Wednesday, April 6th, 2011...2:32 pm

Aaron Lansky’s passion for Yiddish books

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Aaron Lansky, founder of the Yiddish Book Center. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)Aaron Lansky, founder of the Yiddish Book Center. (Photo: Mordecai Specktor)

Aaron Lansky captivated a crowd at St. Paul’s Macalester College on Monday night, recounting his adventures in saving Yiddish books from oblivion. In 1980, Lansky, then a 23-year-old grad student, became aware that Yiddish books were being consigned to the trash bin, literally.

With rare dedication and the help of friends, Lansky issued a call for Yiddish books, then set about rescuing hundreds of thousands of forsaken volumes. He eventually founded the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass.

In his talk at Macalester (where his daughter, Sasha, is a freshman), Lansky told about some of the intriguing characters he has met over the years, such as Marjorie Mazia Guthrie, widow of famed troubadour Woody Guthrie and daughter of Yiddish poet Aliza Greenblatt, who became a staunch supporter of the Yiddish Book Center.

Lansky extemporaneously unspooled numerous amusing stories, and occasionally deferred to the precise recitation of events from his book, Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. — Mordecai Specktor

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