New Yiddish Exhibition in Amherst

On October 15, 2023, the new permanent exhibition “Yiddish: A Global Culture” opened at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst. The main goal of the exhibit is to show the global significance of Yiddish culture in its various aspects, including literature, theater, music, press and even politics. Many prominent political figures, predominantly left-wing, wrote works in Yiddish.

Highlights among the hundreds of exhibited objects include a 60-foot color mural of “global Yiddishland” by the illustrator Martin Haake, a micrographic portrait of the Yiddishist revolutionary Chaim Zhitlowsky, composed of miniature letters from his texts by the Buenos Aires textile worker Guedale Tenenbaum, and a reconstruction of Yitskhok-Leybush Peretz’s apartment in Warsaw, which at the beginning of the 20th century hosted a famous literary salon of Yiddish writers.

The exhibition’s opening was celebrated by performances of several artists, including the actress, playwright and translator Caraid O’Brien who performed a Yiddish monologue of Justyna, a young Polish Jewish woman, from Sholem Asch’s play On the Road to Zion (original title: Moshiyekh’s Tsaytn, The Messiah’s Times). Written in 1905, Ash’s play had been immediately translated into Russian and won great success in St. Petersburg, staged by the famous actress Vera Komissarzhevskaya.

O’Brien, who translated Asсh’s play into English, grew up in Ireland. Her family spoke Irish and was fond of old Irish legends. In her youth she fell in love with the Yiddish language and literature. In May 2023, O’Brien published her trilogy of translated Asch’s plays God of Vengeance, Motke Thief, and The Dead Man, and premiered her radio show of On the Road to Zion. O’Brien’s biography is an excellent example of the new exhibition’s theme: the global importance of Yiddish culture, which attracts enthusiasts from all over the world.

Photo: Official Facebook page of the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst