Memories of the Yiddish Book Center's 40 Years

To celebrate the Yiddish Book Center’s 40th anniversary in 2020, we’re looking back at the Yiddish Book Center’s storied history. As part of this effort, we’re asking our members and friends to share their memories of the Yiddish Book Center. We’re happy to collect these memories in many formats—text, photographs, audio and video recordings, ephemera—whether it’s a ticket stub with a story about attending an event, a letter to or from the Center, a short recollection you’ve recorded, or a photo of your visit to the Center. We’d love to see and hear all about it!

This slideshow captures a few of the memories already collected to share with you—moving and inspiring moments and memories that evoke the magic of this unique place and community as it has existed over time and as it persists. 

Memories of the Yiddish Book Center

"Thanks to the Yiddish Book Center I have collected enough original copies of one of the books written by my grandfather, the Yiddish writer, Eliezer Schindler, to give each of my children and grandchildren their own copy! Several years ago I  inquired as to whether the Yiddish Book Center had any original copies of books by my grandfather, the Yiddish writer Eliezer Schindler. They did, and I purchased the book, which had an inscription by him.  A few years later I visited the Center and was thrilled to find another one of his books for sale on the shelf—of course I bought that one, too. Over the next few years I would contact the Center periodically to order any other original copies of my grandfather's books that had shown up, and I have now collected over 20 of the original copies. Many of the books have inscriptions by my grandfather or others (such as the Yiddish writer Dr. Boris Kader and the composer Yehoshua Weisser), and some have information about the history of the book—for example, one book had 'Camp Boiberik' stamped inside the cover.  Another book had a stamp in the cover from the J.S. Hoffman Memorial Library of Congregation Rodfei Zedek in Chicago. Pictured here are the books I have collected thanks to the Yiddish Book Center."  

–Miriam Oles, New Jersey, Yiddish Book Center member, zamler, and interviewee for the Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project

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"This is a photo of my daughter and granddaughter with one of the books that I got from the Yiddish Books [sic] Center. My granddaughter did a project about the book, which was written by her great-great-grandfather Eliezer Schindler, for an event at her school re: family artifacts/heirlooms."

–Miriam Oles, New Jersey, Yiddish Book Center member, zamler, and interviewee for the Yiddish Book Center's Wexler Oral History Project

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"Around the middle of my first week at YiddishSchool, I had a rather amazing experience—the strong feeling that all my (Yiddish-speaking) ancestors were looking down and thinking "What in the world is she doing studying Yiddish?" They were bemused but also very happy about this development in my life. (The back-story is that I grew up in a home where all the adults were bilingual but the children were not encouraged to learn Yiddish, not surprising for that time.) The YiddishSchool week continues to be a magical experience, but that first week I really felt some magic happening!"

–Dorothy Vine, Massachusetts, Yiddish Book Center member and student at adult YiddishSchool for the past 4 years

(Image of a bit of magic at YiddishSchool from Yiddish Book Center archives)

 

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"I visited the Center many times with my mother, Rose G. Jimenez. (She was a lifelong Yiddishist and passed away in August, 2018, at the age of 97. Until a few months before her death she ran a Yiddish vinkl at the JCC in Plainview, Long Island.) I remember visiting the Center with her maybe 30 years ago, when it was housed on the fourth floor of a warehouse. We had to climb all those stairs, and at each landing there was a sign of encouragement. (The only one I remember was "S'iz shver tsu zayn a yid"...) It was hard enough for my, but my mom, who was handicapped from childhood polio (but had determination of steel), pushed ahead. It was worth the effort to see all those Yiddish books. (But also a great relief when you opened the new Center...) I have also interviewed a number of people from the Center for my radio program ("English Corner") for Radio Sefarad (https://www.radiosefarad.com/?s=english+corner), the internet communications project of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain."

–Linda Jimenez, Madrid, Spain, Yiddish Book Center member and daughter of lifelong member

(Image of Yiddish Book Center found and president Aaron Lansky on a 1980 book rescue from Yiddish Book Center archives)

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"I was brought up with Yiddish being spoken in my home. Unfortunately, Yiddish seems to be a dying language. When I went to the Yiddish Book Center, it was a beautiful experience, emotionally and spiritually. A woman gave a presentation on the Catskills, then and now. I remember spending many good times there, so it was quite interesting to see the pictures and hear the stories. Before I left the Center, I made sure I brought back several Yiddish books and the good memories of a day well spent."

–Linda D. Levitt, visitor, 2016

(Image of the Center's book repository and children's corner from Yiddish Book Center archives)

 

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"My kids often came with me to pick up books and then drop them at the Book Center. Here is a photo of my son Jake in approximately 2005 climbing a tree on the Book Center grounds after having sat in the car for two hours."

–Julie Plaut Mahoney, Ph.D., Yiddish Book Center zamler since 1992

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This slideshow contains photos from our own collections, and they depict the history of the physical space the Yiddish Book Center currently occupies. What an amazing transformation of such a beautiful part of Amherst, Massachusetts!

Breaking Ground—Photos from our Archives

Architectural model of the original building.

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The Center's land before breaking ground (circa 1996).

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Construction is under way (circa 1996).

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Construction continues in the wintry cold (1997).

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Breaking ground on the expansion of the Center to include the deposit library, education space and the new Kligerman-Greenspun Performance Hall (2008).

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A parade of musicians celebrating the groundbreaking ceremony on the expansion of the Center (2008).

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Construction continues on the expansion of the Center (2008).

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Our new roof, installed in summer 2019!

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Please share with us your fondest memories of the last 40 years with the Yiddish Book Center.