While Weinreich was first and foremost a linguist, other topics he wrote about included psychology (he translated Freud into Yiddish), sociology, economics, theater studies, literary history, education, ethnography, and philosophy. He had a second career as a writer of popular articles in the Yiddish Forward, frequently under the pseudonym Sore Brener. His linguistic interests included the history of linguistics, orthography, grammar, etymology, dialectology, stylistics, and the influence of traditional Jewish culture in all its facets on the development of the Yiddish language.
In 1925, on the initiative of the linguist Nahum Shtif, the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut YIVO was founded in Berlin and began its work in Vilna; its first offices were located in a room in Weinreich's apartment.
The great historian Simon Dubnow (1860-1941) was among the first to recognize that there was a legitimate Jewish history in Russia and Eastern Europe and that it was worthy of study. He urged Jews to rescue and analyze the material records of their past, and used these records in formulating his theory of Jewish nationalism. In observance of the 150th anniversary of Dubnow's birth, YIVO presents an exhibit of books, photographs, manuscripts, and letters from its Library and Archives, along with historical material--communal records, legal documents, chronicles, rabbinical responsa, and the like--from Dubnow's own archive that are now part of YIVO's collections. The exhibit offers a fascinating understanding of Dubnow's hands-on approach to Jewish history, which inspired the founders of YIVO.
This YIVO exhibition was created in memory of Abraham Sutzkever, the celebrated Yiddish poet. Abraham (Avrom) Sutzkever died on January 20, 2010, in Tel Aviv at the age of 96. He was considered the finest Yiddish poet of his generation. Sutzkever was born in Smargon, near Vilna, on July 15, 1913. He spent most of World War I in Siberia, about which he wrote poetry years later, and then settled in Vilna with his family after the war. He came of age poetically in the early 1930s, when he became the youngest member of the literary group Yung-Vilne (Young Vilna). What was a relatively normal life came to an end with the German invasion and occupation of Vilna in June 1941.
"Wandering stars": thus Sholem Aleichem characterized the actors of the Yiddish stage. This appellation, tinted with romance and nostalgia, forever stuck to the Yiddish theater. However, for those who worked in it, and for whom it was meant to secure a livelihood, these very words evoked quite another image; that of a theater, abandoned and homeless, in which a constant struggle for decent working conditions required as much effort as their creative work. The goal of the union was to lead the Yiddish actors out of that constellation of wandering stars into a place of esteem they rightly deserved.
The Hebrew Actors' Union was officially chartered on December 31, 1899. This barebones narrative highlights some important features of the fledgling Yiddish actors' unionization project: the members' unyielding position, their forceful and effective use of strikes, the camaraderie offered by theatrical support of personnel (ushers, costumers, chorus girls), the instant pro-labor conversion of the imported "scab" actors and their incorporation into the union, and the full surrender of theater managers. It is noteworthy that although the union initially comprised only 16 or 17 actors, its action garnered significant attention outside the Yiddish immigrant community.
This catalog has been published in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel. All documents featured in the catalog and the exhibition are from the archives of the YIVO Institute. After the destruction of the First Temple, Jews remained strongly connected to Jerusalem and Erets Yisra'el, their ancient homeland. The term zion (Tsiyon), which was used interchangeably with Jerusalem, is found in Jewish prayers, in poetry, and in the Psalms. In each generation groups of Jews traveled to and settled in Israel, among them the students of the Vilna Gaon in 1810. They wrote: "How wonderful it is to love our country--even in her ruins there is none to compare her, even in her desolation she is unequaled."
The Otto Frank file contains scans of the original documents that provide important, heretofore unknown, evidence of the efforts of the Frank family to emigrate from Nazi-occupied Holland in 1941. The file is presented in chronological order and also includes documents from 1945-1946 relating to the whereabouts of the Frank family initiated by the surviving relatives living in the United States.
The Otto Frank file is the property of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. All rights reserved. Reproduction or distribution in whole or in part is strictly prohibited without written permission of YIVO. The personal letters of Otto Frank contained in the file have been redacted to comply with copyright and privacy laws. Original Otto Frank letters may be viewed in their entirety for research purposes by contacting the YIVO Institute.
This brochure celebrates the lives of Kalman Reisen and his five children: Rebecca, Abraham, Sarah, Hirsh and Zalman; in particular, it tells the story of the brothers Abraham and Zalman, whose names are among the most prominent in the history of the modern Yiddish culture, and in the history of the YIVO Institute as well. It is also a story of an East European Jewish family which, typically, was fated to live through wars, revolutionary upheavals, emigration, and the horrors of the Holocaust.
As histories of such families go, the Reisens hailed from a shtetl, a small town named Koydanovo in Belarus, not far from Minsk. Koydanovo was a proverbial Jewish town with all the usual characteristics: a market square crowding with kromen (stalls), Jewish houses on its perimeters, a tserkov (Russian orthodox church) with five onion-shaped cupolas on the one end and a shulhoyf, a synagogue yard surrounded by the town's synagogues - all four of them, plus a Hasidic shtibl and the rebbe's house - on the other. Six streets ran from the square in opposite directions, and where the streets ended, a forest, a field or a village began. One street stretched all the way to the train station, and that was the promenade: families used to walk there on Shabes and watch the "courier" trains passing by without stopping.
The exhibition "The Society for the Protection of Jewish Health - Fighting for a Healthy New Generation" and the accompanying catalog have been prepared in conjunction with the conference "Jews in Medicine - in the Footsteps of Maimonides," held at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York on November 6, 2005. All images are from the collections of the YIVO Archives and Library.
OZE - Obshchestwo Zdravookhraneniya Yevreyev, "The Society for the Protection of Jewish Health," was established during the Czarist period in 1912 with headquarters in St. Petersburg. Outlawed in Russia after the revolution, while having witnessed an expanision of its activities in other countries in Eastern Europe, OZE moved to Berlin in 1923. Later, the old acronym with a slight change was fitted with the new name - Oeuvre De Secour Aux Enfants (OSE), "Society for the Aid of Children." In 1933, after the Nazi takeover in Germany, OSE transferred its headquarters to Paris.
"Here and Now" was exhibited by YIVO to commemorate the 105th anniversary of the founding of the Jewish Labor Bund. Made possible through the generous support of the YIVO Board of Directors and by YIVO Trustee Motl Zelmanowicz, the exhibition was curated by Leo Greenbaum, Krysia Fisher, and Fruma Mohrer. It opened on October 28, 2002 at the Center for Jewish History. All the materials exhibited in "Here and Now" were drawn from the collections of the YIVO Archives and the YIVO Library. The establishment of the Polish Republic in 1918 was heralded by Poles and Jews alike as the dawn of a new age of democracy, equal rights and social justice. For a large percentage of the three million Jews who lived in Poland, however, the interwar period was one of widespread virulent anti- Semitism, systematic economic discrimination, and increasing impoverishment. While Zionist parties urged Jews to leave and emigrate to Palestine, the Bund took up the call for Doikeyt or Living Here and Now. The critical problems of Jewry needed to be resolved, not by escaping from the hard realities of everyday life, but by addressing them, Here and Now, in Poland, by means of an energetic political and cultural program.
"Ida Kaminska (1899-1980): Grande Dame of the Yiddish Theater," opened in May 2001 at the Center for Jewish History. Curated by YIVO Archivist Krysia Fisher, it chronicled the life and career of Ida Kaminska, daughter of the great Yiddish actress Esther-Rachel Kaminska, co-founder of the VIKT (Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater), and after World War II, the director of the Warsaw State Jewish State Theater.
The exhibition traced the life of Ida Kaminska from 1923-24, when she and her husband, Zygmunt Turkow, established their Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater (WIKT) ensemble, to the post-war period, when she and her second husband, Meir Melman, founded the Jewish State Theater in Warsaw. Kaminska's fame was enhanced by her film work. Her most famous crossover role was in the Oscar-winning The Shop on Main Street. In 1968, Kaminska and Melman left Poland to settle in the United States. "Ida Kaminska (1899-1980): Grande Dame of the Yiddish Theater" was made possible by the generous support of Ewa and Jozef Blass and Victor Markowwicz.
The exhibition was accompanied by a catalog with essays by Krysia Fisher, Dr. Michael C. Steinlauf, and Henryk Grynberg.
"Mattityahu Strashun (1817-1885): Scholar, Leader, and Book Collector" opened on December 13, 2001. The exhibition was curated by Aviva Astrinsky with assistance from Marek Web and Krysia Fisher, who also served as the designer of the exhibition.
Samuel Strashun (1793-1872) and his son, Matityahu (Mathias) Strashun (1817-1885) were both distinguished Talmudic scholars and great philanthropists in 19th century Vilna (now Vilnius, Lithuania). The Strashun family was a staunch supporter of secular education as well as yeshiva studies. Along with the Harkavy and Romm families, to whom they were connected by marriage, they formed the backbone of the Jewish community of pre-Holocaust Vilna. Mathias Strashun spent a great part of his fortune on collecting rare Hebrew books. In his will he bequeathed his magnificent library to the Vilna community, thus creating one of the first Jewish public libraries in Eastern Europe. When the Russians occupied Vilna in 1940, the Strashun Library was merged with the Vilna YIVO Library.
The posters in the exhibition document a time when posters were a very important means of communication. They disseminated information when other forms of mass media had not yet developed or were in their formative stages.
During the interwar period, posters became a ubiquitous presence on Jewish streets. Advertisements, announcements, and calls for action, they were pasted onto walls, wooden fences, or onto the round "public announcement" kiosks which could be found on many street corners. Some posters announced theater performances, sports events, and literary readings. Others urged Jews to improve their lives through financial independence, awareness of health and hygiene issues, and political change through collective action. Campaign posters urged Jews to vote for candidates running for seats in the Polish Parliament or local city councils.
Most of the posters in the YIVO Archives were collected by YIVO when it was still headquartered in Vilna. Printed on poor-quality paper, plastered to the walls, reflecting fleeting moments of history, they were not meant to survive into the future. They open a window into a period of unprecedented flourishing of Eastern European Jewish political and cultural life. Funding for the exhibition was provided by the A. Jurzykowski Foundation and the Trust for Mutual Understanding in New York, Dr. George Szabad, the Batory Foundation, and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.