Aaron Lansky 73F, Founder of Yiddish Book Center on Hampshire Campus, Celebrated in the “New York Times”

The New York Times celebrated Lansky's original quest, "To save the world's Yiddish books before it was too late," and its resulting success: the opening of the Yiddish Book Center on Hampshire College's grounds in 1997, which is home to 1.5 million titles. He plans to retire in 2025 and hand over operations to long-time executive director, Susan Bronson.

The Times reported:

“Part museum, part library, part bookstore, part storehouse, the center is now based in a 10-acre complex on the campus of Lansky’s alma mater, Hampshire College, where two buildings are designed to appear like an East European shtetl, or a small town.

“The book collection, along with Yiddish libraries of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the New York Public Library and the National Library of Israel, has been undergoing digitization so that anyone can go to its website, search for a title or author and call up an entire book. Lansky estimates that the four organizations together possess 99 percent of all the Yiddish book titles ever published. So far 11,000 titles from the center’s collection have been digitized and have triggered five million downloads.

“‘It’s a wonderful vindication that Yiddish, on the verge of extinction, will now be the first fully accessible literature in history,’ Lansky said.

“The center has also done much to bolster Yiddish language and literature. It has distributed duplicates in its collection to libraries and museums around the world and commissioned translations of Yiddish books into English, particularly those by female authors whose works were never accorded the same esteem as those by their male counterparts. The center runs summer classes in Yiddish and has produced a new two-volume text for students taking basic Yiddish courses. Thanks to Bronson’s initiative, the center has sponsored a summer music festival called Yidstock. And a publishing arm, White Goat Press, has turned out 20 books since it began in 2019.

“‘Everything I dreamed of, I’ve been able to do,’ Lansky said. ‘Not many people can say that.’”

> Read the full story.

> Learn more about the Yiddish Book Center.

Photos: Jillian Freyer for the New York Times

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