On Monday, March 17th, the Archive of Australian Judaica in Fisher Library became the temporary home to the collection of Yiddish books formerly under the aegis of The Jewish Folk Centre in Sydney. The JFC had decided it was no longer interested in housing the collection of what was estimated to be 2-3,000 books, and was prepared to ship them to the National Yiddish Book Centre in Amherst, Massachusetts (USA), since they "could not find anyone interested in the material".
Never mind that they had not contacted any of the members of the Australian Friends of Yiddish (in Sydney), nor answered my emails in response to a query (to a second and third party, not to me) about interest in "hundreds of books no longer wanted". The fact that the organisation wanted to send (at their own expense) these historical artefacts out of Sydney was a shame. One of the daughters of a donor/sponsor of the collection approached them about the possibility of taking her late father's personal library, and she was told of the upcoming dispatch. She contacted me and AFOY's president and we immediately set about organising transport and the above temporary shelter for the collections. With the help of Dr Marianne Dacy of the Archive, we were ready to go within a week.
On moving day, it became clear that 2,000 books (about 100 boxes we were told) was more like 4,000. It took three trips in a hired van to shift the lot. Students of the Yiddish course met the boxes (when they weren't in class) at the Archive and shoved them on to shelving.
The collection houses some fascinating titles (we've managed to unpack and shelve about 25 boxes to date), including: a pack of playing cards to learn about Yiddish literature; a pocket Harkavy Jewish-English dictionary (think early 20th century, really tiny print); Partizner geyen! from Kaczerginski; The history of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising (1948-- Buenos Aires); and Wiesel's original Un di velt hot geshvign (the abridgement and translation is called La Nuit/Night). Those are just the titles I remember off hand.
Plus there are translations into Yiddish of Shakespeare, Chekov, Somerset-Maugham, Ben-Gurion and Leon Uris.
Yes, seriously. In Israel, in the height of the anti-Yiddish polemic, a three-part translation of Exodus was published. One year after its appearance in the States. And its better than the original.
So, stay tuned to this blog for up-dates on the collection, including (mirtsashem= G-d willing) the inventory of the collection on the Heurist system. Seeing as the only inventory we have is from hand-written cards (author/title only, and sometimes not even that) that stopped about five years ago, it should prove interesting.