Last week, during a vacation in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts, we took a side trip to visit the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst.
We expected to be there for no more than an hour, but ended up spending almost three hours watching the videos and browsing the collection of books, sheet music, and viewing artifacts such as a Yiddish printing press and reproductions of front pages of Yiddish newspapers that described the major events of the twentieth century.
One of the more interesting videos is about how more than a million Yiddish books were saved and are now being digitized and translated so that anyone can read them on the Internet.
|Copyright Yiddish Book Center|
In the past four years, they’ve recorded over 400 interviews, stories told by people of all ages and backgrounds—bobes (grandmothers) and young activists, Yiddish language students and professors, musicians, and grandchildren of Yiddish writers, native speakers and non-Yiddish speakers.
These interviews illustrate the ways in which Yiddish language and culture inform Jewish identity. Together, these stories and reflections provide a glimpse into the ways in which cultural heritage is transmitted, adapted, and reinterpreted by each generation.
The goal of the Wexler Oral History Project is to record and preserve stories. They are particularly looking for people with strong connections to Yiddish language and culture, but they also interview people from all ages and backgrounds in order to explore the broadest expression of Jewish experience.
If you are planning to visit the Book Center, consider packing your stories along with you! They have appointments available now for the coming months. Don't miss your chance to contribute your story to the archive in their state-of-the-art Karmazin Recording Studio in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Here's an example that was just posted on the Internet. It features Helen Kurzban, a Brooklyn-born native Yiddish speaker, describing how after retirement she volunteered to teach a variety of Yiddish-related courses to senior citizens and how she found out how to say lobster in Yiddish.
(A SPECIAL NOTE FOR NEW EMAIL SUBSCRIBERS: THE VIDEO MAY NOT BE VIEWABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE EMAIL THAT YOU GET EACH DAY ON SOME COMPUTERS AND TABLETS. YOU MUST CLICK ON THE TITLE AT THE TOP OF THE EMAIL TO REACH THE JEWISH HUMOR CENTRAL WEBSITE, FROM WHICH YOU CLICK ON THE PLAY BUTTON IN THE VIDEO IMAGE TO START THE VIDEO.)