|Location||1021 West Street, Amherst, MA, 01002|
The Yiddish Book Center (National Yiddish Book Center), located on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, United States, is a cultural institution dedicated to the preservation of books in the Yiddish language, as well as the culture and history those books represent. It is one of ten western Massachusetts museums constituting the Museums10 consortium.
The Yiddish Book Center was founded in 1980 by Aaron Lansky, then a twenty-four-year-old graduate student of Yiddish literature and, as of 2016 , the center's president. In the course of his studies, Lansky realized that untold numbers of irreplaceable Yiddish books were being discarded by American-born Jews unable to read the language of their Yiddish-speaking parents and grandparents. He organized a nationwide network of zamlers (volunteer book collectors) and launched a campaign to save the world's remaining Yiddish books. Lansky recounts the origins of the center in his 2004 memoir, Outwitting History.
At the time Lansky began his work, scholars estimated there were 70,000 Yiddish books still extant and recoverable. Since then, the Yiddish Book Center has recovered more than a million volumes, and it continues to receive thousands of new books each year from around the world.
In 1997, the Yiddish Book Center moved to its current site in Amherst, Massachusetts, a 49,000-square-foot complex that echoes the rooflines of an East European shtetl (Jewish town). The center is home to permanent and travelling exhibits, a Yiddish book repository, educational programs, and the annual Yidstock: The Festival of New Yiddish Music.
In 2010, the organization dropped the initial word "National" from its name, and is currently known as "Yiddish Book Center."
The center has drawn on its duplicate holdings to distribute books to students and scholars, and to establish or strengthen collections at more than 700 research libraries, schools, and museums around the world.
The Yiddish Book Center includes a number of different collections:
The center offers public programs related to Yiddish and Jewish culture. Each year, the center hosts two visiting exhibits in its Brechner Gallery. It also has a number of permanent exhibits: the Lee & Alfred Hutt Discovery Gallery, an interactive exhibit on Jewish cultural identity; Unquiet Pages focused on Yiddish literature; A Living Connection: Photographs from the An-sky Expeditions, 1912-14 on the work of ethnographer S. An-sky; Sholem-Bayes: Reflections on the American Jewish Home; the Nancy B. Weinstein, Kindervinkl (children's corner); the Appelbaum-Driker Theater, with exhibits on Yiddish film and radio; and a reproduction Yiddish Print Shop with displays about the Yiddish press in the twentieth century.
Pakn Treger (Yiddish for "book peddler"), the magazine of the Yiddish Book Center, is an English-language magazine that covers subjects related to Yiddish culture and literature as well as news from the center. Its annual translation issue, a digital publication, features newly translated works of Yiddish literature.
The center's educational programs include the Steiner Summer Yiddish Program for college students, the Great Jewish Books Summer Program for high school students, a Great Jewish Books Teacher Workshop, a fellowship program, a translation fellowship, and Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture, as well as online and on-site classes for adult learners, including YiddishSchool. The center also offers a field trip program for middle and high school students.
In 2001, Ruthe B. Cowl (1912-2008) of Laredo, Texas, donated $1 million to create the Jack and Ruthe B. Cowl Center, which promotes "Yiddish literary, artistic, musical, and historical knowledge and accomplishment" at the center. Early in 2007, Cowl donated another $750,000 to create the Cowl Jewish Leadership Program for promising college students.
In 2013, the center launched a translation effort that includes a translation fellowship program; a publishing venture; Taytsh.org, a website and interactive resource for working Yiddish-to-English translators; and an annual digital Pakn Treger translation anthology.