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Fourteen cartons of Yiddish books arrived in Vilnius, having wound their way from America’s east coast across the Atlantic, through Warsaw (where a number of them had originally been printed) and Kaunas, to find a new home on the shelves of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute library.
Jim Feldman, President of the Washington Yiddish group, saw an opportunity to help two libraries with one mitsve: a local library had lost shelf space, and a library in Lithuania needed Yiddish books.
Who needs Yiddish books!? Feldman realized that the books – ranging in topic from footnoted histories to self-published poetry of the 1970s; from Classics of Yiddish literature to memorial books for Jewish towns obliterated in the Holocaust; from Lithuanian-born Abe Cahan’s 4-volume History of the United States with pull-out color maps in Yiddish to inspiring biographies of religious figures – should be put in a place where they would be used. Rather than keeping the books in storage where they would be protected but not touched, Feldman asked Tina Lunson, a development officer at the VYI, if the Institute could use any of the books. The enthusiastic “Avade!” “Of course!” began a new life for the displaced library books.
As word spread that the books would be sent to Vilnius where they would be valued, handled and read, Yiddish of Greater Washington members looked among their own collections of Yiddish books and generously contributed even more interesting volumes. Jonathan Sunshine, Herman Taube, Miriam Isaacs each donated books especially chosen for the VYI library. Then Feldman drove all the cartons to a sea-shipping firm and sent the books on their long journey, paid for by YGW.
The books’ arrival at the Vilnius Yiddish Institute several months later set Lunson to work excitedly opening the boxes to extract their treasures. Professor Dovid Katz created stacks of histories, commentaries, geographies, translations of world literature on the library reading table, “hmmm”, “oohh”. And Librarian Fania Brancovskaja is busy sorting and writing new cards for the catalog files. “Now we can read all the Classics in Yiddish!” she said.Will the Staff take time to read all the books before they are shelved? That could be. New shelves must be built for the new library. (A donation of 100 USD will build a shelf.) But it is a happy task for the autumn, and Institute students year-round and in the Summer Program have much-improved resources for research. The Library is also open to members of the local Yiddish-reading community, who regularly avail themselves of the assembled treasures. One such member is using the VYI library in writing a paper on Yiddish writers in the 1930s. “We don’t have YIVO here anymore, but we have the Institute. We are so grateful for this place!”
|2005 VILNIUS YIDDISH INSTITUTE. Solution: Neosymmetria|