In a recurrent dream of mine through the 1980s, I approach the YIVO building in New York at the corner of 86th Street and Fifth Avenue—and find it reduced to a pile of rubble. The image of ruin came straight out of postwar footage of the former Jewish sections of Vilna and Warsaw, and the anxiety was almost certainly prompted by rumors that this citadel of Yiddish learning was about to be sold. I wondered what would happen to Yiddish culture without its “address” — a term used in Yiddish for a hub, a meeting place, the focal point of a movement or group.
As the Center for Jewish History begins its second decade, it has placed a sign on a glass wall leading to its 10th anniversary exhibition highlighting 600 years of Jewish history; the sign, which overlooks the sculpture garden, invites its visitors to “look up.” From that vantage point one can suddenly glimpse the scale of the 12 stories of stacks and archives that tower over the research rooms and exhibit spaces of a Center that draws all streams of Jews seeking to learn about their past and thus their future.
A feminist finds spiritual meaning in what she had seen as drudgery.
Special To The Jewish Week
When I was a child, I watched my mother turn our New York suburban home upside down during her zealous Pesach cleaning. Later, as a young feminist, I resented the fact that my mother (with the help of our house cleaner) did all the cleaning and cooking before the seders, while my father led the ritual aspect of these meals.
I saw my mother as enslaved to an exaggerated notion of the halachic requirement to rid one’s home of chametz, which I thought was totally antithetical to the notion of Pesach as a holiday of freedom.