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Yiddish Book Center

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Focus On Yiddish Science Fiction

On Monday, April 8, 2024, parts of North America will see a full solar eclipse. Even if you’re not in the path of totality, you should be able to see at least a partial eclipse. What does that have to do with Yiddish? Well, what doesn’t it have to do with Yiddish? Like everyone else, Yiddish speakers have gazed at the heavens and thought about what might be out there, and there is no shortage of scientific texts that have been published in Yiddish. So, in honor of this great astronomical event, let’s take a look at the world of space and science fiction—in Yiddish! 

אויסגעקליבן Handpicked Elizabeth Cardaropoli

Illustration of woman with voluminous wavy hair and v neck sweater

Each month, the Yiddish Book Center asks a member of our staff or a friend to select favorite stories, books, interviews, or articles from our online collections. This month, we’re excited to share with you picks by Elizabeth Cardaropoli, the Yiddish Book Center’s Associate Director of Visitor Services and Public Programs Manager

Leonard Nimoy’s Oral History

As a Star Trek fan with a personal history as a theatre artist, it seemed most appropriate to make mention of our moving oral history interview with the late, great Leonard Nimoy. I enjoy his rendition of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be,” but what I find most poignant was his description of the Boston West End neighborhood of his youth (now lost to urban renewal projects) and his relationship to his parents and grandparents within that community that defined his connection to his Jewish heritage, the Yiddish language, and ultimately his life as an actor.

Diary of a Squirrel

I am an animal lover, and it seems author and translator Sonye (Sonya/Sonia) Kantor was as well. She wrote and translated exclusively children’s animal stories in the 1920s. Her 1920 story Togbukh fun a veverke (Diary of a Squirrel) is a captivating tale that documents the seasonal changes in a year in the life of a squirrel in interwar Poland. Her work imagines the inner life of this little creature and how he relates to the world around him. I, too, wonder quite a bit about what my cat is thinking or about the lives of the squirrels in the tree outside my front door.

Who Is Guilty? Radiocast

Sarah B. Smith was a newspaper journalist and crime writer for Der tog (The Day), where she profiled the goings-on in New York City’s courtrooms through her series Ṿer iz shuldig? (Who Is Guilty?), which was compiled into a book in 1919. Over a hundred years later, I found myself producing a radiocast version of selections of this episodic series. Smith’s searing yet sympathetic voice distilled the hardships and hurdles of New Yorkers during the most desperate moments of their lives as they faced judgment and justice in the crowded courtrooms of the early 20th century. Ever present, raw, and realistic, her stories resonate with our curiosities in the chaos of the human experience.

Shakespeare and Yiddish

Before my career shifted into history and museum work, I was trained as a classical performer. From a young age, I adored performing Shakespeare: his poetry is kinetic, and his characters are at once so human and larger than life. Shakespeare means many different things for many different people: from “prolific” to “problematic,” from an eyeroll-inducing checkpoint on their reading syllabus to the greatest of English poets. However, the Bard of Avon has endured for over 400 years, and he found his way into the world of Yiddish theater. Ilan Stavans’ intriguing and informative talk reflects on how Shakespeare was used a “litmus test” in Yiddish theater for performers and translators cutting their teeth in show business and how Shakespeare was translated for the Yiddish stage.

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