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There is an interesting article on the demise of landsmanshaftn -- organisations set up by migrants to help other migrants (and their families) from their hometown/areas. The problem is, as the article points out, many of these organisations' members are dying (or moving to Florida) and their children/grandchildren are not continuing their memberships.

Question is: what happens when this occurs? The prominent worry, for this particular landsmanshaft, is what will happen to the cemetary? Who will take care of the plots? Etc.

Last Call for Landsmanshaften

New film by Dani Rosenberg, starring Itay Tiran, follows a group of Holocaust refugees as they become soldiers in Israel's War of Independence. Going for realism, the film's dialoguie is in Yiddish.

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.

Wal-Mart had planned to build a new store in Monsey, NY, a small town of approximately 28,000 residents and 200 synagogues. The residents, a good majority of which are ultra-Orthodox Jews, had been dead-set against the proposal, as had the newly elected community supervisor. As a matter of fact, part of his election campaign had been to stop the development which would have caused a number of headaches for Monsey and the surrounding towns.

The campaign for and against Wal-Mart ran in Yiddish:

Wal-Mart also hired a firm to send mailings in Yiddish to local homes, asking residents to suggest ways the company could improve the area.

“A lot of us sent the mailing back to them with the words, ‘No, thanks,’ written at the top,” said a 36-year-old Hasidic man who has lived here for 18 years and who requested anonymity to keep with his religious tradition of modesty.

Then, the community hit back. Residents joined union workers for a rally in December 2006, and circulated petitions and ran ads in Yiddish and English every week for 32 weeks in a local newsletter, Community Connections.

Wal-Mart will not be going to Monsey. The developer pulled out.


From the Forward:

While investigating the 4,700 documents included in the “The Argentina Declassification Project,” Carlos Osorio, director of the Southern Cone Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, found a handwritten letter from 1979. The letter, written in Yiddish explains the plight of Héctor Catovsky who went to work one day and never returned.

To read more... click on the link above.

Yiddish Sof Vokh (weekend retreat) is an annual event organised by Yiddish Oystralye to provide Yiddish lovers and learners with a Yiddish immersion environment. For two days people of all ages participate in a variety of activities -- lectures, cooking classes, craft workshops, sport, drama and more -- and all in Yiddish.

This year's weekend will take place from May 2 to May 4th -- the group meet before dinner on Friday night and leave after lunch on Sunday. The venue is comfortable and attractive - Chestnut Hill Lodge in Kallista in the Dandenongs, a 1 hour drive from central Melbourne.

For more information, contact me.

“Unterzakhn” — Yiddish for “undergarments” — is Corman's first graphic novel. It deals with life in turn-of-the-20th-century, Lower East Side New York City. Dialogue is in both Yiddish and English.

Corman was interviewed by the Forward for this article:
Introducing a New Graphic Novel