UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Vancouver Peretz Institute Yiddish Library : the social history of a jewish community library Jones, Faith


This thesis examines the Vancouver Peretz Institute Library, a Yiddish language library housed in a secular humanist Jewish community centre. The organization provides supplementary schooling for children, and holds seniors' groups, adult classes, and special events. In this thesis the organization's library is placed in the context of Yiddish library history, the history of the Yiddish secular school movement, and the mainstream Jewish community in Vancouver. Attention is given to the organization's founding in 1945, and its creation of the library in 1976, as well as its relationship to the Vancouver Jewish community and other organizations in the Yiddish cultural movement, such as YIVO and the National Yiddish Book Center. The school's philosophy was highly influenced by the Holocaust and its destruction of much of Yiddish-speaking Jewry; by the left-wing affiliations of many members and much of the Yiddish cultural community; and by the emergence of McCarthyism in Vancouver's Jewish community. The library emerged from the personal vision of a member who is a Holocaust survivor, Paulina Kirman. Although never heavily used, and although financial difficulties are a constant factor in the organization, the library has been maintained due to the institute's attachment to Yiddish culture. The future of community Yiddish libraries such as this one is examined in light of technical and social factors, including cataloguing and preservation difficulties and the development of a Yiddish literary canon. Finally, the Vancouver Peretz Institute Library is placed in the context of the larger issue of the role of Yiddish in modern Jewish identities. Although usage of the Yiddish language is in decline, the continuation of this library illustrates the symbolic role which it continues to play in the imagination of Diaspora Jews. The marginality of Yiddish appeals especially to those with emotional connections to secular, left-wing, and other minority Jewish identities.

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