The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come
Among the 2,000,000 Jewish immigrants who entered the United States between 1881 and 1924 was the future Aaron Lansky’s sixteen-year-old grandmother. Sailing into New York, she had a few prized possessions in her cardboard suitcase including a few treasured books in Yiddish (the everyday language of European Jews). But upon arrival, her older brother grabbed the suitcase and threw it into the Hudson River. He told her “it was time to break with the past—and think about the future.” That story captivated her grandson, Aaron Lansky.
When Lansky, an avid reader, became interested in Jewish history, he learned Yiddish in order to be able to read a broader range of books. While visiting his hometown rabbi, he discovered a basket of Yiddish books which the rabbi was going to bury (as a sign of respect.) Aaron convinced the rabbi to give him the books not realizing that he was beginning his life work. He wanted to preserve links to the culture and history of his grandmother’s world.
Although Yiddish books were no longer being printed, people heard about Aaron and began giving him boxes of old Yiddish books to preserve. From that meager beginning, Lansky developed the Yiddish Book Center, now a vast library, in Amherst, Massachusetts. It contains over a million and a half books in Yiddish.
In sepia and blue tones, Stacy Innerst’s lovely painted illustrations, reminiscent of Chagall, flow across double-page spreads bringing this unique story to life.
Kemie Nix ©2019 Parents’ Choice
Kemie Nix is Chairman of Children’s Literature for Children (CLC), a non-profit, tax-exempt, educational organization dedicated to bringing children and books together. Mrs. Nix, a senior book editor for Parents’ Choice, has a remarkable sense of selecting books children love to read.