07 January 2010

Yiddish Book Center gets $3 million gift

The National Yiddish Book Center is expanding its Yiddish language program, thanks to a surprise $3 million bequest from television comedy writer Mickey Ross, who died in May at age 89.

According to a Center press release, "This is truly a historic gift, the largest in the Book Center's history," said founder and president Aaron Lansky.

In a separate email received today by Tracing the Tribe, Lansky writes:

Along with his incredibly generous cash gift -- the residual is still to come -- Mr. Ross left the Yiddish Book Center a permanent, 25% share of his rights to "All in the Family" and other shows. As one of our Board members wrote on hearing the news, "To think that Yiddish will benefit every time Archie Bunker utters an ethnic slur on a rerun is almost too delicious to absorb!"
The National Yiddish Book Center, established 30 years ago, says the bequest was a surprise. Lansky said, "As far as we know, Mickey Ross never visited here and we never met face-to-face."

An Emmy winner, Ross worked on such television comedies as "All in the Family," "The Jeffersons" and "Three's Company."

Lansky says the Center's intention is to create a Yiddish university for the hands-on exploration of Jewish language, history and culture. It will make possible the appointment of a full-time Yiddish language instructor to design and teach intensive Yiddish courses - both online and on-site.

The Center's endowment was about $8 million and with this gift, grew to $11 million. The annual budget is about $3.5 million.

Ross died at age 89 following stroke and heart attack complications.

In 2009, he created - with a $4 million gift - the Michael and Irene Ross Program in Jewish Studies at his alma mater, UCLA, endowing a chair in Yiddish language and culture. Ross also made bequests to YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and the Los Angeles Jewish Foundation.

Learn more about the Center's history, goals and year-round programs.

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