Rachel Waldman was born on the eve of World War II to a literary family. Her father Moishe Waldman was a Yiddish poet and her mother Riwa Mirski wrote novels and short stories under the pen name Menuha Ram. During the war, Rachel and her mother lived in Kazakhstan under house arrest as enemies of the regime, escaping the Holocaust. After the Allied liberation, the family briefly returned to Poland and then emigrated to France, settling in Paris. Rachel passed the agrégation, the competitive civil service exam to teach English literature in the public schools. In 1978, she obtained a doctoral degree from the Sorbonne with a thesis on the American-Jewish novel. She became a professor at Université Paris VII-Jussieu, where she taught American literature and founded the Center for Jewish-American Studies. Part of her research deals with the Yiddish-speaking intelligentsia in Europe and the USA at the turn of the last century and the avant-garde publications that this community produced. She married Marcel Ertel, a cardiologist, with whom she had two daughters. Rachel Ertel became a distinguished Yiddish scholar and devoted herself to training Yiddish translators and publishing Yiddish authors in French, translated directly from the original language; she herself speaks French, Yiddish, English, Russian, and Polish. In cooperation with other intellectuals, she founded the Journées de la culture Yiddish (Days of Yiddish Culture) at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, an event that is part of the general diasporic spread of Yiddish. In 1982, she published Le shtetl, a book about the Jewish shtetl in Poland from early to modern times. Other works include Une maisonette au bord de la Vistule, et autres nouvelles du monde Yiddish (A Little House on the Vistula and Other News from the Yiddish World, 1989), Dans la langue de personne: poésie yiddish de l’anéantissement (In Nobody’s Language: Yiddish Poetry of Annihilation, 1993) and Brasier des mots (Furnace of Words, 2003). She also initiated and edited Royaumes juifs (Jewish Kingdoms, 2008 and 2009), two important anthologies of Yiddish prose. She has served as the honorary president of the Maison de la culture yiddish (Yiddish Cultural Center) in Paris, which gives Yiddish language and literature courses.