|Benzion Hoffman. Dos lebn fun khayes: Zoologye (The Life of Animals: Zoology). New York, 1918.|
For millions of Yiddish-speaking immigrants arriving in America around the turn of the century, the goldene medine demanded even more than understanding a new language and surviving economically. Citizenship required learning about the culture of a young country booming with industry and driven by a heady belief in scientific progress.
|Artur Fürst. Aeroplan (The Airplane). Series: Natur un kultur, n. 6. Warsaw, 1929.|
In response to this challenge, Yiddish writers produced books to instruct the growing Jewish community in scientific subjects ranging from modern sexual activity to aeronautics, anatomy, astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry and zoology. Such texts were for the most part accurate, well written and accessible to their lay audiences. Their authors were physicians and scholars who wanted to convey facts rather than promote abstract theories or present their own original research. In many books, carefully drawn illustrations advanced readers’ comprehension of complex subjects. Some writers, like Abraham Caspe, produced multiple books on disparate scientific disciplines; others, like the prominent New York doctor Benzion Liber, an advocate of health education, were concerned with a single topic.
|Professor Samuel Kassow explains the popularization of science in different sectors of Jewish communities both in the US and in Europe. Kassow also speaks about the development of Yiddish secular education beginning around World War I, as new science textbooks for schoolchildren were written in Yiddish. Furthermore, it is argued that teaching science in Yiddish made science more accessible to Yiddish-speaking Jews and served as a way of using Yiddish as a bridge to the wider world.
|Y.A. Merison. Muter un kind (Mother and Child). New York, 1912.|
The books displayed here, supplemented by popular how-to guides and self-help pamphlets explaining American customs like love, marriage and child rearing, shaped Jews’ social and cultural integration into American society. Such books form an important counterpart to Yiddish plays, poetry, novels, and belles lettres, as they departed from literary themes and values and offered instead practical information about the ways of the world.
This exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the David Berg Foundation.
- The Four Corners of the Earth: Yiddish Around the World
- Verterbikher: What’s in a Word?
- Sholem Aleichem: The Quintessential Yiddish Writer
- I. L. Peretz: Hope and Fear
- The Yiddish Torah
- Soviet Yiddish
- The Modernists
- Voices from the Holocaust
- Words of Survivors
- Isaac Bashevis Singer
- What’s Love Got to Do With It?
- Making Americans
- Toil and Testament: Sweatshop Poets
- Women Poets and Writers
- 3,000 Yiddish Magazines
- Translating the World