On Sunday, April 15th, the partners of the Center for Jewish History will host a second-hand book sale from 11am to 4pm.
The sale will include duplicate copies and “out-of-scope” work from the partners’ collections.
Discover used books about Jewish and general history, literature, art, biographies, religion and other related topics. Authors include Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Itzik Manger, Chaim Grade and many others.
All proceeds will benefit each organization’s book acquisition fund. In addition, the participating partners—American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute and YIVO Institute for Jewish Research—will be selling discounted and regular publications from their organizations.
Paperbacks will be on sale for $1; hardbacks for $3, or 4 for $10. Cash only.
Yiddish Farm: “You cannot experience this anywhere else.”
by Naftali Schaechter Ejdelman, Co-Founder, Yiddish Farm Corp.
One of my greatest passions in life is to keep the Yiddish language and culture alive and healthy. I have devoted myself to this cause for most of my life by teaching the language and providing its students with opportunities to practice it.
Although numerous institutions offer Yiddish classes, performances and events, Yiddish students rarely become fluent in the language, because they lack meaningful opportunities to speak it. About two years ago, my friend Yisroel Bass and I decided to test a new idea: What if we created an organic farm community that ran Yiddish-immersion programs to bring together Yiddish students with native speakers?
While such a dream in its current incarnation is a deep expression of our own passions, a similar vision has been passed onto me from my maternal grandfather, Dr. Mordkhe Schaechter, of blessed memory. My grandfather imbued his students, friends and family with a zeal for the Yiddish language, and actually attempted to establish a Yiddish-speaking agricultural community in the 1950s, a project that was inspired by the imagination of his father, Benyumen Schaechter.
In the spring of 2010, I retired early from my teaching career, and Yisroel and I started scouring the Internet for a suitable piece of land for Yiddish Farm. We led expeditions to farms throughout the Catskills and the Berkshires. One day, my mother called me and told me that Eve Jochnowitz, her partner on the Yiddish cooking show Eat in Good Health, had a 200+ acre farm in her family. The farm was originally bought with the express purpose of teaching Jews how to farm. Its current owner (Eve’s father) is a linguist with a particular interest in Jewish languages, and Eve herself is both a Yiddishist and an organic foodie. Moreover, the property is less than 60 miles from New York City and 15 minutes from one of the largest concentrations of Yiddish speakers in the world, Kiryas Joel. A match made in heaven.
In the summer of 2011, we launched the Yiddish Farm Summer Program on the Kayam Farm in Maryland. Piloting the program on an existing farm made us free to concentrate on planning the program rather than building the farm. With support from several foundations, our three-week advanced Yiddish program brought together Yiddish students and native speakers, ranging from secular to Hasidic. We spent our days entirely in Yiddish, working the land, rehearsing a play, reading literature, and creating new songs. It was total bliss.
This summer, we move the program to our beloved farm in Goshen. Responding to an increasing demand, we have decided to launch a month-long beginner’s Yiddish program, and we have lengthened our advanced program to nearly two months. For the first time, we are running cultural and educational programs for Jewish summer camps, bungalow colonies and yeshivas. The seeds have been ordered, the greenhouse has been erected, and rows of garlic and wheat have been planted. A new adventure begins.
To learn more about Yiddish farm—including opportunities to get involved—please click here!
The Center’s website offers more information about each of the wonderful partner organizations that make up the Center for Jewish History. Please visit this page to learn about the partners’ vital work, invaluable collections and impressive commitments to preserving the Jewish past.
"In 2005 the UN General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, every member state of the UN has an obligation to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.
Mining the Archives: Jews and the Civil Rights Movement
by David P. Rosenberg, Senior Reference Librarian - Collections, Center for Jewish History
Remembering Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. on the occasion of his 83rd birthday
At a fundraising event in a northern synagogue, a rabbi asked Dr. King what his sources of strength were. Dr. King responded: “You and I draw living waters from the same spring…from the belief in a God of Love, Mercy and Justice.” (p. 33 of Shared Dreams)
From the American Jewish Historical Society here at the Center: The American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry sponsored a nationwide telephone hookup on December 11, 1966, during which Dr. King supported Soviet Jews’ struggles and stated that “a denial of human rights anywhere is a threat to the affirmation of human rights everywhere.” (This recording is in the AJHS collections; click here to listen to it.)
