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 B.A. 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 own 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 over a million volumes; and Lansky has gone on to receive 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 Bronson serves as Executive Director of the Yiddish Book Center. She holds a Ph.D. in Russian History and Jewish History from the University of Michigan and has worked in non-profit 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, MA; and Interim Director of the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, MA. She has consulted to 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. Prior to coming to the Center, Sarah received her B.M. from the Crane School of Music and her M.M. 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 & 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, 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 B.S. in business management & accounting, Wally led prior lives as a medical practitioner, real estate agent, and 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 is the Program Manager for Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture. Prior to joining the Yiddish Book Center, she worked at the Five College Center for the Study of World Language, where she organized the Supervised Independent Language Program. She holds a B.A. from Smith College in French Language and Literature.
Zvi Jankelowitz, Director of Institutional Advancement. Prior to 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 B.A. from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and an M.A.from Brandeis University’s Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership.
Josh Lambert, Academic Director. Lambert served most recently as the Dorot Assistant Professor Faculty Fellow in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He holds a BA from Harvard and a PhD from the University of Michigan. He is the author of American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide and a contributing editor of Tablet, an online Jewish magazine.
Amy Leos-Urbel, Director of Educational Programs. 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 B.A. in Comparative Literature, a Masters 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 non-profit and corporate clients. After moving to western Massachusetts to work for the award-winning New England Monthly, she went on to work with magazine and book publishers including Horticulture, Orion, Country Journal, Storey, 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.
Ari Reis, Major Gifts Officer. For nearly two decades, Ari has dedicated his time and energy to the promotion and support of Jewish enrichment programs and institutions. He has served as an Education Director and Youth Director for communities in Chicago, New Jersey, and Boston. In addition, Ari honed his financial development skills as sales manager in the specialty coffee industry. He holds a B.A. from Michigan State University, and a Masters Degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew College.
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 B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Yiddish from Harvard. Asya's Ph.D. research was on the Yiddish songs and singing practices of contemporary Hasidic women.
Sebastian Schulman, Translation Project Coordinator. Sebastian has worked at a number of non-profit organizations, including the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. A published translator, he received a BA with Distinction in History and Jewish Studies from McGill University in Montreal, QC. He is currently completing a PhD in History at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he studies the transmission, transformation and survival of Jewish culture in Soviet Moldova.
Randi Silnutzer, Director of Operations. Randi oversees membership and online communications systems, as well as overall facilities operations. Her background in arts administration and education includes a B.A. from Hampshire College with a concentration in cultural studies and a M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts.
Margie Stark, Membership Assistant. Since 1994, Margie has assisted with the many details involved in sending our members their receipts, letters and premiums.
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.
Christa Whitney, Director of 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 Coordinator. Lesley assists in the development of the Yiddish Book Center's education programs. She received her B.A. 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.