Yiddish Book Center Founder and President Aaron Lansky to Retire; To Be Succeeded by YBC Executive Director Susan Bronson

Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center, with Susan Bronson, YBC executive director

(AMHERST, Mass.) February 27, 2023 — Aaron Lansky, the Yiddish Book Center’s visionary founder and MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant winner, will retire from his role as president of the center in June 2025. Susan Bronson, the center’s long-time and accomplished executive director, will assume the position of president. Following his retirement, Lansky will remain at the center for two years as senior advisor.

Lansky founded the Yiddish Book Center in 1980 when he took what he thought would be a two-year leave of absence from graduate school to recover endangered Yiddish books. Irreplaceable Yiddish books were being discarded by relatives unable to read the language of their Yiddish-speaking parents and grandparents.

When Lansky and his colleagues first set out to save Yiddish books, scholars estimated 70,000 volumes could still be found. With the help of volunteer zamlers (collectors), the tireless Lansky recovered that number in the first six months and went on to save 1.5 million volumes in what has been described as one of the greatest cultural rescue efforts in Jewish history. As new technology emerged, the found titles were digitized; they have since been downloaded more than five million times.

Through the years, the Yiddish Book Center has evolved into an internationally renowned cultural and educational center, sharing Yiddish language, literature, and culture with new audiences. Noteworthy initiatives include educational programs for learners of all ages, fellowship programs, an oral history project, a publishing imprint, and a textbook that has transformed Yiddish language learning. The Center has received numerous awards and recognitions, including the National Medal for Museum and Library Service.

Susan Bronson, a seasoned nonprofit leader, joined the Center as executive director in 2010. In her newly created role, she expanded the Center’s initiatives to include popular programs such as Yidstock, the annual Festival of New Yiddish music and reading groups for public libraries, which engage readers with translated works of Yiddish literature. Bronson also created the new permanent exhibition Yiddish: A Global Culture, which has attracted thousands of visitors since opening last fall. Her stellar track record, marked by bold and strategic initiatives, makes her a fitting successor to Lansky. Bronson will transition into her new role and responsibilities over the coming year, officially succeeding Lansky as president in June 2025.

Bronson is on the Board of the Council of American Jewish Museums, where she served as chair from 2018–2022, and on the Board of 7000 Languages, an organization dedicated to saving and teaching indigenous languages. She received her doctorate in Russian and Jewish history from the University of Michigan.

Commenting on her appointment, Bronson said, “I am humbled and excited to lead the Yiddish Book Center into its next chapter. Aaron’s legacy is profound, and I am committed to building upon his work, ensuring that the Yiddish Book Center remains a beacon for cultural preservation and education.”

Reflecting on his planned retirement, Lansky marveled at his journey of the past 44 years and expressed his gratitude to the friends and colleagues who made it possible. “When all is said and done, I was able to act on my dreams, save a literature, and reclaim a culture, and that, I think, makes me one of the world’s luckiest people. The Center will continue to flourish under the strong leadership of Susan Bronson and the work of our extraordinary team.”

(This press release edited by Rogovoy Report intern Noah Peretz)

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