The YIVO Vilna Project – An Update

Vilna Project Documents

Newly discovered documents in the Lithuanian Central State Archive from YIVO’s prewar collection, now in the process of being sorted and conserved. Their damaged appearance is testament to the circumstances in which they were rescued and hidden. Photo by Roberta Newman.

The press conference held by YIVO Executive Director Jonathan Brent and Director of Development Suzanne Leon in Vilnius, Lithuania in late September to announce the launch of YIVO’s international, multi-year initiative, the YIVO Vilna Project, has received wide attention.

The most up-to-date coverage can be found in Split Up by Holocaust, Top Collection of Yiddish Works Will Reunite Digitally” by Joseph Berger in the New York Times, which also breaks the news of a new pledge by the Lithuanian government to provide substantial funding for the project. 

Read the New York Times article.
Read an article about the project in The Jewish Week by Hannah Dreyfus. 
See a picture from the press conference on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania.

For Jenny Romaine, D.I.Y. Stands for Do It In Yiddish

The performer, puppeteer, and former sound archivist turns YIVO upside-down.

By LEAH FALK

The Haunted SukkeJenny Romaine has been spending a lot of time at YIVO lately. This summer, she co-led, with Shane Baker, the theater workshop for the Uriel Weinreich Summer Program in Yiddish Language, Literature, and Culture, introducing students to troll costumes, nigunim and sheydim (demons). This fall, she returns not once, but twice, to remind us of the ghostly roots of sukkes and to help revive one of the most celebrated pair of Yiddish puppets on the Lower East Side.

Romaine’s first stint for YIVO, “The Haunted Sukke,” her immersive-theater brain-child created with street theater troupe The Sukkes Mob, premiered at KlezCanada this summer to great acclaim. Among other things, it’s an effort to get Jews reacquainted with that most pagan and party-friendly of Jewish holidays, the feast of booths. In Hasidic communities, Romaine notes, sukkes is a time for serious celebration: get off the subway at 18th Avenue in the middle of the festival week and witness bounce castles, costumes, dancing, and food. Transmitting this sense of glee to other Jews should be easy, but Romaine also wants it to be rooted in the ancient history of the holiday: namely, the tradition of inviting ushpizin – honored guests and influences – into the sukke. Traditional ushpizin include Moyshe Rabeynu, Avraham, Yitzhak, Yaakov, Rokhl, Rivke, and Leah. A former YIVO sound archivist, Romaine’s ushpizin might range from Max Weinreich to Adrienne Cooper to Avraham Sutzkever, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and beyond.

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People Ask YIVO…. (1965)

WEVD LogoIn this episode, originally broadcast on March 21, 1965, Dr. Shlomo Noble visits the WEVD  studio for a program entitled “Mentshn fregn dem YIVO” (People Ask YIVO). Dr. Noble reports on the types of questions that YIVO gets and how YIVO receives the inquiries and answers them, as well as who refers people, especially students, to YIVO for information.  

From 1963-1976, YIVO had its own program on WEVD, the radio station established by the Socialist Party of America in 1927 (its call letters stand for the initials of American socialist leader Eugene V. Debs), which was purchased by the Jewish Daily Forward in 1932 and became a major venue from Yiddish programming.

YIVO used its spot on WEVD for Yiddish-language interviews and discussions with leading New York Yiddish cultural figures, as well as for reporting on its own scholarly and cultural work.

A new podcast of this program in the order in which it was originally broadcast will be posted here every two weeks.

Presentation of series curated by Matt Temkin, YIVO Sound Archives.

Listen to the program [in Yiddish].

YIVO in the News and Staff News – September and Early October 2014

Coverage of the Vilna Project

YIVO’s press conference in Vilnius about the launch of its fundraising campaign for the YIVO Vilna Project was covered by numerous Lithuanian news outlets and other worldwide media, including:

Der Standard
Delfi (English-language)
LRT Fonoteka Radio
Lrytas
ELTA
Kauno diena
Alfa
Vilniaus Diena

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania featured a report on the press conference on their English-language website.

The project was written up in the New York Times, The Jewish Week, and the Forward. The New York Times article was picked up by numerous websites, including Haaretz.

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YIVO Launches the “YIVO Vilna Project”

Last week, YIVO Executive Director Jonathan Brent and Director of Development Suzanne Leon visited Vilnius, Lithuania, to hold a press conference about YIVO’s new international project to preserve and digitize all of the YIVO prewar collections that survived looting by the Nazis and which are now located in both YIVO in New York and in Lithuanian repositories.

