The Central Yiddish Culture Organization (CYCO), a Manhattan based non-for-profit outfit dedicated to the promotion and development of Yiddish literature, is in trouble. CYCO, and its inventory of 55,000 Yiddish books is being kicked out of its current home. Given that the income from book sales could not possibly pay market rent on a new space, it looks like the last bookstore in Manhattan dedicated to Yiddish language and (mostly) secular literature is in need of a miracle. CYCO has already seen one miracle of sorts — a write up of their crisis in the New York Times, here.
So how come I’m not kvelling, shepping nakhes, plotzing or any of the other folksy Yiddishisms journalists like to sprinkle over these kinds of stories? Isn’t a story in the Times, vi me zogt (as they say), good for the Jews?
The author of the piece, Joseph Berger, has covered the Yiddish beat for the Times (in addition to writing for the Forward) for decades and no doubt sincerely wants to help CYCO find a patron and avert its impending homelessness. The problem is that he conflates what he sees as the demise of Yiddish in America with the crisis at CYCO. His focus on the ‘terminal’ state of Yiddish comes at the expense of any detail about what CYCO is and why a hypothetical benefactor would pour money into such a seemingly hapless, ill-run organization with negligible clientele and a “decidedly uncatchy” name. Having spent some time in the non-profit world, I know that for funders, guilt alone is not a compelling mission statement.
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