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Yiddish Book Center

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Focus On Yiddish Newspapers Around the World

At the Yiddish Book Center we place a lot of emphasis on books. But if we’re being honest, we have to admit that for many decades books were not the most important part of Yiddish readers' literary diet. That position would have gone to a more humble medium—the daily newspaper. As Sholem Aleichem once wrote, the three things he enjoyed most in life were dairy foods, newspapers, and Jews, and many of his own readers would have agreed. On February 22 Ayelet Brinn, assistant professor of Judaic studies and history at the University of Hartford, will be giving a free virtual talk on “Gender and the Making of the American Yiddish Press,” which is also the subject of her recent book. For some background, let’s take a look at Yiddish newspapers not just in America but around the world. 

אויסגעקליבן Handpicked Sebastian Schulman

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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 Sebastian Schulman, the director of special projects and partnerships at the Yiddish Book Center.

Geklibene lider un getseylte poemes (Selected poems and a few epics) by Meyer Kharats

The poetry of Meyer Kharats (1912–1993) is deceptively simple. At first glance, it’s whimsical and playful, imbued with a lyrical sensibility that draws from the deep well of Yiddish song and Bessarabian folklore. And yet as you read more closely, you’re pulled into a world of emotional complexity, biting irony, and inventive, delicate, sleight-of-hand wordplay. This thick volume brings together the best of Kharats’s verse. In its pages you’ll find a range of themes, from the specificities of Moldovan Jews’ experiences in the Soviet Union or as estranged immigrants in Israel to universal feelings of love, loss, change, and so much more.

The First American Ladino Novella: Shimon Nessim’s Amerika! Amerika! with Devin E. Naar

Within the scope of this short presentation, Devin Naar gives us a peek into a vibrant but largely unknown Ladino-speaking world and challenges long-held prejudices about Sephardic Jewish life, history, and culture. As one of today’s leading scholars of Sephardic history and Ladino culture, Naar is a captivating speaker, bringing to life the complexities of his subject with passion, precision, and even a bit of panache. Naar worked on a translation of this same novella as part of the Yiddish Book Center’s 2022 Translation Fellowship. Let’s hope we’ll be able to read his English version of this story soon!

Queer Yiddish Stories

One of the most exciting features of the contemporary Yiddish scene is the way it can blend the mastery of a millennium-old tradition alongside a sort of do-it-yourself ethos that focuses on modern culture and values. This is demonstrated perhaps no better than in the way so many of today’s Yiddish cultural endeavours center queer experiences, histories, identities, and creativity. The clips in this collection showcase a range of approaches and reflections on these issues, including excerpts from interviews with Irena Klepfisz and David Shneer z”l, two of queer Yiddishland’s most prominent and beloved figures.

Subways, Skyscrapers, and Strikes: High-Schoolers Write about NYC

It may have been published some 94 years ago, but there’s something strikingly urgent and contemporary about the book examined in this short essay. In “Nyu-york: a zamlbukh,” a group of young women and men document the hustle, bustle, and struggle of their city with equal parts creativity, youthful fervor, and radical politics. Former Center fellow Joseph Reisberg expertly provides the context for this document, situating the book—which might be easily dismissed as the scribblings of a few rowdy teenagers—as a vital, lively reflection of its times.

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