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Recovering Yiddish Culture in Los Angeles

Caroline Luce, Author

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A. Soyfer: Los Angeles and the Yiddish Book, Pt. 2

"Los Angeles and the Yiddish Book" by A. Soyfer 
As appears in Khesbn (The Reckoning), vol. 1 (1946): 37- 43.
Translated by Mark L. Smith.

...How many books were distributed here in the city?
Poetry is usually published in five hundred copies, occasionally also a thousand; prose, from five hundred to twelve hundred, occasionally also two thousand. Sales were usually two to three hundred for poetry and three to five hundred for prose. The committee for Khaver Paver [Gershon Einbinder] indicates that his book sold nine hundred copies here, but that is an exception.
In proportion to the Jewish population here, that is a very small percentage, but taking into account the situation of the Yiddish book across the whole country, this is already a very large number.
Certainly, a role is played here by local patriotism. A local writer can expect more buyers here in the city than an outside writer. But a much larger role is played by the number of booksellers. One can readily sell a book to a Jew, but one must go to him. When a book is published here, the publisher — actually those screaming “friends” — goes out and sells several hundred copies. If a New York author comes with a book of his and he is a good author . . . and promotes it, he can also sell a few hundred copies. If a representative comes from CYCO or YKUF, he can also sell the two-three hundred copies, both because he promotes it himself and the local “friends” help him. The local “friends,” of course, are not friends of one or another writer but are friends of the Yiddish book.
Unfortunately, this cannot be said of the New Yorkers. Not long ago, Nakhman Mayzil [editor of the YKUF publishing house] chastised his New York countrymen for feeling so self-important that they look down on the provinces, while the provinces produce more than New York. In doing so, he pointed to Los Angeles, to the books that are published here. We can also add that, when a book is published by the Atlantic, it finds its way to the Pacific, but it is very difficult for a book published by the Pacific to reach the Atlantic; there is no address of someone to send it to, because there in New York there are no friends . . . of the Yiddish book.
This is said not with the intent of outdoing New York, of showing “who is better,” or even making a case for ourselves. We have listed the books and we believe this is a cultural achievement for one city. This shows that Los Angeles not only gives money for all manner of Jewish causes but also for books. Not all of the locals know about this. We ought to know it, and New York should know it.
On the title pages of some books, a publisher is listed. This is only for the sake of appearances. No publisher contributed a cent. The money for all of the books came from Los Angeles.

Alphabetical list of books published in Los Angeles, 1916–1945

1. Dr. V. Ostrovski [Dr. W. Ostrowsky], Dos geshlekht lebn fun der froy [The Sexual Life of the Woman]. Published by the author. 316 pp., 1928.

2. Yisroyl Osman [Israel Osman], Dos bukh fun nisyoynes [The Book of Temptations]. Stories. “Self” Publishers. 288 pp. 1926.

3. B. Batshelis [Barney Bachelis], Shmeltsekhe. Short monologues. Published by the author. 24 pp. 1926.

4. L. Berkovitsh [L. Berkovitz], Kleynvelt [Small World]. Poems. Published by a group of friends. 120 pp., 1934.

5. Yekhezkal A. M. Bronshteyn [Ezekiel Brownstone], Fun der fremd [From Abroad]. Poems. Published by a group of friends with the assistance of the Yiddish Culture Club. 128 pp. 1929.

—— Vagabondyana. Poems. Tseshinsky Publishers. 132 pp., 1935.

6. H. Goldovski [H. Goldovsky], Preyri-land [Prairie-Land]. Poems. Published by the author. 129 pp., 1927.

—— Unzere teg [Our Days]. Poems. Published by the Yiddish Culture Society. 128 pp., 1934.

—— Zingt a velt [A World Sings]. Translations of Hebrew, Ukrainian, Russian, English and other poems. Published by the author. 72 pp., 1942.

7. Khayim Goldblum. Legendn un mayselekh [Legends and Short Stories]. Published by the Yiddish Culture Club. 224 pp., 1935.

8. Noyekh Goldberg [Noah Goldberg]. Poshete mentshn [Ordinary People]. Stories. Published by the Yidisher natsyonaler arbeter farband [Jewish National Workers Alliance] and a group of friends. 192 pp., 1942.

9. B. Grinfeld [Ber Grinfeld — Bronzviler stolyar, “Brownsville Carpenter”]. Hubelshpener [Wood Shavings]. Skits and selected writings. Published by Bronzviler Stolyar Writings Committee. 224 pp., 1935.

10. Perets Hirshbeyn [Peretz Hirschbein]. Yoyvl bukh [Jubilee Book]. Published by Hirshbeyn Jubilee Committee (Building Group). 328 pp., 1941.
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