Aaron Lansky tells the story of the Yiddish Book Center’s early years in a fast-paced memoir titled Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books.
After graduating from Hampshire College in 1977 with a BA in modern Jewish history, the Yiddish Book Center's founder and president, Aaron Lansky, enrolled in a graduate program in East European Jewish studies at McGill University in Montreal. There he discovered that large numbers of Yiddish books were being destroyed—not by anti-Semites, but by Jews who could not read the language of their parents and grandparents. Convinced that someone had to save those books, Lansky, ignoring the cautions of experts who considered the task impossible, left McGill and started what he then called the National Yiddish Book Exchange. Today the Center’s collection totals more than a million volumes, and Lansky has received a National Jewish Book Award, honorary doctorates from Amherst College and the State University of New York, and a 1989 "Genius Grant" from the MacArthur Foundation. Read more...
Susan Bronson, executive director. Susan holds a PhD in Russian history and Jewish history from the University of Michigan and has worked in nonprofit culture and higher education for more than twenty years. Susan served as program director at the Social Science Research Council in New York; director of planning and development for Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts; and interim director of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. She has consulted with museums, theater companies, and foundations including the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Memorial, the Carnegie Corporation, the Kennan Institute, the Berkshire Theater Festival, and the Stamford Museum & Nature Center.
Sarah Bleichfeld, visitor services coordinator. Sarah received her BM from the Crane School of Music and her MM in viola performance from the University of Massachusetts. She has performed throughout the country, as well as internationally, and has experience in arts administration.
Tristan Chambers, web developer and manager of digital collections. Tristan is an accomplished technologist with a background in web development, free and open source software, and information systems. He is a graduate of St. John's College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he concentrated in the philosophy of science and dabbled in Ancient Greek, Middle English, and Classical Arabic.
Hector Crespo, building and grounds supervisor. Hector’s background includes work as an airport security officer, a hospital mechanic, and a residential maintenance supervisor. At the Yiddish Book Center he handles everything from carpentry to mechanical systems to book collection trips.
Owalla ("Wally") Facteau, staff accountant. Before completing her BS in business management and accounting, Wally was a medical practitioner, a real estate agent, and a manager of a plastics company. In addition to accounting, Wally also handles human resources, compliance with government agencies, and coordination of international book shipments.
Adrienne Figus, member services coordinator and technology support specialist. A graduate of the Maryland College of Art with a concentration in printmaking and a special interest in book arts, Adrienne handles inquiries from members, coordinates recordkeeping, and assists with the Yiddish Book Center’s website.
Gretchen Fiordalice, director of education administration. Gretchen has nearly twenty years’ experience in nonprofit management and higher education administration. Before joing the Yiddish Book Center she was international scholar coordinator at the Center for World Languages at the Five Colleges, a consortium of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She holds a BA in French language and literature from Smith College.
Zvi Jankelowitz, director of institutional advancement. Before joining the staff of the Yiddish Book Center, Zvi headed his own fundraising consulting practice, The Jankelowitz Group. He was the director of institutional advancement at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and also served in director-level positions at Cohen Hillel Academy, American Friends of Israel National Museum of Science, and The Rashi School. He holds a BA from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and an MA from Brandeis University’s Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership.
Sami Keats, bookstore manager. For more than twenty years, Sami has worked as a photographer and hand bookbinder. She brings a diverse set of skills to her work at the Yiddish Book Center that combines a strong aesthetic sensibility with a broad knowledge of the publishing world. Sami holds a BA in history from Smith College and a MEd in urban education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Josh Lambert, academic director. Josh holds a BA from Harvard and a PhD from the University of Michigan. He is a contributing editor of Tablet, the online Jewish magazine, and author of American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide and Unclean Lips: Obscenity. Jews, and American Culture. Josh also served as the Dorot Assistant Professor Faculty Fellow in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University.
Amy Leos-Urbel, education program manager. Amy has a broad-based teaching background that ranges from rural and inner-city youth programs to English language training for immigrants and international students. She holds a BA in Comparative Literature and a master's in elementary education, as well as several other advanced certificates.
Catherine Madsen, bibliographer. In addition to managing the Yiddish book department, Catherine is a contributing editor to Pakn Treger and project coordinator for new English publishing ventures. She has an MFA in writing and literature from Goddard College and is the author of three books and many articles.
Lisa Newman, director of communications and visitor services. Prior to joining the Yiddish Book Center, Lisa managed public relations and publishing projects for a variety of nonprofit and corporate clients. After moving to western Massachusetts to work for New England Monthly, she went on to work with magazine and book publishers including Horticulture, Orion, Country Journal, Storey Publishing, and Disney Publishing. Lisa has been an instructor at the Columbia Publishing Course and a panelist at industry events. She is a graduate of New York University.
Paul Page, treasurer and chief financial officer. In this vital role, Paul is a member of the executive committee with primary responsibility for oversight and management of fiscal operations and planning. Prior to coming to the Yiddish Book Center, Paul was vice chancellor for administration and finance at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Katie Palmer Finn, office administrator. Katie provides support to the Center’s president, executive director, and Board of Directors. She has years of administrative experience including work at Charter Communications and Hewlett Packard. She holds a degree in Russian and linguistics and has a passion for cultural studies.
Sylvia Peterson, education program assistant. Sylvia helps with onsite courses and education programs at the Yiddish Book Center. Prior to joining the Center, she interned and worked at The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Sylvia holds a degree in classics from Mount Holyoke College and has a passion for language, art history, and museum studies.
Asya Vaisman Schulman, director of the Yiddish Language Institute. Before joining the Yiddish Book Center, Asya taught Yiddish at Indiana University, where she was also the project manager of AHEYM, the Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories. Asya holds a BA from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a PhD in Yiddish from Harvard. Asya's PhD research was on the Yiddish songs and singing practices of contemporary Hasidic women.
Randi Silnutzer, director of operations. Randi oversees membership and online communications systems, as well as overall facilities operations. She has a background in arts administration and education and holds a BA from Hampshire College with a concentration in cultural studies and an MEd from the University of Massachusetts.
Laura Soforenko, development and membership assistant. Laura earned her BA from Smith College in Studies of Women and Gender. Prior to joining the Center, she worked in fundraising and administration for various cultural centers and non-profits including Reed College, Smith College, and the American Repertory Theater.
Susan Sussman, development associate. Susan joined the Center after working in the University of Massachusetts Advancement Office, where she was involved in the University’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. Prior to that, she was associate director of the Florida Israel Institute, working to enhance educational, business, and cultural exchanges between Florida and Israel.
Maureen Turner, communications coordinator. Maureen holds a BA in English from Haverford College and an MA in journalism from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She has a background in newspaper journalism, most recently at the Valley Advocate, where she served as managing editor and senior writer.
Christa Whitney, director of the Wexler Oral History Project. A former intern and graduate fellow at the Yiddish Book Center, Christa directs the Wexler Oral History Project. A graduate of Smith College with a degree in comparative literature and dance, she researches the intersection between Spanish and Yiddish-speakers in Latin America.
Lesley Yalen, education program manager. Lesley assists in the development of the Yiddish Book Center's education programs. She received her BA from Brown University and her MFA from the University of Massachusetts. Before coming to the Center, she was a freelance writer and editor and director of a creative writing institute for teens. Lesley's poems and stories have been published in a variety of literary journals.