Alice Goldfarb

Honoring Her Parents by Supporting Educational Programs

As a child, Alice Goldfarb’s primary exposure to Yiddish was through her grandmother, who lived with Alice and her family. “It was the old story: she spoke Yiddish to my parents when she didn’t want my sister and me to know what she was talking about,” Goldfarb recalls with a laugh.

Goldfarb’s was among just a handful of Jewish families in the small eastern Tennessee town where she grew up. But it was important to her parents that she and her sister be connected to yidishkayt. They regularly took them, for instance, to services and Sunday school in Knoxville, which had a bigger Jewish community. “My parents always stressed Jewishness, education, and culture, and these are the things I love today,” she says.

It was fitting, then, that when Goldfarb decided to create an endowed fund at the Yiddish Book Center, it was in honor of her parents, Florence and Seymour Gerson, and was intended to support education programs at the Center. Goldfarb’s sister and brother-in-law, Betty and Malcolm Minsk, joined her in creating the endowed fund. In the past Goldfarb has also sponsored students in the Center’s Steiner Summer Yiddish Program.

It was important to Alice's parents that she and her sister be connected to yidishkayt.

While Goldfarb picked up a few Yiddish expressions from her grandmother as a child, she became more deeply involved with Yiddish culture as an adult after she moved to the Northeast and married her husband (now deceased), who, she says, “loved Yiddish.” The couple made regular trips from their New Jersey home to New York to see performances by the National Yiddish Theatre–Folksbiene. They also traveled to Amherst to visit the Yiddish Book Center, which Goldfarb’s husband had supported since the early days after learning about founder Aaron Lansky’s mission to save Yiddish books. Over the years they attended a number of courses and other programs at the Center; not surprisingly, Goldfarb especially enjoyed an exhibit about Jews living in small Southern towns. “Oh, did that ever ring bells!” she says.

“Since I’m so impressed by your exhibits and programs, your fascinating groups of interns, your ability to reach people of all ages, and your digital [Yiddish library] and other accomplishments, along with Aaron’s magic spark, I decided to help the Center by providing for an educational program in memory of our parents,” Goldfarb says.

To learn how you can establish an endowed fund to support the Yiddish Book Center, please email or call Zvi Jankelowitz at 413-256-4900, ext. 117.

From Kvel, the newsletter of the Yiddish Book Center (Spring 2015)