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January's People

By: Gad Nahshon

Few scholars in the field of Yiddish studies are so dedicated to the preservation of the Yiddish heritage and language as Dr. Dov-Ber Kerler, a distinguished professor at the Center of Hebrew and Jewish Studies of Oxford University, Yarnton Manor.

Dr. Kerler is also like his father who lives in Jerusalem, a Yiddish poet. Among his recent publications is The Politics of Yiddish Studies in Language, Literature and Society, which he edited.

Thanks to Dr. Kerler, Oxford turned to be in the last decade the 'mecca' of the Yiddish scholarly world. The founder-leader of this "Yiddish Revolution in Oxford University," by the way was the distinguished scholar of Yiddish culture and an expert on the Yiddish language (see: "Grammar of the Yiddish Language" Duckworth, London), Dr. Dovid Katz, a Yiddish writer and professor at Yale University.

The Workmens Circle/Arbeter Ring Chorus under the direction of Zalmen Mlotek, world-renowned expert on Yiddish music, hosted warm and open "Yiddish Sings" during select Thursdays in the fall season.

Zalmen Mlotek is one of the world's foremost authorities on Yiddish folk and theater music, and a leading figure in the Jewish theater and concert worlds. Raised in a prominent Yiddish-speaking family renowned for their Jewish songbook collections, he has been an innovative force in bringing contemporary musical theater pieces about the Jewish American experience to Broadway and to communities nationwide.

Mr. Mlotek has recently taken over the co-artistic directorship of the Folksbiene Yiddish theater in New York; the longest continuously operating Yiddish Theater Company in the world.

Albert H. Small edited a book called A Treasure of Yiddish-American Cartoon Humor (Companion Publications, Bethesda, Maryland - 1-301-654-5508). The author developed a method of teaching Yiddish by humor or cartoons. There are 90 cartoons.

Bruce Slovin, the chairman of YIVO and the new Center for Jewish History in NYC, wrote the introduction to Dr. Small's book. "The cartoons in this book are part of America's Yiddish is a portrait, complete with laughter and an occasional teardrop of Jewish life in America, early in the twentieth century," remarked Slovin.

The book is sixth in a series of cartoon-language volumes using comic art to help people learn languages. The previous modern language titles - French, Spanish, German, Italian, and English - have sold over 100,000 copies.

The Yiddish book turns back the clock to early in the 20th Century, when Yiddish publications flourished. This is a new field for me since, unlike Mrs. Small, I did not grow up in a household where Yiddish was spoken.

The cartoons are accompanied by their original captions. But the reader is given transliterations, translations, key-word lists, grammar aids and glossaries to help him or her recall, or learn about Yiddish. The introductions is labelled for "non-mavins."

Louis Weber, CEO and publisher of Publication International Ltd., which is located in Lincolnwood, Illinois, decided, as a son of Polish Jews, to contribute to the Holocaust consciousness by publishing his "unique book designed to chronicle this century's most profound Jewish tragedy." according to his press release.

The title of this book is The Holocaust Chronicle: A History in Words and Pictures. The book will be on the market in March, 2000. There will also be a "Holocaust Chronicle" website to go online at the same time. The Holocaust expert is Michael Bernbaum.

The book has 2000 photographs as well as 750 pages: "It was a denial of God. It was a denial of man. It was the destruction of the world in miniature form," said Hugo Gryn, an Auschwitz survivor about this unique book.

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