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Lansky was a 23-year-old graduate student in 1980 when he came up with an idea that would take over his life and change the face of Jewish literary culture: He wanted to save Yiddish books. With few resources save his passion and ironlike determination, Lansky and his fellow dreamers traveled from house to house, Dumpster to Dumpster saving Yiddish books wherever they could find them-eventually gathering an improbable 1.5 million volumes, from famous writers like Sholem Aleichem and I.B. Singer to one-of-a-kind Soviet prints. In his first book, Lansky charmingly describes his adventures as president and founder of the National Yiddish Book Center, which now has new headquarters at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. To Lansky, Yiddish literature represented an important piece of Jewish cultural history, a link to the past and a memory of a generation lost to the Holocaust. Lansky's account of salvaging books is both hilarious and moving, filled with Jewish humor, conversations with elderly Jewish immigrants for whom the books evoke memories of a faraway past, stories of desperate midnight rescues from rain-soaked Dumpsters, and touching accounts of Lansky's trips to what were once thriving Jewish communities in Europe. The book is a testimony to his love of Judaism and literature and his desire to make a difference in the world. Agent, Carol Mann. (Oct. 1) Forecast: A Jewish Book Council-sponsored national tour should help put this at the forefront of books of Jewish interest this fall and lead to handsome sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.
Aaron Lansky discovered while studying Yiddish in the 1970s that thousands of Yiddish books were collecting dust in attics and basements or were being carted off to landfills. With no resources beyond his conviction, chutzpah, and fortitude, he set out to "save the world's Yiddish books" and soon found himself driving all over creation to visit with elderly Jews who talked with great emotion about the beloved Yiddish books they were entrusting to him. The obstacles to his quixotic quest were many, and Lansky became a bibliographic superhero, racing through rain and snow to rescue imperiled collections. Fortuitously, the angels his mission required appeared, and today the organization he founded, the National Yiddish Book Center, collects and redistributes Yiddish books all over the world. Lansky has been written about, but there's no substitute for his own upbeat and profoundly moving account of his adventures and success in preventing the extinction of a uniquely expressive language and literature of survival. --Donna Seaman Copyright 2004 Booklist
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Join this former MacArthur fellow on his incredible journey to revive interest in the Yiddish language and culture. Part memoir and part history, this is the compelling tale of how Lansky retrieved thousands of books from dumpsters and abandoned buildings across America. He also rescued books from the aftermath of the 1994 terrorist bombing of the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires and went to Havana to save the few remaining Yiddish books of a vestigial Jewish community there. Throughout, Lansky shares inspiring anecdotes and references to a dazzling array of Yiddish writers. In the words of scholar Max Weinreich, Lansky shows us that Yiddish was the product of "two dialectical forces one rooted in Hebrew and Aramaic texts" and the other rooted in everyday life. In the end, a provocative question lingers: How could the very "people of the book" have discarded Yiddish books and culture? One can only be comforted with the fact that, thanks in large measure to the efforts of Lansky and the National Yiddish Book Center, which he founded, Yiddish literature survives. This important book is highly recommended for the general reading public and all libraries.-Herbert E. Shapiro, Empire State Coll., SUNY at Rochester (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.