Thursday, June 03, 2010
YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe online now!
The YIVO Institute in New York has finally set up a website - the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe - that showcases some of the treasures of its vast collection of historical and linguistic documents, sound recordings, and cultural objects relating to Yiddish culture. For all the popularity of klezmer music or Jewish geneology, there are few websites that actually offer much content on-line... such as the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Culture or the Joel Bresler's amazing Sephardic Music: A Century of Recordings site. It's a great place to lose oneself for an evening among articles written by some of the best and most knowledgable experts in various fields of Yiddish culture. The section on traditional music and traditional Yiddish dance are written by Dr. Walter Zev Feldman, whose publications are essential to understanding the background of Yiddish musical culture but, alas, are usually published in journals so obscure that only a handful of professionals ever have access to read them. Zev's research into Yiddish dance, in particular, is a real step forward in reviving an art form that had very nearly been lost in entirety. The new YIVO site brings together contemporary leaders in Yiddish culture like Prof. Dovid Katz on the history of Yiddish, Judit Frigyesi on liturgical music, and even a section of Hungarian Jewish literature by János Kőbányai, editor of the Hungarian Jewish magazine Múlt és Jövő. The YIVO is a unique institution: founded in Vilnius in 1925 as the Yidisher Visnshaftlekher Institut. YIVO preserves manuscripts, rare books, and diaries, and other Yiddish sources YIVO was initially proposed by Yiddish linguist and writer Nochum Shtif (1879–1933). He characterized his advocacy of Yiddish as "realistic" Jewish nationalism, contrasted to the "visionary" Hebraists and the "self-hating" assimilationists who adopted Russian or Polish. YIVO founder Max Weinreich - who was raised in a German-speaking family but became fascinated with Yiddish and founded the YIVO Institute in his apartment in Vilnius in 1925 - predicted the tide of Naziism in Europe and moved with the collection to New York in 1938. With the destruction of Europe's Jewish communities, this left the YIVO as the main repository of hundreds of years of Yiddish history and literature. YIVO's music archives were the foundation of the modern revival of Klezmer music, and it still serves the scattered Yiddish language communities of the world as library, patron, and research institute. Today Yiddish is no longer a shrinking language: it is just that the profile of those that speak it has shifted from secular Ashkenazic Jews to the orthodox and Hasdic communities. But like a lot of "minor" languages, a good session of Youtube searching can turn up some fascinating finds, like this new cooking video in Yiddish by the folks at the wonderful Yiddish food blog In Mol Araan: