Weekly Reader 4

From April 3, 2020

A gutn moyed! That’s the traditional Yiddish greeting used during kholemoyd, the intermediate days of Pesach, which is what it will be by the time this edition of the Weekly Reader reaches you.

Our staff may be homebound, but that hasn’t stopped them from culling our collections for films, stories, interviews, and other gems. This week’s highlights include a podcast about Mah Jongg (a game with an enduring Jewish following); a blog about the poet Bertha Kling and her circle of Yiddish bohemians in the Bronx; speculation on what makes a photograph “Jewish” or “Yiddish”; a classic short film about the Center; an archival recording on Yiddish literature in America; and a translated chapter from a novel by Joseph Opatoshu.

I continue to think of you and to send all good wishes your way. Blaybt mir gezunt un shtark—stay healthy, stay strong, and stay safe!

A zisn peysekh—A sweet Pesach,

Aaron Lansky

Mah Jongg: A Curious Pastime of Jewish America

Melissa Martens Yaverbaum, executive director of the Council of American Jewish Museums and curator of Project Mah Jongg, chats with us about Mah Jongg, a game that found a passionate following among Jewish women in the 1920s and '30s and has remained a Jewish cultural touchstone ever since.

Listen on The Shmooze

Bertha Kling and the Yiddish Bohemians of the Bronx

Bertha Kling was raised by her grandparents in the shtetl of Novoredok (now Navahrudak in Belarus) and came to America at the turn of the twentieth century. She married young to a Yiddish-speaking medical student named Yekhiel Kling, and their Bronx apartment soon became the gathering place for a circle of young Yiddish writers, artists, and intellectuals. Bertha was at the center of it all, admired as an organizer, a singer of Yiddish songs, and later a poet. For decades, if you were a Yiddish writer or artist in the Bronx, the Klings’ apartment was the place to be. Our new blog celebrates this dynamic couple and their bohemian circle.

Explore the Bronx Bohemians blog

The Beginning of Yiddish Literature in America


From our Frances Brandt Online Yiddish Audio Library, this archival recording features Nahum Minkoff, a poet, an intellectual, a brilliant educator, and a respected critic in both Yiddish and English. This is the first in a series of lectures about the origins of Yiddish poetry, fiction, and drama in America. Delivered at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal, it illustrates Minkoff's wide-ranging erudition, beautiful Yiddish diction, and clear, supple style.

Listen to the archival Yiddish recording

Is There Such a Thing as Jewish (and Yiddish) Photography?

Can a photograph be “Jewish?” or “Yiddish”? What makes it that way: the subject matter, the photographer, or something more elusive? You’ll find answers to these and other persistent questions in this article by Eitan Kensky.

Read the article

In Translation: "Erev shabes on a New York Trolley," Written by Joseph Opatoshu, translated by Shulamith Berger (From the 2018 Pakn Treger Digital Translation Issue)

"Erev shabes on a New York Trolley" is the fifth chapter of Joseph Opatoshu’s novel Hibru (Hebrew), originally published serially as Lehrer (Teacher) in Di naye velt (The New World), a weekly socialist newspaper, during 1918 and 1919. The book is about teachers at afternoon Hebrew schools on New York’s Lower East Side.

Read the chapter

Watch A Bridge of Books, Sam Ball’s Award-Winning Documentary About the Yiddish Book Center

Sam Ball’s A Bridge of Books is a short, moving, and often funny documentary about an enterprising 24 year old named Aaron Lansky who set out to rescue a surprisingly modern literature from oblivion. Ball’s movie was made shortly after we moved into our new building in 1997, but it remains perennial (and Aaron, who provides the extemporaneous narration, remains forever young). If you haven’t seen it before—or if you’ve exhausted everything on Netflix and you’re looking for a different kind of rerun—this is the film for you.

Watch the documentary