Diario Judío México - On Thursday of last week, Yiddish made it to the White House!
White House Aaron and Peter As you know, the occasion was the awarding of the National Medal for Museum and Library Services. Of the nation’s 120,096 libraries, the Yiddish Book Center, we were told, was a unanimous choice.
That’s amazing, since as recently as a few years ago it’s unlikely we would have been considered a library at all. But the role of libraries is expanding, and the Yiddish Book Center was singled out for using new technology to share our holdings with readers around the world, and for offering educational programs to make the content of collections come alive.
So what was it like to be in the White House? To be honest, it would have felt intimidating had Michelle Obama, who met privately with us before the ceremony, not proven such a gracious and heymish host. She greeted me with a warm hug, which I might have regarded as a singular embrace of Yiddish had she not hugged every other recipient as well, including the Labrador Retriever working as a seeing-eye dog.
The formal ceremony was streamed live from the East Room. I accepted the award alongside author Peter Manseau, who wrote a wonderful novel inspired by his experiences as an intern at the Yiddish Book Center twenty years before. After the ceremony we joined Lief Rosenblatt, our board chairman emeritus, Susan Bronson, our executive director, Lisa Newman, our communications director, and my wife Gail at a lavish reception in the State Dining Room. I’d love to report that we took all the splendor – the chandeliers, the drapes, the portraits, the military officers – in stride, but in fact we, like most of the guests, couldn’t refrain from snapping pictures and padding our pockets with paper cocktail napkins embossed with the Presidential Seal.
Later in the day we made our way to Capitol Hill, where Congressman Jim McGovern (who nominated us for the award), Congressman Henry Waxman (who spoke to me in Yiddish), Kenneth Kaufman (the great-grandson of Sholem Aleichem), and many others were on hand to toast Yiddish and the Yiddish Book Center. Only in America!
Nor af simkhes (‘Til the next happy occasion),
Aaron Lansky, President
Yiddish Book Center