The Arty Semite

Yiddish Book Center to Receive National Award

By Jordan Kutzik

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A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here.

On April 24 Yiddish Book Center founder and president Aaron Lansky announced that his organization will receive the National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The award will be presented by First Lady Michelle Obama in a ceremony at the White House on May 8.

The medal is the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government to museums and libraries that serve the public good. In a press release, The Institute of Museum and Library Services wrote: “In its 20th anniversary year, the medals program celebrates excellent institutions that have made a significant impact on individuals, families and communities across the nation.” The winners were selected from among dozens of nominated institutions that “demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach.”

After the ceremony Storycorps will visit the Book Center to conduct oral history interviews about the Center’s mission.

In an email to Yiddish Book Center members announcing the award, Aaron Lansky wrote: “The award recognizes our pioneering work in rescuing Yiddish books and making them available to readers around the world … We’ll be proud to accept it as a recognition of the Yiddish Book Center … and even more so as a tribute to the indomitable spirit of Yiddish itself.”

In a statement released through his office congratulating the Center, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) said that “the Book Center is one of our Commonwealth’s and our nation’s greatest treasures. The work they do day-in and day-out to preserve this important part of our collective culture is invaluable, and I’m proud to have them in my district.”

Among other announced winners of National Medals for Museum and Library Service are the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Chicago Public Library and the Mystic Aquarium of Mystic, Connecticut.

Founded in 1980, the Yiddish Book Center has collected more than a million volumes of Yiddish books and digitized the full texts of 12,000 titles, which can be read online for free. In addition to book preservation, the Center organizes an annual intensive Yiddish summer program for college students as well courses on Jewish history and culture throughout the year.


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