Jews and the Civil Rights Movement: Some Examples
The Quiet Voices: Southern Rabbis and Black Civil Rights, 1880s to 1990s tells the stories of some of the Jewish leaders who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. One such leader was Rabbi James A. Wax of Memphis, Tennessee. Rabbi Wax served as secretary of the Memphis Committee on Community Relations, a group that formed in 1958 and was able to desegregate public facilities so successfully that “the Kennedy administration sent observers to Memphis to study the methods used by MCCR to end segregation in public facilities with a minimum of community opposition” (p. 159). Rabbi Wax’s efforts were not limited to his immediate community; he was also active in the Tennessee Council on Human Relations and the Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
Shad Polier—husband of Justine W. Polier, the first female Justice in New York—was an outspoken proponent for Jews fighting for civil rights. The AJHS holds the Shad Polier papers (P-572). In addition to supporting desegregation in the matter of Brown vs. the Board of Education, Polier served as the chairman of the Commission on Law and Social Action (CLSA) group of the American Jewish Congress. Archival material offers further insight into his stance on civil rights. An article published in the Yiddish Forward (January 10th, 1965) bears the headline, “Jews must participate in the fight for civil rights says Shad Polier” (Box 9 Folder 7- Jewish Struggle for Black Civil Rights). There are also three folders in box 4 containing Polier’s correspondence with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Shad Polier was not the only Jew involved in the NAACP. In fact, according to Heeding the Call, Jews participated in the NAACP since the organization’s founding in 1909 (p. 140). Joel and Arthur Spingarn were the early chairman of the board and head of the legal committee. (p. 15 of Fight Against Fear).
When the state of Alabama tried to suspend NAACP activities using legal maneuvers, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), along with thirteen other organizations, supported the NAACP. ADL state chairman reported that the response of Alabama Jewry was “immediate and forceful.” (p. 77)
The NAACP came to the aid of Jews after a Jewish community center in Nashville was bombed, in spite of the fact that the more common reaction to the score of synagogue bombings taking place at the time was one characterized by “a certain degree of ambivalence.” The NAACP executive secretary expressed his “horror and outrage at this dastardly act” after the Nashville bombing. He addressed the Memphis NAACP chapter to urge African-Americans to offer financial support in the wake of the crime (p. 65)
A More Nuanced View of Jewish Participation
In the article “‘Hamans’ and ‘Torquemadas’: Southern and Northern Jewish Responses to the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1965” in The Quiet Voices, Marc Dollinger asks if America’s Jewish population as a whole did enough to support African-Americans’ efforts to gain civil rights. The abstract to Dollinger’s article offers a succinct statement of his claim: “…although some northern and southern Jews participated actively in a positive way, most adapted to the racial mores of the time and place and strove first and foremost for acceptance. Reminiscent of Martin Luther King Jr., Dollinger implies that those who believed in racial justice and yet remained largely silent were perhaps as much if not more of the problem than the outright racists” (p. 67).
By contrast, there is evidence that some members of Jewish communities joined the fight even if it meant facing ridicule. In Fight Against Fear, there is a chapter devoted to female reformers—Jewish women who not only believed in racial justice, but also became outspoken and active in the movement to achieve it. These women were not trying to be accepted in their time and place; they were fighting to institute change.
The chapter in Fight Against Fear states that the 21st convention of the National Council of Jewish Women voted for the “immediate integration of public schools throughout the south” on March 20th 1955 (p. 147). Of the 12 organizations listed in a compilation of “Organizations Committed to a Program of Education to Prevent Lynching,” three are Jewish, including the NCJW and the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods (p. 149; the list was compiled by the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching).
For many of the Jewish women active in the struggle, “the social activist doctrines of Reform Judaism served as essential inspiration” (p. 168). Rabbi James Wax said of one woman who never attended religious services, “She acknowledges that she is a Jew and there is never any pretense that she isn’t. But for her, doing good is religion” (p. 168).
The American Jewish Historical Society holds a monograph devoted to the subject: Going South: Jewish Women in the Civil Rights Movement. Moving photographs accompany the scholarship presented here. One depicts Rita Schwerner speaking to delegates of the Democratic National Convention on August 25th 1964. She was trying to get the Mississippi Freedom Democratic party seated at the convention. There are also photographs of Jacqueline Levine representing the American Jewish Congress in the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965.
Your writing could be selected to appear in the Center for Jewish History’s March 2012 custom issue with The Jewish Week, a publication that will reach some 85,000 people.
To enter the contest, draw on your own experience and write a response to the following:
“The themes from Jewish history combine the wide-ranging facts of creativity and courage, and of resistance and renewal, with a deep spiritual continuity. To be Jewish is to be part of a remarkable, vibrant, and life-enhancing tradition that goes back to biblical times, and has never faded or failed.” –Sir Martin Gilbert
Entries should be 350 words or less. Due by February 1, 2012. Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You MUST “like” the Center for Jewish History’s Facebook page to participate. When you submit your contest entry, be sure to include your name as it is seen on Facebook. Click here to “like” us now.
Did you miss V. Chapman-Smith’s lecture at the Center’s inaugural “Archival Leaders Advocate” event? Now you can view it online! And don’t forget to check out Rachel C. Miller’s blog post about the event here.
New from Tablet Magazine. (Diarna — an organization you’ll read about in the above article — presented at the Center’s international digital humanities conference, “From Access to Integration.” Click here to read our post about their presentation.)