Dr. Alice Honig

The Language of Story and Song

Dr. Alice Honig first learned about the Yiddish Book Center when she attended a talk given by Aaron Lansky and came away with an autographed copy of Outwitting History.

“Of course, I thought it was a wonderful thing that was being done with the book rescue and the Yiddish language instruction. I didn’t teach my children Yiddish; they didn’t learn Yiddish the way I did. I had a Yiddish teacher every single week throughout my childhood; that’s how I learned the language. When I grew up, little girls didn’t go to heder, and my mother only wanted to speak English because for her America was the miracle that saved our lives. The fact that the Yiddish Book Center was working to keep Yiddish alive was so incredible.”

When asked about her Yiddish roots Alice shares the story of her mother, who escaped the hardships of her shtetl at the age of eight. Alice’s mother and grandmother immigrated to New York. Her father, who had arrived earlier, was able to purchase two steamship tickets with the help of his “very generous landlady.” “My mother arrived with one long skirt she was meant to grow into and a pair of hand-me-down shoes.” Yiddish and likely Russian were spoken in her household.

Several years ago, Alice joined a bus tour from Syracuse University, where she was teaching, to visit the Center. It was her first visit. “I thought it was charming the way the Center’s shtetl building looked, all of it,” she recalls. “I loved seeing the Yiddish books and was amazed by the breadth of the literature. I have a real connection to Yiddish folk music so I bought two boxes of sheet music when I visited. Mostly Second Avenue songs.” For Alice, Yiddish folk songs have a deep resonance—she sings to an older generation because the “connection runs deep. The messages they convey are so embedded in the culture.”

Alice’s support came in the way of a charitable gift annuity, or CGA, with the Center. In return for her donation, Alice will receive a guaranteed annual fixed income for the rest of her life (part of each payment is tax-free, increasing its after-tax value). At the end of the annuity term, the balance will go to the Center.

“Why did I contribute support in the form of a CGA? To me this is a very precious thing that Aaron and the Yiddish Book Center are doing. When I grew up there was Yiddish theater and daily Yiddish newspapers. I believe that we should put our money where our passions are, our beliefs. If I really think Yiddish is so precious, that my Yiddish teacher was so important, and if I can give a little, why shouldn’t I support what I believe in? I was very lucky to have Yiddish lessons, so I want to support Yiddish education.”

To lean more about charitable gift annuities and to calculate your gift visit our online gift calculator. (Note: Your calculation is an estimate and is for illustrative purposes only. It does not constitute legal or tax advice.)


For information on how you can establish a charitable gift annuity at the Yiddish Book Center, please contact Zvi Jankelowitz at [email protected] or 413-256-4900, ext. 117.

From Kvel, the development newsletter of the Yiddish Book Center (Spring 2018)