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​​The Postwar Yiddish Bookshelf

Mon, December 19, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Sheraton Boston Back Bay Blrm B 2nd Floor (AV)

Session Submission Type: Roundtable


Scholarly interest in Yiddish literature of the decades after the Holocaust continues to grow. The proposed roundtable focuses on postwar Yiddish texts as physical objects of attention, adulation, and analysis. How, we will ask, did Yiddish books function from the 1940s through 1960s as objects? What affective registers conditioned their circulation? What were the relations between Yiddish books that were read, books that were seen, and books that were felt? And how did the Yiddish bookshelf–in the home, synagogue, and/or communal library–perform the work of memorialization?

To answer these questions, roundtable participants will anchor their responses with reference to a variety of Yiddish books that occupied both significant physical space and weighed heavily, metaphorically, on the Yiddish bookshelf. This includes Yiddish series, collected works, encyclopedias, and pseudo-dictionaries. Rachelle Grossman will compare the publication of I. L. Peretz’s ALE VERK by Farlag Idisch in Buenos Aires (1944) and CYCO in New York (1947), respectively, paying specific attention to the technology of photoduplication as it relates to memorialization practices and claims of authority. Samuel Spinner will turn his attention to the175-volume series DOS POYLISHE YIDNTUM (Buenos Aires, 1946-1966), examining the project within a larger frame of monuments and monumentality in Holocaust literature. Barry Trachtenberg will explore the postwar volumes of the ALGEMEYNE ENTSIKLOPEDYE (1934-1966), in Yiddish and English, to identify the continuities and discontinuities with the pedagogical goals of the prewar volumes. Finally, Sunny Yudkoff will investigate how concerns for the Yiddish book are translated and transmitted in Leo Rosten’s 1968 bestselling dictionary, THE JOYS OF YIDDISH (1968). Rachel Rubinstein will moderate the discussion; drawing on her experiences as the co-editor of TEACHING AMERICAN JEWISH LITERATURE (2021), Rubsintein will help focus the discussion on how these works—and their presence on the bookshelf—taught audiences how to read Yiddish, experience Yiddish as a material object, and emotionally decipher the language across the Americas. Drawing on texts produced in Europe, North America, and South America, the roundtable will further approach the Yiddish bookshelf as a necessarily transnational phenomenon, and engage AJS attendees working on material history, affect theory, and theories of cultural memory.

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