Yiddish Book Center
Celebrating Yiddish Language & Culture
Save the Date | Yiddish: A Global Culture, opening October 15, 2023
ONLINE COURSE | Between Heaven and Earth: Yiddish Women's Folklore, Rituals, & Magic
Support the Yiddish Book Center's Translation Initiative
UP NEXT | VIRTUAL TALK | Yiddish: A Global Culture, with David Mazower and Lisa Newman | Thursday, October 5 @ 7 p.m. ET
The Shmooze: David Mazower on Yiddish: A Global Culture
Donor Profile: Larry and Muriel Gillick
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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 David Mazower, chief curator and writer for the Yiddish Book Center's new permanent exhibition, Yiddish: A Global Culture, opening October 15.
A bisl rekhiles (A Bit of Gossip)
Of the 12,000 books in our Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, this is apparently the only one with the word “gossip” in the title! Hard to believe, since Yiddish writers were a notoriously gossipy bunch, but there it is. Luckily, it’s a beauty—a gloriously irreverent record of one (doubtless gossip-filled) evening at the Warsaw Yiddish Writers’ Club. Check out the fabulous red cover on page 3 of the scan and the cute cartoon on page 5: Sholem Aleichem holds on to Peretz as he peers down from Mount Olympus in amazement at the sight of his young literary friend Hersh Dovid Nomberg tango dancing in the club (Nomberg was an obsessive dancer). The red cover image is one of the colorful new banners lining our main repository walkway in the new exhibition.
The Sholem Aleichem Funeral Album
Jewish New Yorkers gave Sholem Aleichem a truly epic send-off, as this memorial funeral album makes abundantly clear. The crowd of around 250,000 was by all accounts a record for the city, certainly up to 1916 and quite possibly ever since. The incredible photographs show mourners flooding the streets, crowding onto balconies, and clambering over monuments in the cemetery. The album also gives us a peek at Sholem Aleichem’s writing desk in the Bronx. Check out the pages of manuscript—I love the contrast between his small, neat handwriting and his crazy signature, like a fly’s flight path. As befits the Yiddish cultural icon par excellence, this album is on display in the Celebrities section of our new exhibition.
Crotona Park: A Yiddish Haven in the Bronx
Last year’s bibliography fellows were an exceptional bunch. They accomplished an enormous amount, not least helping to shape the new exhibition in myriad ways. But they also found time to write some great pieces for the Center’s website, including this one by Joseph Reisberg for the Bronx Bohemians blog. Our understanding of what constitutes Yiddish literary and cultural space has expanded significantly in recent years to encompass the café, salon, and sanatorium. Joey used the Center’s digital OCR search to great effect to add Crotona Park in the Bronx to that list. Editing the blog, collaborating on it with colleagues, and restoring Bertha Kling to her rightful place in New York Yiddish literary life has been a hugely rewarding project in recent years. Naturally, Kling makes it into the new exhibition too with a display case of wonderful ephemera donated by her granddaughter, Deborah Ramsden.
Writing the Story of Franya Winter
This is an example of the serendipity that has been a constant accompaniment to the final stages of work on the exhibition. I spent some considerable time browsing photo archives for a memorial display of Yiddish actors, representing the unimaginable loss suffered by the Yiddish theater profession in the Holocaust. One of those I selected was the Vilna star Franya Vinter (Winter). I knew nothing about her, but her smile lit up my screen, demanding to be included. Weeks later, I was astonished to see a review of a new book—author Meryl Frank’s remarkable quest to uncover the story of a theatrical cousin she had long been obsessed with. Her name? Franya Vinter. Listen to this podcast, buy the book, then come and see her in the exhibition.
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