Aaron Lansky, founder and president. Aaron Lansky was a graduate student in Montreal in the late 1970s when he discovered that large numbers of Yiddish books were being discarded by younger Jews who could not read the language of their parents and grandparents. So he took what he expected would be a two-year leave of absence from graduate school, founded the Yiddish Book Center, and, in the summer of 1980, issued a public appeal for unwanted and discarded Yiddish books. At the time, scholars believed just 70,000 volumes were still extant and recoverable. Lansky and a handful of young colleagues recovered that number in six months and went on to collect more than a million volumes. Their work has been described as “one of the greatest cultural rescue efforts in Jewish history.”
A native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, Aaron Lansky holds a BA in modern Jewish history from Hampshire College, an MA in East European Jewish studies from McGill University, and honorary doctorates from Amherst College, the State University of New York, and Hebrew Union College. Early in his career he was included by Esquire magazine in its first annual register of “The Best of the New Generation: Men and Women Under Forty Who Are Changing America,” and he received a so-called “genius grant” from the MacArthur Foundation in 1989. His bestselling book, Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books, won the Massachusetts Book Award in Nonfiction in 2005. Aaron lives in Amherst with his wife, Gail. They have two daughters, Sasha and Chava.
Susan Bronson, executive director. Susan holds a PhD in Russian history and Jewish history from the University of Michigan and has served in her current role for more than a decade. Previously, she worked in nonprofit culture and higher education for more than twenty years in organizations including the Social Science Research Council in New York and Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA. She currently serves as chair of the Board of the Council of American Jewish Museums and on the board of 7000 Languages, an organization dedicated to saving and teaching indigenous languages.
Gregory Bell, assistant video editor. Gregory received his B.S. in Film and Video Production from Fitchburg State University in 2014. He was born, raised, and currently resides in Western Massachusetts. His professional experience includes videography and video editing, motion graphic design, live video productions for local college sports, and copywriting, as well as basic photography and digital illustration. Here at the Yiddish Book Center he edits and uploads oral history videos and maintains an archive of over 1,000 interviews.
Sam Brivic, membership and online fundraising coordinator. Sam received his BA in history and geography from Clark University. He was a child when he first heard tales about the Yiddish Book Center from his grandparents, who have been enthusiastic longtime members. Prior to working at the Center, Sam was a touring musician and has experience working in a wide variety of fields.
Sarah Browne, development associate. Sarah received an MA in art history from UMass Amherst in 2014. Delighted to return to the Pioneer Valley, her love of history and literature led her to the Yiddish Book Center. She has collections, curatorial, education, and visitor services experience at museums throughout Massachusetts and New York. Prior to joining the team at the Yiddish Book Center, she held a number of roles at Hancock Shaker Village in the Berkshires, including curatorial assistant and historic interpreter.
Elizabeth Cardaropoli, public programs and visitor services manager. Elizabeth holds a BA in Theatre & Arts Management from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She has worked in arts adminstration and museum services in New York City, Boston, and the Berkshires before joining the staff of the Yiddish Book Center.
Amber Kanner Clooney, web developer and digital projects librarian. Amber holds an M.L.I.S. from Simmons College and a B.A. in English from George Mason University. She has worked in various academic and public libraries with a primary focus on digital resources, collections, and providing access to digital content.
Madeleine (Mindl) Cohen, academic director. Mindl has a PhD in Comparative Literature with an emphasis in Jewish Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She is a western Massachusetts native, she grew up in Greenfield and attended Hampshire College, where her studies focused on German and German-Jewish literature. As an undergraduate, Mindl participated in the Yiddish Book Center's Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, which set her on the path of Yiddish Studies, and more recently she was a Yiddish Book Center Translation Fellow. Before coming (back) to the Center, she worked as the Editor-in-Chief for In geveb: A Journal of Yiddish Studies and taught Yiddish language at Harvard University.
Janet Engelson, accounting clerk. Janet is a former owner of Backstage Hardware & Theatre Supply in Boston, a True Value hardware store specializing in theatre supply and servicing university theatre departments as well as movies filming in Boston. She has a BS in education and has also worked as a technology specialist for the Framingham School Department supporting and training users with hardware, software, and network issues.
Gretchen Fiordalice, director of education administration. Gretchen has nearly twenty years’ experience in nonprofit management and higher education administration. Before joining the Yiddish Book Center she was international scholar coordinator at the Center for World Languages at the Five Colleges, a consortium of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and Smith colleges and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She holds a BA in French language and literature from Smith College.
Margaret Frothingham, education program coordinator. Margaret holds a BA in English Literature and Studio Art from Wheaton College in MA and has a passion for children's literature and illustration. An avid artist, writer, and listener, Margaret is inspired by the power of language and the written word. As a volunteer and intern at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, she developed an interest in museum education and programming.
Rachelle Grossman, bibliography and collections manager. Rachelle is a specialist in Yiddish print culture, and she is completing a doctorate in Comparative Literature at Harvard University. Prior to joining the Yiddish Book Center, Rachelle lived in Warsaw where she researched postwar Yiddish publishing. Previously, she participated in Yiddish Book Center's Steiner Summer Yiddish Program and was a Yiddish Language Pedagogy Fellow. She holds a master’s in Jewish Education and a bachelor’s in Modern Jewish Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as a bachelor’s in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.
