Yiddish Book Center Received a National Medal for Museum and Library Service

AMHERST, MA (April 24, 2014)—The Yiddish Book Center has announced that it is one of 10 recipients of this year’s National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The National Medal, the nation’s highest honor conferred on museums and libraries for service to the community, has celebrated 20 years of institutions that make a difference for individuals, families, and communities. The National Medal will be presented by First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony in Washington, DC on May 8th. 

Winners of the National Medal were selected from nationwide nominations of institutions that demonstrate innovative approaches to public service, exceeding the expected levels of community outreach.

The Yiddish Book Center was founded in 1980 by its current president, Aaron Lansky, then a 24-year-old graduate student of Yiddish literature. In the course of his studies Lansky realized that untold numbers of irreplaceable Yiddish books - the primary tangible legacy of 1,000 years of Jewish life in Eastern Europe - were being discarded by American-born Jews unable to read the language of their own Yiddish-speaking grandparents. Some thirty years later, the organization has collected more than a million volumes, has established and strengthened Yiddish holdings at 600 university and research libraries around the world, and has posted the full texts of 12,000 titles online, making Yiddish one of the most accessible literatures in the world. 

“We are thrilled to accept this award, not only as a recognition of the Yiddish Book Center, but far more importantly as a tribute to the enduring nature of Yiddish itself,” said Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center. 

For the past two decades, the National Medal has honored outstanding institutions that make significant and exceptional contributions to their communities. Commenting on the award, the Yiddish Book Center’s designated Community Member, author Peter Manseau said, “I have benefited from the work of this exceptional institution for nearly twenty years, first as a student and intern, then as a writer and historian. My work as a novelist would not be possible without the Yiddish Book Center, and in this I am not alone.” Manseau will travel to Washington for the May 8th celebration to share the story of the impact the Yiddish Book Center has had on his life. 

“Congratulations to the Yiddish Book Center on receiving the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service. The Center's work chronicling the Jewish story and educating families about Yiddish and Jewish culture is outstanding,” says U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. “This award is a well-deserved recognition of the Center's efforts to preserve Yiddish books and literature for future generations.” 

For a complete list of 2014 recipients and to learn more about the National Medal winners, please visit www.imls.gov/medals. 

About the Institute of Museum and Library Services 

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation’s 123,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. Our mission is to inspire libraries and museums to advance innovation, lifelong learning, and cultural and civic engagement. Our grant making, policy development, and research help libraries and museums deliver valuable services that make it possible for communities and individuals to thrive.

To learn more, visit http://www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter. 

About the Yiddish Book Center 

The Yiddish Book Center is a non-profit organization working to tell the whole Jewish story by rescuing, translating and disseminating Yiddish books and presenting innovative educational programs that broaden understanding of modern Jewish identity.

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