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Rakhmiel Peltz, PhD, Professor of Sociolinguistics, Drexel University

Rakhmiel Peltz, PhD

Professor of Sociolinguistics
Graduate Faculty Member, Communication, Culture &
Department of Communication
Center for Interdisciplinary Study
Jewish Studies
Office: Library 331
Phone: 215.895.1499


  • PhD, Biological Sciences, University of Pennsylvania
  • PhD, Yiddish Studies, Columbia University, 1988

Research Interests:

  • Judaic Studies
  • Yiddish Culture and Linguistics
  • Ethnography of Communication
  • Immigrant Cultural Studies


Rakhmiel Peltz, PhD, is a well-known social historian of Yiddish, but his original specialty was in biological sciences in cell and molecular biology. His research focused on gene action and the control of differentiation during early embryogenesis and the cell cycle. Turning to Yiddish Studies, Peltz was motivated by a life-long devotion to the survival of the culture that the Nazis attempted to destroy. He has published on language and culture planning in the Soviet Union, Yiddish cultural expression of immigrants, language and identity over the lifespan and urban neighborhood life. For thirty years, he has been researching aging and ethnicity, and has developed an expertise in designing and carrying out intergenerational ethnic educational programs. He is an accomplished researcher, who uses both historical research and ethnographic methods. His research currently focuses on pre-World War II Jewish family life in Eastern Europe and ways of educating survivors of groups that are victims of genocide about their history and culture.

More recently, he was co-editor of Language Loyalty, Continuity and Change (Multilingual Matters, 2006), and served as project director and producer of the film, Toby’s Sunshine: The Life and Art of Holocaust Survivor Toby Knobel Fluek (2008). He is currently editing a volume of Uriel Weinreich’s scholarly writings on Yiddish (The Language and Culture of Jews in Eastern Europe).

A popular speaker for academic and popular audiences, Professor Peltz lectures on the history of Yiddish language and literature, Jewish life in Eastern Europe, Philadelphia neighborhood life, the legacy of immigration, and aging and ethnic identity. In addition, he facilitates Yiddish discussion groups and intergenerational programs on life history.

Arriving at Drexel in 1998, he had previously served as an Assistant Professor of Modern Foreign Languages at Boston University (1989-1991), where he also taught in the Anthropology Department, PhD Program in Applied Linguistics, and Center for Aging. From 1990-98, he was Director of Yiddish Studies at Columbia University, overseeing the PhD Program, undergraduate instruction, and the intensive summer program in Yiddish. He was Associate Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages at Columbia and also served as a visiting professor at Gratz College, Mt. Holyoke College, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Pennsylvania and Wesleyan University.

Professor Peltz brings his dedication to scholarly and community work to Drexel along with a desire to bring sectors of the academic and outside community together for learning experiences. His work has been supported by a variety of funding agencies, including the American Council of Learned Societies, the Littauer Foundation and the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. He was the Miles Lerman Fellow at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Research, US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Emanuel Patt, PhD – Workmen’s Circle Center Fellow at the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research and the Stein Israel Research Exchange Fellow. He has served on the editorial board of Contemporary Jewry, the International Journal of the Sociology of Language, Yiddish, and Yivo-bleter, and the Board of Directors of the Society for the Social Scientific Study of Jewry, HIAS and Council Immigration Service of Philadelphia and Hillel of Greater Philadelphia.

Selected Publications:


  • From Immigrant to Ethnic Culture: American Yiddish in South Philadelphia (Stanford University Press, 1998).
  • Language Loyalty, Continuity and Change: Joshua A. Fishman’s Contributions to International Sociolinguistics, with Ofelia Garcia and Harold Schiffman (Multilingual Matters, 2006).


  • “Toby’s Sunshine: The Life and Art of Holocaust Survivor Toby Knobel Fluek,” Producer and Project Director (2008).


Articles and Chapters

  • “Fuftsn yor farbreytern di randn fun der yidisher publitsistik (Fifteen Years of Widening the Margins of Yiddish Journalism),” Afn shvel, 393, 2021, 14-19.
  • “Introduction to the Second Edition,” Comprehensive English-Yiddish Dictionary, 2nd ed., Gitl Schaechter-Viswanath and Paul Glasser, eds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2021, xv-xvii.
  • “Uriel Vaynraykh: Di brik tsvishn misrekh-eyrope un amerike (Lezeykher zayn fuftsikstn yortsayt) Uriel Weinreich: the Bridge between Eastern Europe and America (The Fiftieth Anniversary of His Death),” Afn shvel, 378-379, 2018, 42-51, 73.
  • “Activism: Loving Your Languages and Fighting for Them,” Multilingua, 36, 2017, 663-671.
  • “’The Vietnamese have a better understanding of yidishkeit than the Jewish Federation officials’: A Senior Day Center in Historical Perspective,” special issue “Aging in the Jewish World,” Journal of Religion, Spirituality and Aging, 29, 2017, 164-176.
  • “A Researcher Writes for His People: Who Writes What Language for Whom and When?” International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 243, 2017, 39-65.
  • "Becoming Yiddish Speakers in New York: Burgeoning Communities of Bilingual Children," with H. Kliger, Bilingual Community Education and Multilingualism: Beyond Heritage Languages in a Global City, eds. Ofelia Garcia, Zeena Zakharia, and Bahar Otcu, Clevedon, England and Buffalo: Multilingual Matters, 2012, 204-216.
  • “Telling the American Story: Yiddish and the Narratives of Children of Immigrants,” in New Essays in American Jewish History, eds. Pamela Nadel, Jonathan Sarna, and Lance Sussman, Cincinnati and Jersey City: American Jewish Archives and Ktav Publishing House, 2010, 417-453.
  • “Diasporic Languages: The Jewish World,” in Handbook of Language and Ethnicity, 2nd edition, eds. Joshua A. Fishman and Ofelia Garcia, New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010, 135-152.
  • “125 Years of Building Jewish Immigrant Communities in Philadelphia,” in Global Philadelphia: Immigrant Communities, Old and New, eds. Ayumi Takenaka and Mary Johnson Osirim, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2010, 27-51.
  • “The Sibilants of Northeastern Yiddish: A Study of Linguistic Variation,” in Eydes: Evidence of Yiddish Documented in European Societies, eds. Ulrike Kiefer and Robert Neumann. Tubingen: Niemeyer Verlag, 2008, 241-273.
  • “The History of Yiddish Studies: Take Notice!,” in Language Loyalty, Continuity and Change: Joshua A. Fishman’s Contributions to International Sociolinguistics, O. Garcia, R. Peltz, and H. Schiffman, Clevedon, England: Multilingual Matters, 2006, 69-108. 
  • “Yiddish: A Language Without An Army Regulates Itself,” in Germanic Standardizations: Past and Present, eds. A. Deumert and W. Vandenbussche, Amsterdam: Benjamins, 2003, 435-57.
  • “The Undoing of Language Planning from the Vantage of Cultural History: Two Twentieth Century Yiddish Examples,” in Undoing and Redoing Corpus Planning, ed. M. Clyne, Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1997, 327-56.
  • “The Secular Yiddish School in the United States in Sociohistorical Perspective: Language School or Culture School?,” with H. Kliger, Linguistics and Education, 2, 1990, 1-19.
  • “The Dehebraization Controversy in Soviet Yiddish Language Planning: Standard or Symbol?,” in Readings in the Sociology of Jewish Languages, ed. J. Fishman, Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985, 125-50.