National Yiddish Book Center

National Yiddish Book Center

National Yiddish Book Center

Address: 1021 West ST
Town: Amherst, MA 01002
Telephone: (413) 256-4900 ext. 108
Web site: http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org
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About the Center
The National Yiddish Book Center is a vibrant, non-profit organization working to rescue Yiddish and other modern Jewish books and celebrate the culture they contain. Supported by 30,000 members, we are now the largest and fastest-growing Jewish cultural organization in America. In 1997, the National Yiddish Book Center opened the doors of its permanent home in Amherst, MA, an architecturally distinctive, 37,000-square-foot building which is fast emerging as one of the most visited Jewish tourist destinations in America; a resource for those who want to explore the meaning and relevance of Yiddish culture and modern Jewish literature. We are adjacent to the campus of Hampshire College, off Route 116.

Visitors Center Hours
Our Visitors Center includes fascinating exhibitions, gardens, a gallery, library, English-language bookstore, and a great deal more. We're open to the public Monday through Friday, from 10 AM to 4 PM, and Sundays from 11 AM to 4 PM. The Book Center is closed on Shabbos (Saturday) and major legal and Jewish holidays. Our building is fully accessible, and admission is free. For additional information please phone us at 413-256-4900.  

Our Bookstore features a fine selection of great Jewish books, including: children's books and Yiddish language learning materials; music and spoken word compact disc; films on DVD and other gifts. 

The National Yiddish Book Center was founded in 1980 by MacArthur Fellow Aaron Lansky, who continues to lead the organization as its president. When he was a 23-year-old graduate student, Lansky stumbled upon an alarming fact: throughout North America, thousands of priceless Yiddish books - books that had survived Hitler and Stalin - were being discarded and destroyed. As an older generation passed on, more often than not their precious Jewish volumes were literally thrown in the trash by children and grandchildren unable to read the language. An entire literature was on the verge of extinction.

Lansky realized something had to be done - and done fast - before it was too late. So he took what he thought would be a two-year leave of absence from graduate school and, operating out of an unheated factory loft, issued a public appeal for unwanted and discarded Yiddish books. Jews from all over America rallied to the call.

Soon, Lansky and a handful of co-workers - all in their early 20s - were spending weeks and months on the road, hauling priceless Jewish books from cellars and attics, synagogues and abandoned buildings. Once they received a midnight phone call, took a 2 A.M. train to New York City and worked all day in the freezing rain to rescue 8,000 books from a garbage dumpster. Another time they organized a group of local teenagers into a "bucket brigade" to recover a 15,000-volume Jewish library from the basement of a demolished building in the Bronx.

When the Center began, scholars estimated there were 70,000 Yiddish books still extant and recoverable. The Center recovered that number in six months and has gone on to recover 1.5 million volumes, with hundreds of additional books continuing to arrive each week. The Center's achievement has been hailed as the "the greatest cultural rescue effort in Jewish history."

if you share our belief that books are essential for Jewish cultural survival - then we hope you'll join us. Annual membership in the National Yiddish Book Center is just $36, and includes substantial discounts on books and other merchandise and a year's subscription to פּאַקן טרעגער, Pakn Treger, our English-language magazine.

Please also see: www.greatjewishbooks.com