UKRAINIAN BAPTIST HERITAGE CENTRE

I purchased this book, Outwitting History, by Aaron Lansky, in June 2009 [B-10456].  It is the incredible story of The Amazing Adventures of a Man (Aaron Lansky) Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. This book warmed my heart because if Mr. Lansky could do this at great personal sacrifice and cost, to preserve the heritage of his people, why couldn't I do the same for Ukrainian Baptists.

When I was elected President of the All-Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Youth Fellowship in July 1987, one of the dreams I shared with those in attendance at the 5th AUEBYF Conference in Philadelphia, PA., was translating Ukrainian Baptist books into the English language so that my generation would be able to read the history of our spiritual heritage.  But in order to do this, we had to preserve the books that were written by the leaders of our denomination.  Now, twenty-three years later, I am seeing this dream realized through this website.

 

[From the inside front cover of this book]

     The great Yiddish scholar Max Weinreich was delivering a lecture in Finland when the Nazis invaded his native Poland.  The lecture saved his life.  He made his way to New York, where he opened the doors to new students.  Many thought his work was hopeless - especially since half of the world's Yiddish speakers had been killed in the Holocaust.  Asked why he persevered, Weinreich answered simply: "Because Yiddish has magic, it will outwit history."

     And so it has - though in ways few could have imagined.  In 1980, a twenty-three-year-old student named Aaron Lansky set out to rescue the world's abandoned Yiddish books before it was too late.  Precious volumes that had survived Hitler and Stalin were being passed down from older generations of Jewish immigrants to their non-Yiddish-speaking children - only to be thrown away or destroyed.  With little more than his own chutzpah, Lansky issued a worldwide appeal for unwanted Yiddish books, and the response was overwhelming.

     Outwitting History is an adventure tale filled with unforgettable characters and told with the exuberance of a man whose passion led him from house to house, country to country, collecting treasured books and heartfelt, often hilarious stories of the vibrant intellectual world these older Jews inhabited.  Lansky and a team of young volunteers crisscrossed America, shlepping books from attics and basements, demolition sites and Dumpsters, while shmoozing with their owners, who insisted on feeding them a little nosh - gefilte fish, kasha, blintzes, latkes, kugel - before handing over, one book at a time, their beloved literary heritage.

     When Lansky started out, experts believed that fewer than 70,000 Yiddish-language books still existed.  Twenty-five years and 1.5 million books later, the organization Lansky founded, the National Yiddish Book Center, is one of the largest and fastest-growing Jewish cultural groups in the world.  As he takes us along on his groundbreaking journey, Lansky explores the roots of the Yiddish language and introduces us to the brilliant Yiddish writers - from Mendele to Sholem Aleichem to I.B. Singer - whose lasting cultural relevance is evident on every page.  He shares the humor, tenacity, and love for the written word that unites Jewish immigrants with everyone who cares about the future of great literature.  And he enables us to see how an almost-lost culture is the bridge between the old world and the future.

     AARON LANSKY is the founder and president of the National Yiddish Book Center ( www.yiddishbookcenter.org ) in Amherst, Massachusetts.  The recipient of a MacArthur "genius" fellowship, he has been widely profiled in the national and international media.  The Center has translated Yiddish titles into English; digitized the entire collection and placed it online (with the help of Steven Spielberg); distributed books to students, scholars, and nacsent Jewish communities throughout the world; and sponsored programs to help fuel a renaissance of Jewish literature in this country.  Lansky lives with his family in western Massachusetts. [From the inside back cover]

Watch the 12 minute video A BRIDGE OF BOOKS 

www.yiddishbookcenter.org

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