Jeff Hayes, manager of publishing and book programs. Jeff earned his MLIS from the University of Alabama in 2019, his MA in higher education administration from Bay Path University, and his BA in international studies and Spanish from Stonehill College. He worked for over 10 years in academic affairs and student services at Harvard College, and he also completed archival internships with the National Archives and Records Administration and Brandeis University’s Archives and Special Collections Department.
Zvi Jankelowitz, director of institutional advancement. Before 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 BA from Bar-Ilan University in Israel and an MA from Brandeis University’s Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership.
Ariella Leicht, development assistant. Prior to joining the Yiddish Book Center, Ariella worked at the UMass Amherst Hillel house connecting college students to Jewish culture and Art. Ariella holds a B.A in History and Biology from Stern College for Women and a M.A in Medieval Jewish History, specializing in Medieval Book Art from Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. Prior to moving to Western Massachusetts, Ariella worked as an assistant curator in New York and Israel.
Bob Loeb, treasurer and chief financial officer. Bob is a member of the executive committee with primary responsibility for oversight and management of fiscal operations. Prior to joining the Yiddish Book Center, Bob served as Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer of the non-profit Baim Institute for Clinical Research and has professional experience leading financial management efforts in other non-profit health-care related service providers. He earned a BS from Syracuse University and a MBA from Bentley University.
David Mazower, research bibliographer and editorial director. Prior to joining the Center, David was a senior staff journalist with BBC News in London and deputy curator of the Jewish Museum London. He writes for the Digital Yiddish Theatre Project and is the author of Yiddish Theatre in London. He has also published several articles on his great-grandfather, Sholem Asch. He graduated in history from Cambridge University and has a postgraduate diploma in Russian.
Rebecka McDougall, director of communications and marketing. Rebecka brings over 20 years of experience working in marketing and communications to her role at the Yiddish Book Center. Most recently, she worked at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home creating and executing integrated communications plans to raise visibility and deepen engagement with visitors and donors. Prior to joining The Mount, Rebecka worked for Jack Morton Woldwide as a senior member of their digital and learning team. She is a graduate of Boston University.
Lisa Newman, director of publishing and public programs. Prior to joining the Yiddish Book Center, Lisa managed public relations and publishing projects for a variety of nonprofit and corporate clients. After moving to western Massachusetts to work for New England Monthly, she went on to work with numerous national magazine and book publishers. She has been an instructor at the Radcliffe Publishing Course and 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. 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.
Sylvia Peterson, education program manager. Sylvia helps with onsite courses and education programs at the Yiddish Book Center. Prior to joining the Center, she interned and worked at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Sylvia holds a degree in classics from Mount Holyoke College and has a passion for language, art history, and museum studies.
Joshua Popkin, oral history project assistant provides administrative and communications support for the Wexler Oral History Project. Before joining the Yiddish Book Center, Joshua worked as a bookseller in Massachusetts and taught in Niš, Serbia on a Fulbright grant. He is a graduate of Williams College, where he studied philosophy and history.
Carole Renard, Wexler Oral History Project coordinator. Prior to joining the staff, Carole was a Wexler Oral History Project intern and completed her training as an oral historian. She holds an MA in Jewish Studies from University College London and a BA in Anthropology and Jewish Studies from Smith College.
Suzanne Rubinstein, executive assistant to the president and executive director. Suzanne has over 15 years of experience working for Jewish nonprofit organizations. Prior to the Yiddish Book Center, she worked at the University of Wisconsin Hillel and the American Technion Society. She holds a BA in liberal arts from The Evergreen State College and studied photography at Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem.
Ollie Schmith, facilities manager. Ollie has over 30 years of experience in maintenance and construction, including roles as an equipment operator and general contractor. In addition, he has served as a regional director of environmental care in various healthcare and educational facilities throughout the northeast and was a volunteer emergency services responder for the American Red Cross for over a decade.
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 BA from Barnard College, Columbia University, and a PhD in Yiddish from Harvard. Asya's PhD research was on the Yiddish songs and singing practices of contemporary Hasidic women.
Michelle Sigiel, metadata librarian. Michelle catalogs Yiddish books and materials and creates and develops metadata for digital collections. She received her MLIS with a concentration in Archival Management from Simmons College in 2017, an MA in History from the University of Vermont in 2013, and a BA with three simultaneous degrees in History, Political Science, and Holocaust & Genocide Studies from Keene State College in 2010. She has held various positions in several academic libraries and special collections where her work has focused on metadata, archival description and arrangement, and preservation.
Randi Silnutzer, director of operations. Randi oversees membership and online communications systems, as well as overall facilities operations. She has a background in arts administration and education and holds a BA from Hampshire College with a concentration in cultural studies and an MEd from the University of Massachusetts.
Christa Whitney, director, Wexler Oral History Project. Originally from Northern California, Christa discovered Yiddish while studying comparative literature at Smith College. She has studied Yiddish language at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute as well as the Yiddish Book Center, where she participated in the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program and was a graduate fellow.
Jennifer Young, education program manager. Jennifer served as the Director of Education at the YIVO Institute, where she also worked as Digital Learning Curator to produce YIVO's first online class, Discovering Ashkenaz. She has also worked at the Tenement Museum, the Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy, and the New-York Historical Society. Jennifer received a B.A. in Anthropology and Jewish Studies from McGill University, and an M.A. in Anthropology from the University of Illinois. After completing doctoral studies in Jewish history at NYU, she received an M.Ed in Museum Curriculum and Pedagogy from the University of British Columbia. She also serves as part of a scholars' working group dedicated to research and scholarship of the Yiddish Left, sponsored by Cornell University.