Dr. Anita Turtletaub spoke only Yiddish until she was five years old. It was then that her family came to the United States from Russia, and, unlike other Russian Jews whose native tongue was Russian, her family spoke exclusively Yiddish. It was her father’s deep love of Yiddish that had introduced the Jewish language into the home and it was his custom of bringing Yiddish newspapers and radio programs into the house that kept it alive for the family. Khane-Faygl, as she was called at home, grew up in Chicago and, while going to graduate school, taught English at Cuyahoga Community College. One day she offered to teach a Yiddish class, and a new career was born. Although she liked teaching English, she loved teaching Yiddish.
Eventually, Khane-Faygl made teaching Yiddish her full-time career. She has taught Yiddish language and literature at Northwestern University, at Teachers Institute for Women, at Hebrew Theological College, at Oakton Community College, at Harry S. Truman City College of Chicago, at Harold Washington College, at Spertus Institute and at the Community Foundation for Jewish Education!
In the interim, Anita Turtletaub managed to earn a doctorate in Yiddish literature from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the top-ranking private research university in Ohio and one of the best in the U.S. She also managed to earn a post-doctoral grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Dr. Turtletaub contributed to the field of Yiddish literature by co-authoring a musical comedy, “Love in the Catskills,” and publishing five humorous stories, one of which was featured in a recent anthology of modern Yiddish writers, entitled Vidervuks. Her most recent work has been the editing and updating of “Hans Christian Andersen’s Stories in Yiddish,” and publishing a colorful volume, “Yiddish Songs for Children” alongside individual MP3 tracks of original Yiddish music.
And yet, despite her lifelong interest and amazing contributions to Yiddish language and literature, her prime forte is matchmaking! Some twenty-odd years ago, Dr. Turtletaub introduced “The Shabbaton for Singles,” nowadays a virtual institution, where young Jewish women and men have an opportunity to meet their future marriage partners.
According to a friend and partner in this project, Dr. Turtletaub “has traveled thousands of miles all over the world – even Australia – to host singles Shabbatons. She has hosted talk shows and helped hundreds of singles with her sound advice. Anita has literally devoted her life to shidduchim. And what a zechus that is!”
I must agree with her friend’s assessment. Dr. Anita Turtletaub’s project of partnering with God in finding for mates for Jewish singles is a holy task. May she merit heavenly praise!