Famed Pre-War Yiddish Journals Revived Online


A cultural resurgence is underway.

Yiddish avant-garde journals between the world wars housed a collection of writings from key artistic and political intellectuals of the day. Weimar Berlin, Warsaw and Moscow gave rise to a dynamic art scene, reflected in the pages of key Yiddish publications once distributed worldwide.

Those magazines, currently housed in a few libraries, will be available online, thank to a digitization project called Milgroym. 

The name is a tribute to Milgroym, one of the most visually striking Yiddish arts-and-letters journals of the era, often reflecting the Cubist design popular in the period. Its original literary editors, Dovid Bergelson and Der Nister, giants in their field, were murdered by Stalin.

Other rare magazines, such as Di vogAlbatros and Khalyastre, were also repositories of artistic, political and literary criticism and scholarship. While they differed dramatically, some expressing more radical polemics, all are a window into a significant moment in time: Jewish life before the rise of the Nazis.

For all, the arts were seen as a critical component of modern life.

“Until recently, these journals have been virtually inaccessible: They are nowhere to be found online, and their print issues are extremely rare,” Raphael Koenig, a doctoral candidate in comparative literature at Harvard and the other editors wrote in a “Manifesto for Yiddish Cybernetics,” reports the Forward.

“By featuring translations and commentaries, we hope to make these journals accessible to a broader audience, and to involve scholars of other disciplines (modernist studies, art history) who might not be familiar with the Yiddish language, but could nevertheless make use of this material in broader research projects, or out of intellectual curiosity,” they added.

In geveb, a journal of Yiddish studies, and the Historical Jewish Press are working together to make these interwar journals available online. In geveb's editors believe the Yiddish avant-garde’s aesthetic, literary and socio-political sensibilities aren't just historic relics, but relevant to readers today.

The Historical Jewish Press is a joint venture of Tel Aviv University and the National Library of Israel.


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