MacArthur Fellows Program

Aaron Lansky

Cultural Preservationist | Class of 1989

Cultural Preservationist
Holyoke, Massachusetts
34 at time of award
Area of Focus
Culture and Society

Aaron Lansky works to revitalize Yiddish culture and make it more accessible and understandable to the post-holocaust world.

Lansky is founder and president of the National Yiddish Book Center, an organization that has rescued and restored to active use more than 1.5 million neglected Yiddish books since 1980.  Through distribution of duplicate holdings, the Center has also developed or strengthened collections of Yiddish literature and music at more than 450 major libraries and research centers around the world.  Supported by more than 30,000 members, the Center offers year-round educational programming for adults, as well as student internships and fellowships, and it publishes The Pakn-Treger, a quarterly magazine.  The Center has produced a thirteen-part radio series entitled “Jewish Short Stories from Eastern Europe and Beyond,” which aired on National Public Radio.  Lansky has written a book about his travels entitled Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books (2004.)

Lansky spearheaded construction of a new facility on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, to house the Center’s growing collections and programs.  Echoing Jewish architecture of Eastern Europe, the new National Yiddish Book Center, dedicated in 1997, provides consummate access to Yiddish culture.

Lansky received a B.A. (1977) from Hampshire College and an M.A. (1980) from McGill University.

Recent News

Aaron Lansky continues to serve as president of the Yiddish Book Center. In addition to rescuing endangered Yiddish books, the center is now working to restore the vast cultural side of Jewish life, with new initiatives in digitization, translation, oral history, and, above all, educational ventures for high school students, college students, twenty-somethings, and adults.

Updated July 2015

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