Page 85 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 27

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ish m a n
— M
a x
e inre ich
measure of Weinreich’s dedication to Yiddish is reflected in none
of the above publications, but in his inseparability from the YIVO
Institute for Jewish Research. The YIVO was practically created
in 1924 in the living room of his Vilna home, when a group of
met to discuss a memorandum prepared by Nokhem
Shtif (then in Berlin) calling for such an institution. Weinreich
was one of the four representatives to the Berlin (1925) meeting
at which the formal plans for the YIVO were made. He was the
first secretary of the YIVO’s Philological Section, and from 1929,
when he became a member of the central YIVO committees, he
engaged uninterruptedly in scientific, editorial or administrative
work for the YIVO. After his arrival in America, he became the
driving force in the YIVO’s transplantation, in the recovery of its
library and archives from Germany (whence they had been taken
by Nazi “ experts” on Jewish affairs), and in all the research and
publication programs the YIVO has conducted since 1940. For
Weinreich the YIVO represented the quintessential combination
of his own goals and interests. It was the meeting ground for those
interested in either Eastern European Jewry per se or in its Ameri­
can transformations. It represented the citadel of Yiddish scholar­
ship, of Jewish learning in the service of Jewish life, of modern
Jewish intellectual bridges to American universities and to the
new generations of students and scholars.10
Weinreich’s heroic refusal to be crushed by the tragic destruction
of the Eastern European heartland of Yiddish found its counterpart
when he was struck down by personal tragedy. In March 1967, his
elder son and intellectual heir, Uriel, a linguist of international
repute and Atran Professor of Linguistics and Yiddish Language
and Literature at Columbia University, died at the age of 41.
Although the shock of this loss undoubtedly hastened his death
scarcely two years later, Weinreich’s outward response was to
redouble his efforts on behalf of those YIVO projects with which
Uriel had been associated. The appearance of Uriel’s
English-Yiddish, Yiddish-English Dictionary
in this brief interim,
and accelerated work on his
College Yiddish II
and on a Hebrew
version of
College Yiddish I ,
were directly due to Max Weinreich
setting aside his own nearly completed work on the
Di geshikhte
fun der yidisher shprakh
in order to lend his wisdom, experience
and drive to furthering these publications that had been left in
various stages of incompletion.11
10For some of Weinreich’s formulations of what the YIVO was, is, and
could be, see “Der YIVO in yidishn lebn,”
YIVO Bleter,
1944, 23, 4-16; “Der
Yivo un di problemen fun undzer tsayt,”
YIVO Bleter,
1945, 25, 3-18; “Der
Yivo in zayn finf un tsvantsikstn yor. N.Y., YIVO. 1950.
“ Perhaps the major project implemented by Max Weinreich during the
past two years, outside of the area of publications, was the Uriel Weinreich
Yiddish Language Program at Columbia University, an intensive eight week
summer program conducted in cooperation with the YIVO and under the