Reflections on Method and Process
Gathering source materials on minor Yiddish publishing centers has become increasingly possible as the information age progresses, however there is still a wide range of research to be done. As lucky as it is that Rebecca Margolis has taken on an analysis of Montreal’s literary community, it would greatly benefit Yiddish studies if scholars followed her example and published such research on other minor centers as well. Finding material through which to access information on Mexico City’s literary community, for example, was exceptionally difficult due to the lack of actual published articles on the subject and the accessibility of that information. Most of what could be found were part of larger books on a broader topic, for example a book on Latin American literature with a two page section on Jewish literature in Mexico. Furthermore, even Yiddish sources seem to overlook publishing. While several books have been written about the Yiddish Theater and Yiddish Press, there are no books in Yiddish purely about Yiddish publishing. It would be overwhelmingly beneficial to Yiddish studies if there was a lexicon of Yiddish publishers, or of writing on these publishers. Hopefully, this website will serve as a starting point for those attempting to do research in this field. Ultimately, the most important things to know are key phrases and names that can be found in wider collections and scholarly works, as they often can be followed to more information about literary culture and publishing.
Where Do We Go From Here?
This project has the potential to grow in several different directions. While this website provides the basic materials with which one might proceed to discover the ways in which decenterizing Yiddish literature might further inform this field, it is the hope of the creators that this exploration will foster the correct environment in Yiddish studies for more projects. This could mean a Yiddish Publisher Yellow Pages focused on minor literary centers, in which researchers might compile as complete a list as possible of both major and minor publishing houses, individual publishers, and book committees. As far as it is possible, it would also be interesting to continue the work done here by analyzing the output of each publisher and considering what the categories of work published can tell a reader today, both about the publisher and their relatively minor Yiddish literary community. In the true spirit of decenterization, it would be an arduous but extremely beneficial project to produce an interactive map of Yiddish publishers. Ideally, this map would include any publisher with more than one published book and note them with a pinned location, representing where they published the most books. This would create a combination of a lexicon and a visual representation of how Yiddish publishing was distributed. In terms of this specific project, the map would be of North America, but it would be quite possible to expand it to a global map, perhaps utilizing a tool such as Google Maps or Google Earth. Obviously this would be a massive undertaking, but would really create an understanding of Yiddish publishing and Yiddish literary culture as a global process.
It would also most certainly be beneficial to expand upon this project by examining how different publishers produce material Yiddish books differently in minor centers, like those discussed here. How does a book produced in Los Angeles differ physically from one produced in a major center like New York, or from another published south of the border in Mexico City? It would be quite interesting to compare publishers to each other, but possible only with physical access to many different books from each publisher studied. If one wanted to universalize this project a little more, it would also raise some very interesting questions to compare Yiddish books published in the minor centers discussed here to books in the language of the land they were published in. How does a Yiddish book published in Montreal compare to a French or English book published in the same city? The same question could be asked of Mexico City and Spanish, or Los Angeles and Chicago and English. This is a question for a motivated book studies concentrator with an interest in the physicality of literature.
Commonality in Community
One of the important takeaways of this project is the role of community in Yiddish publishing and its importance. Time and time again, research on each minor center of Yiddish publishing revealed that at the core of all its literary activity, especially in publication, community played an essential role. A great example is the book committee structure, but community can be found most generally in the pattern that appears in each city discussed here: Yiddish authors react to each other and learn from each other, ultimately producing literature towards a common goal or within a certain understanding of literature that authors have forged in their cities. In Los Angeles, this might be observed when authors ultimately changed their style to reflect the American West, and in Montreal it can be seen through authors’ efforts to define their Canadian-Yiddish identity through their literature together. Even Mexico City, although it was defined as a fairly isolated and local Yiddish literary community, was tied in some ways to a few of the major Yiddish publishing hubs through Jacobo Glantz, and authors there also reacted to each other’s work as they would in any Yiddish literary culture. It speaks to a wider sense of Jewish insular community (which can be found in many cultural areas of study outside of literature) that the Yiddish publishers of minor centers were able to find the support that they needed in authors, readers, and scholars of Yiddish literature.