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Yiddish Book Center Preserves 1.5M Publications from Around the World

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Acclaimed Yiddish writer, Isaac Bashevis Singer. Photo Credit: NYPL

For nearly four decades, the Yiddish Book Center has uniquely positioned itself at the crossroads between cultural center, library, and museum—pioneering a diverse range of groundbreaking initiatives that broaden understanding of and accessibility to Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture. Through the rescue, preservation, digitization, and redistribution of over 1.5 million Yiddish books from around the world, the Center celebrates and regenerates the literature and culture.

The Center’s translation initiative and educational, public, and artistic programming broaden, challenge, and inform the traditional understanding of the literature the Center has rescued, from stories by acclaimed authors such as Sholem Aleichem, Chaim Grade, and Isaac Bashevis Singer to lesser known writers such as Blume Lempel, Rachmil Bryks, and Yenta Mash; from rare and unexpected finds—including original book illustrations by Marc Chagall and Diego Rivera—to Yiddish detective novels and artbooks; to works that shape our understanding of contemporary social issues in new and surprising ways.

“The over 1.5 million books we’ve recovered represent the Jewish people’s first sustained literary and cultural encounter with the modern world. They provide a window into the past thousand years of Jewish history, a precursor to modern Jewish writing in English, Hebrew and other languages, and a springboard for new creativity,” explains Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center.” Through a range of bibliographic, educational, and cultural programs, we’re working to share these treasures with the wider world.”

“As we approach our 40th anniversary we’re seeing the impact of the Center’s work realized in so many exciting ways,” says Susan Bronson, the Yiddish Book Center’s executive director. “From our humble beginnings rescuing Yiddish books, our programs now include a translation initiative to train a new generation of Yiddish translators, educational and public programs with offerings for all ages, an ambitious international oral history project capturing hundreds of hours of first-hand stories, our own publishing venture, and more. Our work is broadening awareness of Yiddish and modern Jewish culture for new generations.”

The mission of the Yiddish Book Center to recover, celebrate, and regenerate Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture across generations and around the globe is shaping the contemporary landscape in new and interesting ways. At a time when renewed interest in Yiddish culture is opening the literature and language up to new audiences through theatrical productions such as the Yiddish Fiddler on the Roof and the Tony Award-winning play Indecent—based on a work by Yiddish writer Sholem Asch—, the Center’s work is central to fostering new and deeper levels of engagement and understanding through innovative initiatives and programs.

The Yiddish Book Center was awarded the National Medal for Museums and Libraries, the nation’s highest medal conferred on a museum or library for its pioneering work digitizing the literature and making it fully accessible.

The Yiddish Book Center’s initiatives are wide-ranging and continue to increase the breadth, scope, and reach of the non-profit as it looks towards the next 40 years. The Center’s weekly podcast, The Shmooze, offers new ways of engaging with Jewish thought-leaders; Yiddish literature, language, culture, and news; and the publication of Pakn Treger—the Center’s English language magazine—, which features articles, profiles, and news related to Yiddish culture and spotlights key figures who helped shape Yiddish and Jewish cultural production.

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