Paula was born and raised in a Yiddish-speaking home in post-war Wrocław, Poland, and attended a Jewish school, where she learned to read and write Yiddish. Paula also participated in the city’s Jewish cultural and communal life which often centered around the Jewish club.
After immigrating to the United States in 1967, Paula became actively involved in New York City’s Yiddish-speaking circles. She worked in the Yiddishist oriented Camp Hemshekh, attended and participated in Yiddish events organized by Yugntruf -Youth for Yiddish, the Workmen’s Circle, and attended performances of and occasionally acted with the Folksbiene Yiddish Theater.
Paula’s linguistic expertise is not limited to Yiddish and English; in addition she speaks Spanish, Polish, Russian and Hebrew. Her love of languages was one of the reasons she majored in Spanish and Russian and studied foreign language education as an undergrad in SUNY Buffalo and pursued an MA in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) at Columbia University’s Teachers College.
During her professional career Paula has taught Yiddish as well as Spanish and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESL) in a variety of settings, including college, and pre-K through high school and adult education classes. Using her TESOL background Paula has applied some of the most successful teaching methods into her Yiddish classrooms.
While studying in the Columbia University – YIVO Institute’s Uriel Weinreich Intensive Summer Program in Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture in 1974, she taught the afternoon Yiddish song workshop. Her association with YIVO’s Weinreich Program continued and since 1986, she has taught Yiddish language classes, conversation and reading workshops as well as the intensive aleph-beys workshop for beginning students. Paula has taught in the program when YIVO was in partnership with Columbia University, NYU, and most recently with Bard College.
Paula has also taught Yiddish language classes in other academic institutions including:
- New York University
- Stern College of Yeshiva University
- SUNY at Buffalo
- Shevach High School for Girls.
She has also taught in other non academic settings including:
- Klezkamp-Yiddish Folk Arts Program
- YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
- Workmen’s Circle
- 92nd St. Y
- Central Queens Y
- Yugntruf -Youth for Yiddish
- Yugntruf’s Yiddish-Vokh
- Pripetshik Immersion Program for Children
- Midtown Workmen’s Circle Shule.
Recognizing the need for improving the quality of Yiddish singing performance among professional singers, Paula pioneered the development of a unique class called Yiddish for Singers. This class has been an annual offering at Klezkamp. She has worked with Yiddish singers from all over the United States and abroad focusing on pronunciation, blending of sounds across word boundaries , word and sentence stress and aligning the lyrics with music to follow the rhythm of spoken Yiddish.
In addition to her professional Yiddish activities, Paula has brought up two, now grown, Yiddish-speaking daughters, participated as a performer in Yiddish musical and theater events, and was featured in film and recordings, one of which, Di Grine Katshke/The Green Duck, she co-produced with Lorin Sklamberg.