Columbia University Libraries and YIVO Announce Joint Preservation Initiative for Historic Yiddish Newspapers


NEW YORK, April 8, 2008 Columbia University Libraries and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research announced today a joint initiative to preserve unique and historically significant South American Yiddish newspapers and make them accessible to scholars, researchers, and students.

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In 2001, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research—a preeminent research and academic resource center for East European Jewish Studies—acquired a collection of over 100 South American Yiddish newspapers and journals covering the years 1933-1956. Many of the publications in the collection are long out of print, and a large number of the last remaining copies were destroyed in the bombing of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA) building in Buenos Aires in 1994. Since these unique and irreplaceable documents are not currently accessible to the academic community and the general public, YIVO wanted to preserve its copies on microfilm, and make additional copies of the films available to research libraries, and digitize them for broader Web access.

“This project seeks to protect and present a foremost source for the observation and study of social, economic, political, cultural, religious, and literary trends in past South American Jewish communities,” said Carl Rheins, Executive Director of YIVO. “We look forward to what we hope will be a series of new collaborative ventures with Columbia University Libraries.”

The newspapers were published in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Uruguay and provide an important source of primary documentation for research in several key areas, including the growth of Nazi activities in South America before, during and after the Holocaust; the efforts by Central and Eastern European Jews to find sanctuary in Latin America from Nazi oppression; the attitudes of the older (post 1881) indigenous Jewish communities and their reactions to the increase in anti-Semitism both at home and in Europe; and the study of the growth of Yiddish cultural institutions in South America in the immediate post World War II period.

To begin the project of making these resources available to scholars for the first time, YIVO has secured a substantial preservation and access grant from the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, Inc. Columbia University Libraries is working to identify sources for further joint grant funding to enable its completion. Microfilm copies of the newspapers will be deposited at both Columbia and at YIVO for local use by scholars, students, and researchers.

“Columbia University has long-term research and teaching interests in interdisciplinary Jewish Studies as well as Latin American Studies, said James Neal, Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian. “The collection will provide an extraordinary resource for teaching and learning and research across numerous disciplines.”

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services, is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 25 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries at www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb is the gateway to its services and resources.

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was founded in 1925 in Vilna (Wilno, Poland; now Vilnius, Lithuania), by key European intellectuals, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, to record and study the history, language, literature, and culture of the Jews of Eastern Europe. In 1940, YIVO moved its permanent headquarters to New York City, becoming the only pre-Holocaust institution to transfer its mission to the United States from Europe. During World War II, several of YIVO’s leading scholars managed to escape from Nazi-occupied Europe and continue their work in the United States. The YIVO Library collection is ranked as the third largest Judaica collection in the Western Hemisphere with 385,000 volumes in 26 languages. The YIVO Archives holds over 24 million documents, photographs, recordings, posters, films, videotapes, and items of ephemera. These include the world’s largest collection of East European Jewish sound recordings; over 200,000 photographs; 400+ videos and films; and 50,000 posters documenting Jewish life from the 1900s to the present. YIVO is headquartered at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011-6301.Website at www.yivo.org.

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04/08/08 LMK