The press conference was covered by a wide range of media outlets in both Lithuania and internationally, including Lithuanian radio stations and the German newspaper, Der Standard.

YIVO Executive Director Jonathan Brent at a memorial ceremony at Ponary, the site of the mass murder of Lithuanian Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust, September 22, 2014. Photo by Ilona Šilenkova.

YIVO Executive Director Jonathan Brent at a memorial ceremony at Ponary, the site of the mass murder of Lithuanian Jews by the Nazis during the Holocaust, September 22, 2014. Photo by Ilona Šilenkova.

Read the official press release below.
Read an article about the YIVO Vilna Project in The Jewish Week.

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Tsemakh Shabad Exhibition at the Lithuanian Parliament

Tsemakh Shabad Exhibition at the Lithuanian ParliamentAn exhibition honoring doctor and Jewish communal leader Tsemakh Shabad (Szabad; 1864-1935) opened at the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) on September 21, 2014. Based on photographs and artifacts from YIVO’s Archives and Library and curated by Edward Portnoy, it explores the life and legacy of a man celebrated not only for his life’s work as a physician but for his activism in a wide variety of Jewish movements and organizations, including YIVO, which he played a leading role in establishing. Dr. Shabad was also prominent in public health projects and served as a member of the Polish Parliament in the late 1920s.

The opening of the exhibition, organized by the Jewish Community of Lithuania and YIVO, took place in the framework of a one-day conference on Jewish doctors in Vilna, and was accompanied by the unveiling of a Lithuanian, English, and Yiddish plaque honoring Shabad at the site of the former Jewish hospital in Vilnius. YIVO Executive Director Jonathan Brent delivered a talk at the conference.

Read more about Tsemakh Shabad.

Reconstucting the Past: Interview with Rick Brown

On Sunday, October 12, at 6:30pm YIVO presents “Making/History: Reconstructing the Gwoździec Synagogue,” about a ten-year project to rebuild the roof and ceiling of a 17th-century wooden synagogue for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. “Making/History” features the project’s creators, Rick and Laura Brown of Handshouse Studio; Trillium Studios filmmakers with excerpts from their documentary, Raise the Roof; and project funder Irene Pletka.

Helena Gindi, Public Program Director at YIVO, and Rick Brown of Handshouse Studio sat down and spoke about the project, Handshouse’s educational philosophy (“learn by doing”), and why the Browns are in still in awe of Gwoździec. Highlights from their conversation appear below.

Rick Brown (center) positions a piece of the bimah in the newly reconstructed Gwoździec Synagogue. Photo: Magda Starowieyska, Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

Rick Brown (center) positions a piece of the bimah in the newly reconstructed Gwoździec synagogue. Photo: Magda Starowieyska, Museum of the History of Polish Jews.

Attend the event.
Watch the trailer for Raise the Roof.

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Yiddish and the Cold War: How the YIVO Archives Revealed a Communist Plot

Gennady Estraikh

Gennady Estraikh

Jennifer Young, YIVO’s Director of Education, interviewed Gennady Estraikh, YIVO’s inaugural Albert B. Ratner Visiting Scholar in East European Jewish Literature, about Prof. Estraikh’s upcoming Ruth Gay Seminar at YIVO, Farewell to Communism: Howard Fast and Soviet Yiddish Writers, on Tuesday, October 7, at 7:00pm. YIVO Members have the opportunity to get to know Prof. Estraikh, other members, and the YIVO staff at a Members-Only reception at 5:30pm – RSVP today!

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Di gantse velt af a firmeblank: The World of Jewish Letterheads

Assemble the letterheads of Jewish organizations, institutions, and individuals in Europe, North and South America, and Palestine from the 1890s to the eve of World War II in 1939 and you have a portrait of the Jewish world: transnational; diverse in language, political, and religious orientation; and flourishing.

Di gantse velt af a firmeblank (The Whole World on a Letterhead) is an experiment in building that portrait. Here, we hope to bring you every week, a different example of letterhead from a single collection in the YIVO Archives, the Papers of Kalman Marmor.

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Modernism and the Yiddish Imagination: A Conversation with Gennady Estraikh

Gennady Estraikh

Gennady Estraikh

YIVO’s Director of Education, Jennifer Young, sat down with Gennady Estraikh, YIVO’s inaugural Albert B. Ratner Visiting Scholar in East European Jewish Literature, to ask him about the evening class he will be teaching at YIVO, “Modernism and the Yiddish Imagination.” The class will meet for six sessions on Tuesday evenings, 6:30-8:30, beginning October 28th. Click here for more information, and to register.

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