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Aaron Lansky

Author and Founder and President of the National Yiddish Book Center

Aaron Lansky

Aaron visits with students at Amherst in Summer 2011

    A sample of what our students had to say after their visit with Aaron:

  • "Aaron Lansky has such an incredible and personal story to share."
  • "Aaron Lansky was inspiring because he shows us that we can be the change."
  • "Mr. Lansky was truly fascinating and a real hero."

Aaron Lansky is founder and president of the National Yiddish Book Center, one of the world's largest and most vibrant Jewish cultural organizations.

In 1980, at the age of 24, Mr. Lansky set out to rescue unwanted and abandoned Yiddish books. The Yiddish Book Center went on to recover more than one million volumes, in what's been described as "the greatest cultural rescue effort in Jewish history."

The Center has drawn on its holdings to establish or strengthen Yiddish collections at most of the world's major libraries. With help from Steven Spielberg and others, the Center digitized most of the books in its collection and, in 2009, posted them online. Once in danger of extinction, Yiddish is now the most accessible literature on earth.

With Mr. Lansky at the helm, the Yiddish Book Center is now shifting its focus to education, sharing the content of the books it saved – and the culture they represent – with new generations. Flagship programs include the Steiner Summer Institute for college students, a year-round fellowship program, the Wexler Oral History Project, the Paper Bridge Summer Arts Festival, a translation series published by Yale University Press, Pakn Treger and other in-print and online publications.

The Center's architecturally distinctive, energy-efficient, $15-million headquarters in Amherst, Massachusetts echoes Jewish architecture of Eastern Europe. The campus includes a student center and classrooms, a theater, a 250-seat performance hall, a climate-controlled book repository, an English-language bookstore, and extensive permanent and traveling exhibitions that attract thousands of visitors each year.

A native of New Bedford, Massachusetts, Aaron Lansky holds a B.A. in Modern Jewish History from Hampshire College, an M.A. in East European Jewish Studies from McGill University, and honorary doctorates from Amherst College, the State University of New York, and Hebrew Union College.

Early in his career he was included by Esquire magazine in its first annual Register of "The Best of the New Generation: Men and Women Under Forty Who Are Changing America." In 1989 he received a so-called "genius grant" from the MacArthur Foundation. His bestselling book, Outwitting History, was awarded the Massachusetts Book Award in 2005.

Mr. Lansky lives in Amherst, Massachusetts with his wife, Gail, and their two daughters, Chava and Sasha.

For more information about Aaron Lansky please visit his website.

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