with her National Humanities Medal.

White House photo by Eric Draper

Date of Birth


Professor, Writer, Editor, Founder

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ruth R. Wisse." (Viewed on February 17, 2020) <>.


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