Alice Nakhimovsky | Colgate University - Faculty Directory

Colgate Directory

Alice Nakhimovsky

Alice Nakhimovsky

Distinguished Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of Jewish Studies and Russian and Eurasian Studies
Russian & Eurasian Studies, 306B Lawrence Hall
p 315-228-7274
Alice Stone Nakhimovsky, professor of Russian and Eurasian Studies and Jewish Studies, was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and went through its public schools before entering Cornell University, where she received her AB in 1971 and PhD in 1976. She completed the Advanced course in Yiddish at the YIVO/NYU Summer program in 2007.

Many years ago, as a break from graduate school, she went to study in Leningrad and eventually married there. While she started her career writing on the Russian absurdists Kharms and Vvedensky, the subject of her dissertation and first book, she became more interested in Russian-Jewish issues and has come to specialize in that. She wrote a number of books and essays on Russian-Jewish literature (most significantly Russian Jewish Literature and Identity, Johns Hopkins, 1992), collaborated on a set of Russian language textbooks, and, together with her husband Alexander, put together a book of photographs by the eminent Russian photojournalist Evgeny Khaldei (Witness to History: The Photographs of Evgeny Khaldei, Aperture, 1997).

She is especially proud of her six years of work on the editorial board of the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe (Yale University Press, 2008). The Encyclopedia is now online. If you really, really want to see Alice Nakhimovsky give a short talk, go here, scroll down to "The YIVO Encyclopedia: A Celebration" and download the video (Parts 1 and 2) of the evening performance that launched the book (Part 1, from 25:02; part 2, from 44:37). Even better, watch the whole thing for some excellent lectures by colleagues and a bunch of terrific performances. The Forward ran a review of the book (April 11, 2008); another review ran in the LA Times in July 2008.

From 2006-8, Alice Nakhimovsky collaborated with colleagues Nancy Ries of Colgate, Slava Paperno of Cornell, and Ilya Utekhin of the European University, St. Petersburg (Russia) on a virtual museum about the Soviet communal apartment (kommunalka) in its multifarious aspects. The project was funded by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Please visit our museum.

Some other publications on Jewish perception and behavior include essays on Il'ia Il'f (in Enemies of the People, Northwestern, 2002), Mikhail Zhvanetskii (in Forging of Modern Jewish Identities, Valentine-Mitchell, 2002), and Jewish food and behavior ("The Fugitive World of Russian-Jewish Cooking," in Food and Judaism, Creighton University Press, 2005; "You Are What They Ate: Russian Jews Revisit Their Past," Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Fall 2006; "Doch’ki Tev’e: chto oni eli i chto eto znachit," Istoriia i kul'tura rossiiskogo i vostochnoevreiskogo evreistva: Novye istochniki, novye podkhody, ed. O. V. Budnitsky, Moscow: Dom evreiskoi knigi, 2006; "Writing Obituaries and Declaring Life: Jewish self-assertion in a New York Russian-language newspaper,” Jewish Literature and History (University of Maryland, 2007). A little article on the writer Abraham Cahan is "Ab. Kahans esik," Forverts, 20 April 2007, p. 5. Her translation (with an introduction) of Grisha Bruskin’s memoir Past Imperfect came out in May 2008, with Syracuse University Press.

Together with her colleague Roberta Newman of YIVO, Professor Nakhimovsky published Dear Mendl, Dear Reyzl: Yiddish letter manuals in Russia and America (Indiana University Press, 2014). Letter manuals were popular educational tools that provided templates for all sorts of correspondence, ranging from business--which Yiddish writing invested with over-the-top emotionality--to family life (also high-decibel) and courtship. Vox Tablet did a podcast on the book; Nakhimovsky and Newman had a "book launch west" at the University of California, Berkeley and the Magnes Museum, in April 2014,  and will have a "book launch east" at YIVO in June 2014. Two short pieces about these fascinating little books can be checked out online are the "brivnshteler" essay at the Encyclopedia website, and an essay called "Free America," published in the journal American Jewish Archives, about American letter-writers in particular.

