11 December 2006

A journey back to the borderlands of Ukraine

The National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts does very important work. Since 1980, founder Aaron Lansky has single-handedly saved thousands of Yiddish books.

In addition to books describing the lands and experiences of our Eastern European ancestors, the Center publishes Pakn Treger.

The December issue has a genealogist's dream of a story. Scroll down to the PDF titled "The Landscape of Memory," by Robert Adler Peckerar, Nancy Sherman, and David Shneer

Last August participants in the National Yiddish Book Center’s LiteraTour 2006 traveled to Ukraine to the former Austro-Hungarian provinces of Galicia and Bukovina to explore the birthplace of modern Yiddish literature. We wanted to visit the sites that have inspired writers from Sholem Aleichem to Jonathan Safran Foer. Many of us also sought traces of parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in the villages and cities of Ukraine, the country whose name translates as “borderlands.” In the three essays that follow, a literary scholar, a historian, and Pakn Treger’s editor report on what the group found, and what remains undiscovered.

The Center is also home to the Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library, which is believed to be the only project ever to digitize an entire modern literature, preserving it permanently for future generations of readers, students, and scholars.

The project began when diminishing supplies of popular Yiddish titles made it increasingly difficult for the Center to fill requests for important books. In addition, our collection of 1.5 million books was physically deteriorating, as pages and bindings yellowed and crumbled.

With the help of state-of-the-art technology, every title in the Center’s collection has now been scanned, page by page, creating permanent computer files that can be readily reprinted, on demand, as high-quality, affordable new books.

To read more about the Spielberg Library, click here.


  1. Anonymous11:38 PM

    Sometimes we have success stories when we are least looking for them.

    A year ago I received a tribute card from the National Yiddish Book Center in memory of my mother.

    Because I knew of a relative who had other writings published in Yiddish, I did a search on the surname. And to my astonishment, the National Yiddish Book Center held a copy of the book!

    As you can imagine, the rest is history, a wonderful addition to my maternal family history.

  2. Hi, Lyn

    Thank you for writing about your experience with the Center.

    It is certainly true that sometimes amazing discoveries simply drop out of the heavens into our laps.