From the Yiddish Book Center

The Yiddish Book Center Weekly Reader

From Lorna Holmes

Dos Yam-Medele: Yiddish Little Mermaid

September 1, 2021

The stories of Hans Christian Anderson, originally written in Danish and translated into more than one hundred languages, are among the world’s most popular and recognizable fairly tales. “The Little Mermaid,” in particular, has been imagined and reimagined, including in Yiddish as “Dos yam-meydele.” Does it include a singing lobster? You’ll have to read it to find out:

1001 Nights

Toyzind und eyne nakht is a retelling of the famous Arabic collection One Thousand and One Nights. Such works were so popular in part because they made pieces of literature accessible to Jews who couldn’t read them in their original language—and likely because they were written in the same style as Jewish oral histories and folklore. Read more at:

August 2, 2021


Rajzel Żychlińsky (born July 27, 1910, pictured here ) was a Polish-born Yiddish poet who had a successful career in Warsaw before the Holocaust and an international one afterward. Those who know her work consider her one of the twentieth century’s best Yiddish poets, and she published some seven collections during her lifetime. In addition to being a writer she was also a literary scholar, as attested to by this rare lecture on Faust and Peer Gynt, which she gave in Yiddish at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library in 1963.


One of the best popular Yiddish fiction writers was Miriam Karpilove, a prolific author of serialized novels, short stories, plays, and sketches. Yudis, one of her first published works, is an epistolary novel that follows the protagonist, Judith, and her tumultuous romance with Joseph, a Jewish intellectual from a well-off family. Read an excerpt from Yudis, translated into English by Jessica Kirzane.



July 2, 2021

From Lorna Holmes

July 11 is Yidstock!

Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music, a pre-recorded, 75-minute program featuring a dozen musicians from around the world. Featuring Eleanor Reissa, Lorin Sklamberg, Frank London, Daniel Kahn, and more, performing a broad and eclectic repertoire of social justice songs recorded exclusively for Yidstock and drawn from Yiddish music and literature. These include labor anthems, protest songs, humanitarian odes, songs of struggle, and songs based in Yiddish poetry.

Kinder Yorn

Childhood—kinder yorn—is a constant theme in Yiddish literature. And childhood education, in the form of the traditional kheyder, especially so. Whether that meant a tyrannical teacher with a stick or a strap, or something more enlightened, Yiddish writers were often inclined to cast a backwards gaze to their earliest educational experiences. The Yiddish Book Center is a far cry from a shtetl schoolroom, but as our summer programs begin we can’t help but look back on the rich history of Jewish education, even as we carry it forward. The idea of kheyder takes us back to the nineteenth century, or earlier, but it wasn’t until the mid-twentieth century that Yiddish primers and other educational materials really flourished. These books and notebooks have much to tell us—but so does what their users left behind: doodles, addresses, jokes, and other marginalia that provide a glimpse into the inner world of schoolchildren in a unique educational system. Miriam Borden is a collector of these archival objects and recently won the 2020 Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize for her trove of schoolbooks, flashcards, and more. In this presentation, she shares highlights of this collection and the stories behind them.

Fathers in Yiddish Literature

Yiddish might be affectionately known as mame loshn—mother tongue—but the language has a special place for fathers. Whether they appear as towering authority figures or humble, well-meaning schlemiels, Yiddish literature and culture is replete with all kinds of fathers—no single type will do. The stereotype of Jewish parents as protective and overbearing may seem like it belongs to Philip Roth and Seinfeld, but it goes back further than that. Fradel Shtock, an immigrant from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was a modernist poet and short-story writer who made her mark on Yiddish literary circles in the early decades of the twentieth century. In this story, “The First Patient” (translated for Pakn Treger by Jordan Finkin and Allison Schachter), she describes a young dentist trying to deal with his meddling parents, who think they know what’s best for him and his fledgling practice.

Di Mishpokhe Karnovski (The Family Carnovsky)

J. Singer was Isaac Bashevis Singer’s older brother—and he was also a far more accomplished novelist. The Family Carnovsky (1943) offers a sprawling narrative about anti-Semitism and Jewish resilience as seen through the prism of a single family. The audio recording is available in Yiddish.

“Go Be a Prophet!”

February 8, 2021

There’s a Yiddish expression that says, “Gey zay a novi—Go be a prophet!” That’s exactly what the anonymous author of “The World in the Year 2058” tried to do back in 1958, when this curious Yiddish text was written. Not unlike the prognostications of Jules Verne (whom we’ll encounter below), the author’s prescient predictions included video phones, solar power, collision avoidance systems for cars, trackless trains, “airplanes that will fly at a speed of 1,000 miles an hour,” and self-heating and cooling clothing made of artificial fibers since “already silk, wool and cotton are hardly used.” Read more about “The World in the Year 2058” by Anonymous, Translated by Patrick Casiano, and other books at the Yiddish Book Center.

“Is Isaac Bashevis Singer a Yiddish Writer?”

January 9, 2021

This question is not as preposterous as it sounds. As beloved as he was by English readers, Singer was widely reviled by many in the Yiddish world, who denounced him as superstitious, otherworldly, pornographic, misogynistic, and out of step with a fundamental tenet of modern Yiddish literature: that it was possible to live a moral life outside the constraints of Jewish law. Twenty-nine years after Singer’s passing, Aaron Lansky revisits the debate and asks whether Singer has finally been farkashert—redeemed—by the passage of time.

Israel Joszua Singer & Isaac Bashevis Singer

Israel Joszua Singer (left) and Isaac Bashevis Singer (right)

Read the article by Aaron Lansky:

Yiddish Book Center

November 29, 2020

News and Upcoming Programs

The Drowning Shore: A Cantata in Yiddish and Scottish

London-based singer Clara Kanter, the great-great-granddaughter of Yiddish writer Sholem Asch, and composer Alastair White visit with The Shmooze to talk about The Drowning Shore, their newly released cantata, which threads together Asch’s classic 1907 play God of Vengeance with an original Scots-English text. The piece, a 14-minute video monodrama scored for ‘a mezzo-soprano in a screen,’ is written and composed by Alastair and performed by Clara. The two collaborators talk with us about how they came to make this stunning work. Podcast avalable at:

Nov 24, 2020 | Episode 280 | 33 Min | Guests: Clara Kanter Alastair White | Host: Lisa Newman

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The Yiddish Book Center

November 3, 2020

By Sid Goldstein

The Yiddish Book Center, founded in 1980 by Aron Lansky, is celebrating its fortieth anniversary. The Center was created to preserve Yiddish literature and Yiddish culture. The Center undertakes programs designed to foster a deeper understanding of how Yiddish remains relevant in the context of modern Jewish culture. To this end, the Center has revitalized thousands of pieces of Yiddish literature that were thought to be lost. Their staff is continually searching the globe for Yiddish literature that existed and thrived but is rare and difficult to find. In the course of his studies, Lansky realized that untold numbers of irreplaceable Yiddish books—the primary, tangible legacy of a thousand years of Jewish life in Eastern Europe—were being discarded by American-born Jews unable to read the language of their Yiddish-speaking parents and grandparents. So he organized a nationwide network of zamlers (volunteer book collectors) and launched a concerted campaign to save the world’s remaining Yiddish books before it was too late. When the Center began, experts estimated that 70,000 Yiddish books were still extant and recoverable. The Center’s young staff surpassed that number in six months and went on to recover more than a million volumes—some lovingly handed to them by their original owners, others rescued at the last minute from demolition sites and dumpsters. They have found books in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina, England, France, South Africa, Australia, and other countries around the world. And they continue to collect thousands of additional volumes each year.

Since 2007, the Yiddish Book Center has made more than 12,000 titles available online in the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library. This comprehensive collection includes works of fiction, memoirs, poetry, plays, short stories, science manuals, cookbooks, primers, and more. These are works by the most renowned Yiddish authors and lesser-known writers alike. To date, those titles have been downloaded an astonishing 1.6 million times. The Center also sponsors podcasts called The Shmooze that run weekly on their website. A typical example was last week. On a call all the way from Scotland, Morgan Holleb and Joe Isaac talk about how they came to co-found Glasgow’s new Peacock Café—a Yiddish-speaking kosher café operated by Jewish self-described ‘schnorrers’ where customers will “pay what they can.” Every year the Yiddish Book Center undertakes a themed project. This year’s theme focuses on Jewish immigration and the ways in which the encounter with Yiddish culture has shaped Jewish life in America over the past 150 years. In celebration of this theme, the Center spotlighting a collection of short interview excerpts from the Wexler Oral History Project about American Jewish farming communities in the US, a slideshow with iconic images from New York’s Yiddish theater, and a “From the Vault” piece by Eitan Kensky about some of the more “colorful” guidebooks in our collection written for Jewish immigrants to the United States. All of these pieces are available for members to download, read and enjoy. Becoming a member of the Yiddish Book Center is not difficult. Go to and click on “Join & Support” on the top right side of the homepage. Membership is $54.00 per year. Besides having access to all the digital library materials, as well as the project archives, you will also receive a copy of their beautiful quarterly newsletter Kvel (Delight). The Yiddish Book Center continually strives to make more and more Yiddish materials available to the Jewish public. Even during the pandemic, their researchers continue the task of finding and revitalizing pieces of Yiddish literature so that we, our children and our grandchildren can maintain a connection to the places from where we came and the unique culture that we created.

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