At Colgate, Professor Nakhimovsky teaches a variety of literature courses in Jewish Studies, as well as intermediate Russian language and modern Russian literature. When not writing, cooking, or teaching, she is usually practicing piano. She loves to play music, cook, and in general hang out with her daughter Sharon, her son Isaac, her daughter-in-law Chitra, and the enchanting Maya Nakhimovsky.



BA (1971), PhD (1976), Cornell University


Russian and European 19th- and 20th-century literature, Russian-Jewish literature and everyday life


Russian-Jewish literature, 20th-century Russian literature, Russian- and early 20th-century American-Jewish everyday life


  • Dear Mendl, Dear Reyzl: Yiddish Letter Manuals in Russia and America (Indiana University Press, 2014)
  • Translation of Grisha Bruskin, Past Imperfect (Syracuse University Press, Fall 2008)
  • Witness to History: The Photographs of Yergeny Khaldei (with A.D. Nakhimovsky) (Aperture, 1997)
  • Russian-Jewish Literature and Identity (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992)
  • Laughter in the Void: An Introduction to the Writing of Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedenskii (Wiener Slawistischer Alamanach, 1982)
  • Beginning Russian (1981, 1982, 1991)
  • Intermediate Russian (1985)
  • The Semiotics of Russian Culture, ed. (1985)
  • “A Paper Life: model letters and real letters as a key to Russian-Jewish aspirations at the turn of the twentieth century,” with Roberta Newman, Borderlands: Daily Life, Violence and Memory in East European Jewish History (Academic Press: forthcoming, 2010)
  • “'Free America’: Glimpses of Jewish Immigrant Life in the Pages of American brivnshtelers,” with Roberta Newman,” American Jewish Archives, volume LXI No. 2, 2009, pp. 73-98.
  • “Communal Living in Russia: A Virtual Museum of Everyday Life” With Nancy Ries (Colgate University, the co-principal investigator), Slava Paperno (Cornell University) and Ilya Utekhin (European University, St. Petersburg, Russia).
  • Major essay on Russian Literature (8000 words) and articles on Il’ia Il’f and Evgenii Khaldei, YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, Yale University Press, 2008; further articles on Boris Efimov (1500 words) and brivenshtelers (with Roberta Newman, 1500 words) for the online edition, 2010.
  • “The Moral Vision of the Russian-Yiddish-American writer Abraham Cahan,” East European Jewish Affairs, 2008
  • “Ab. Kahans esik,” Forverts, 20 April 2007, p. 5
  • “Doch’ki Tev’e: chto oni eli i chto eto znachit”, Istoriia i kul'tura rossiiskogo i vostochnoevreiskogo evreistva: Novye istochniki, novye podkhody, ed. O. V.Budnitsky, Moscow: Dom evreiskoi knigi, 2006.
  • “Writing Obituaries and Declaring Life: Jewish self-assertion in a New York Russian-language newspaper,” Jewish Literature and History (University of Maryland, 2007)
  • “You Are What They Ate: Russian Jews Revisit Their Past,” Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Fall 2006
  • “Public and Private in the Kitchen: Eating Jewish in the Soviet State,” Jewish Food: Proceedings of the 14th Annual Klutznik Symposium in Jewish Civilization, Creighton University Press, 2005
  • “Mikhail Zhvanetsky: The Last Jewish Joker,” Forging Modern Jewish Identities: Public Faces and Private Struggles, Vallentine-Mitchell, 2002.
  • “Death and Disillusion: Il’f in the Thirties,” Enemies of the People, Northwestern University Press, 2002.
Also, articles and reviews in Symposium, Modern Judaism, Revue des etudes slaves, Slavic Review, Slavic and East European Journal, Russian Literature Triquarterly


Colgate Senior Faculty Grant, 2010-11; Faculty Development Grant, 2014, 2013, 2007, 2006, 2005, 1998; NEH $180,000 grant for Teaching and Learning Resources, 2006; NEH Fellowship for College Teachers, 1995, 1986; Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture, 1988-89