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Lecture by Aaron Lansky, founder and current president of the National Yiddish Book Center, on November 11, 2009.


POUGHKEEPSIE, NY-On November 11, Aaron Lansky, founder and current president of the National Yiddish Book Center, will discuss an evolving vision of Jewish cultural education and how he helped save Yiddish books - the topic of his book, Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued One Million Books. The event, free and open to the public, will begin at 5:30pm in Sanders Classroom Spitzer Auditorium (room 212) at Vassar College.

Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued One Million Books is an account of Lansky's travels with a team of volunteers, who searched for Yiddish books in attics, basements, dumpsters, and libraries near closure across the United States. It is filled with a variety of tales, hilarious and memorable, that chronicled the efforts of Lansky and his team to save Yiddish literature and culture and is a testament to talented Yiddish writers, including Sholem Aleichem and I.B. Singer, and their lasting cultural relevance.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, praised the book as "a rollicking, readable account of one man's passion and the difference it made." The New York Post described the book as "a marvelous yarn, loaded with near-calamitous adventures and characters as memorable as Singer creations."

In 1980, when Lansky issued his first public appeal for old Yiddish books, it was estimated that only 70,000 Yiddish volumes were extant and recoverable. He rescued that many within six months. Today the National Yiddish Book Center, located in Amherst, Massachusetts, has a collection that totals over 1.5 million volumes and sponsors a wide range of cultural and educational programs to preserve and revitalize Yiddish culture.

In 1984, Esquire magazine included Lansky in its list of "The Best of the New Generation: Men and Women Under 40 Who Are Changing America." He has since received numerous awards and recognitions, including a National Jewish Book Award, honorary doctorates from Amherst College and the State University of New York, and a 1989 "Genius Grant" from the MacArthur Foundation.

About Aaron Lansky

Born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1955, Aaron Lansky grew up in a Jewish home where Yiddish was mostly a "secret language" spoken by his mother and grandmother when they wanted to keep something hidden from him and his two brothers.

In 1973, Lansky took one of the first courses ever offered on the Holocaust as a student at Hampshire College. He developed a passionate interest in the culture the Nazis had sought to destroy.

After graduating from Hampshire College in 1977 with a B.A. in modern Jewish history, Lansky enrolled in a graduate program in East European Jewish studies at McGill University in Montreal.

During his studies at McGill, Lansky discovered that large numbers of Yiddish books were being destroyed-not by anti-Semites, but by Jews who could not read the language of their own parents and grandparents. Convinced that someone had to save those books, he left McGill and started what he then called the National Yiddish Book Exchange, now the National Yiddish Book Center.

This lecture is presented by the Jewish Studies Program at Vassar College.

People with disabilities requiring accommodations should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370. Directions to the Vassar campus are available at www.vassar.edu/directions.

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Monday, November 2, 2009