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Yiddish Book Center launches decade of discovery to mark 40th anniversary

AMHERST, Mass. – The Yiddish Book Center, a cultural and educational center, library, and museum that aims to broaden awareness of and accessibility to Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture, this year will mark its 40th anniversary with the launch of “Decade of Discovery,” a major new decade-long initiative designed to foster a deeper understanding of Yiddish and modern Jewish culture. 

Beginning in 2020, and continuing for each of the next ten years, the Center will select an annual theme around which special events, courses, conferences, exhibits, performances, and other programs will be organized. The programming, often in partnership with other organizations across the country, will help create and foster new relationships with individuals and institutions to expand and strengthen engagement with Yiddish and modern Jewish culture. 

“As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, we’re seeing the impact of the Center’s work realized in a multitude of exciting ways,” said Susan Bronson, the Yiddish Book Center’s executive director. “From our translation initiative, to the expansion of our educational and public programs, to the growth of our oral history project and the launch of our publishing venture, our work is broadening awareness of Yiddish and modern Jewish culture and opening up the literature to new generations. Decade of Discovery will further animate the impact the Center has had – and will do so in the decade ahead.”

Decade of Discovery launches in 2020 with the theme “Yiddish in America: Cultural Encounters.” Events around this theme will be presented across the country at such venues as New York City’s Leonard Nimoy Thalia Theatre at Symphony Space, the American Writers Museum in Chicago, and the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, as well as at venues in Washington, D.C., Miami, San Francisco, Boston, and Toronto. 

Also announced as part of the initiative is the Center’s Coming to America: Reading Groups for Public Libraries, a program designed to engage teens and adults in thinking about immigrants’ experiences encountering America. Using Yiddish literature in translation as a portal, the program will explore questions of identity, assimilation, language, and generational change. The program presents American identity as an ongoing conversation and will compare works written in the early 20th century to works by contemporary immigrant writers.  

The Center will present related public and educational programming and exhibits throughout the year at its Amherst, Massachusetts headquarters.

In conjunction with Decade of Discovery comes the release of How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish (Restless Books, 2020), a momentous and diverse anthology of the influences and inspirations of Yiddish voices in America – drawing from 40 years of Pakn Treger, the Yiddish Book Center’s English-language magazine, and edited by award-winning authors and scholars Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert.  

The weekly podcast Judaism Unbound is airing a new series of episodes entitled “Yiddish in America,” presented in partnership with the Yiddish Book Center’s Decade of Discovery. The series will feature interviews with a range of scholars and practitioners for whom Yiddish plays a central role in their work and in their lives. 

The Yiddish Book Center’s website will serve as a hub for information about Decade of Discovery programming. A range of related content drawn from the Center’s collections and archives will be available on the Center’s website throughout the year, including newly translated work, articles, blogs, and oral histories.

For a full schedule of events and other information, visit yiddishbookcenter.org/Decade-of-Discovery.

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