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Recovering Yiddish Culture in Los Angeles

Caroline Luce, Author

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V. Kesner: The YKUF in Los Angeles

“The ‘YKUF’ [Yidisher kultur farband, Yiddish Culture Association] in Los Angeles” by V. Kesner.
As appears in Kheshbn (The Reckoning), vol. 1 (1946): 111-113.
Translated by Mark L. Smith.
[Translator’s note: words underlined were written in English, but with Yiddish letters; names of well-known persons are spelled as they usually appear in English.]

At its founding in Paris eight years ago, the global Yidisher kultur farband “YKUF” set for itself, among the important resolutions, the following tasks:

To unite all creative cultural forces in the fight for the existence of the Jewish people and its culture, defend Yiddish culture against reaction and fascism, mobilize progressive community forces, both among Jews and non-Jews, to protect the Yiddish language and culture where it is persecuted and endangered.
To fight against assimilatory forces in Jewish life, to be concerned with broadening, deepening, improving and enriching Yiddish secular culture, stimulate its further growth, and increase respect and dignity for Yiddish culture.

Now, after eight stormy years of war and destruction which the world experienced, and after the frightful eight years that our Jewish people endured, the tasks and goals the “YKUF” set for itself at its founding have become a sacred duty and a necessity of life for every Jew who holds dear the existence of his people and for whom its culture and language are beloved and precious.
The “YKUF” is a global organization with its center in New York (until the outbreak of the war, its center was in Paris), of which the Los Angeles YKUF is an important part and participates in all of its work, particularly in publishing and disseminating the YKUF journal, “Di yidishe kultur” [Yiddish Culture] and in the YKUF publishing house, which in two years has published more than thirty important books on various subjects, by such significant writers as: Chaim Grade, Itsik Fefer, Z. Veinper, Malka Lee, Dora Teitelboim, A. Raboy, Reuben Brainin, and, now ready to print, the complete works of Dr. Chaim Zhitlowski — our YKUF work in Los Angeles is multi-branched:
The Tuesday Evenings have already become an institution in the city, at which we provide self-education for our members and friends. We conduct lectures and discussions on cultural problems and on newly published Yiddish books and journals.
Besides the Tuesday Evenings, we conduct artistic concerts and exhibits from time to time. In this way, we have had exhibits of Jewish painters and sculptors, exhibits of Yiddish books, and a large Sholem Aleichem exhibit together with the Community Center of Soto Street. We celebrate Yiddish cultural holidays and observe the yor tsaytn [death anniversaries] of the classical Yiddish writers.
The YKUF in Los Angeles has committed itself to conducting lectures on Yiddish culture in Yiddish in the main city library, which were interrupted for the sake of the war, and will resume functioning at the start of 1946. Incidentally, making use of city buildings for culture in Yiddish should be able, with the united efforts of other cultural organizations, to lead in the future to cultural work in our city, in city schools, and universities in Yiddish.
We conduct special holidays for Yiddish cultural activists and artists, which distinguish themselves by making an important contribution to Yiddish culture. Thus, we began our ninth season of cultural work with a splendid banquet, dedicated to Nathan and Sylvia Samarov, who created two important musical works, two cantatas: the “Mogn doved bagrist dem roytn shtern [Star of David Greets the Red Star]” to a melody by Abraham Regelson, and “Lublin” by L. Miller. In this way, we stimulate and encourage the creativity of Jewish artists.
We dedicate ourselves seriously to publishing and helping to publish Yiddish writers who live in Los Angeles.
Thus, we have published a very fine book, “Folks gezangen” [Folksongs; 1944] as interpreted by Chaim Kotylansky, a large-format album with musical notes — with folksongs in Yiddish and English.
We are currently helping to publish a book of memoirs by a Jewish worker, [Aaron] Gorelik, that reflects forty years of the Jewish workers’ movement in Europe and America [Shturemdike yorn (Stormy Years); 1946].
We are now undertaking to publish a beautiful album of children’s stories by Chaver-Paver [pseud. of Gershon Einbinder], illustrated by the famous Jewish artist Bill Groper, a book which is much needed by the Yiddish children’s schools. By the same author, we helped to publish a large novella, “Tsen landslayt [Ten Countrymen; 1942],” which was much praised by the serious Jewish critics.
The Los Angeles YKUF is proud to be the first organization to collect and ship Yiddish books to the destroyed Jewish communities [in Europe], and we are happy that other organizations are following our example.
In our ninth year, we are attempting intensively to help and stimulate the work of the local children’s schools, choruses, and dramatic circles, and we are prepared to provide cultural services to all Jewish cultural organizations in the city.
Our reading circles are, of course, our pride and joy. It is good to know that once a week they come together in various parts of the city, studying our literature, distributing books and journals and participating in all of the cultural activities of the city. They are an important part of the YKUF.
Incidentally, permit me at the same time, in the name of the YKUF, to greet all of the members of the Los Angeles Yiddish Culture Club on your twentieth birthday. Twenty years of sustaining a Yiddish club is an important cultural achievement that demonstrates your serious attitude toward our Yiddish culture.
We wish you success in your further work and in your new home, which will be more suited to wider cultural work.
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