Yiddish Book Center Wins NEH Grant

Award Will Support the Wexler Oral History Project

The Yiddish Book Center has received a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support its Wexler Oral History Project, a growing collection of in-depth video interviews about the legacy and changing nature of Yiddish language and modern Jewish culture.

The award is for $170,000, with the possibility of an additional $100,000 in matching funds. The funding will allow the project to transcribe many of its oral history interviews, link those transcriptions to the interviews, improve the collection’s search function, and enhance its web portal, among other technical improvements.

“We’re thrilled and honored to receive this grant, which will enable us to dramatically improve public access to the interviews and making them easier to search,” said Susan Bronson, the Center's executive director.

Since its founding in 2010, the Wexler Oral History Project has interviewed more than 700 people—writers and musicians, scholars and students, native Yiddish speakers and cultural activists—about their family histories, involvement with Yiddish language and culture, Jewish identity, and the transmission of culture and values across generations and communities. 

 “Since the outset of the Wexler Oral History Project, deciding how the interviews would be processed and made available has been as important as collecting the material itself,” said Christa Whitney, the project’s director. “Given the dearth of digital resources on Yiddish and modern Jewish secular culture more broadly, we believe it is important to make all the full interviews available not only to scholars but also to the general public. The NEH grant will allow us to make it much easier for people to find the amazing resources we have.”

The Wexler Oral History Project was one of more than 200 humanities projects across the country to recently receive grants from the NEH, totaling $21.7 million. “NEH grants matter in the many communities we serve around the country—in preserving cultural heritage, supporting local cultural organizations, and helping teachers teach and students learn,” NEH Chairperson William D. Adams said in announcing the grants. “Our grants also matter at the national level, where they preserve our history and acquaint people more deeply with our cultural and political traditions. In making the humanities accessible to all Americans, NEH serves the common good."