The Mexico Fonds has 1156 volumes and it constitutes a contribution to the study of the Jewish presence in Mexico because of the subjects it contains, as well as the deep message of the books printed in Hebrew and Yiddish as transmitters of its own culture. Talking about Yiddish is talking about human patrimony.
The students or readers can reconstruct the formation of the Jewish Community in Mexico, as well as to be aware of the historic moment when Spanish took over the place as transmitter of Judaism in our country. It is a meeting of the culture and history of a non national minority with the receiving society, in which books became the instrument for communicating and for mutual enrichment. Abraham Golomb, famous teacher, dean of the Colegio Israelita de México and of the Nuevo Colegio Israelita, published his Pedagogic Essays in 1955 and in them he says: “All the papers that I have written during many years have appeared in the Yiddish and Hebrew languages. Now I have decided to transcribe, for the very first time, at least a small part of my work in the language of the country where I have lived and worked during more than ten years, in an environment of liberty and peace, hoping they will be of some use to the cultured public in Mexico. That would be for me reason to be very satisfied”.
The Mexico Fonds has the complete production of Rabbi Dr. Jacob Avigdor, rabbi of the Ashkenazi Community of Mexico, who was a very prolific writer who penned at least ten books about religious, ethical and philosophic subjects, most of which were edited by the Ashkenazi Kehillah of Mexico, Nidjei Israel and printed by the Imprenta Moderna, property of Manuel Pintel, located in Garciadiego 28. His book La Visión del Judaísmo (The Vision of Judaism)was published in Spanish in 1959. It is a series of philosophic essays about the Jewish holidays, in which he says: “The book that I am editing is proof of a pioneer work. There are many Jews in the Spanish speaking countries, but unfortunately there are no Jewish books that deal with Jewish knowledge, with Jewish thought, nor with Jewish sanctity. The goal and intent of this book is to give some content of Jewish knowledge to Spanish speaking Jews.
The Colegio Israelita de México has been the pioneer as an institution for the printing of books and school textbooks. Thus the Mexico Fonds has the books by C. Pres, titled Mein Bichl (My little Book), textbooks for the first grade of elementary school, printed in 1941. The book is the 12th edition, printed in the Imprenta Energía, property of the writer Meyer Corona, located in Soledad 10. Although it is the 12th edition, we believe it is probable the only sample existing nowadays. The School also edited the schoolbooks Lomir Lernen (Let’s Study), which is a Yiddish reader for the third and fourth years of elementary school. The books were printed in 1941 at the Imprenta Lincoln, located in Justo Sierra 45.
The Mexico Fonds has the first Yiddish grammar book written by Professor Bayon titled Arbeitsbuch far Yiddish in Folkshul (Yiddish Grammar for the Practical Use of Elementary Schools), edited by the Colegio Israelita de México in 1947 and printed in the Saber Press, located in Bajío 319.
The Colegio Israelita published in 1947 the first children’s stories, titled Maiselach far Kinder (Stories for Children) edited also at the Saber Press, property of Professor Meyer Berger. The architect Abraham Engel, former student of the institution, designed the cover and illustrations of the book. Some of the books included in this textbook, such as Little Red Riding Hood and The Three Bears, were translated to Yiddish for the first time in Mexico.
It is interesting to note that years later, Jewish institutions took over both the knowledge as well as the printing of books by non Jewish people about Jewish subjects. An example of the previous is the work or R.P. Dr. Felipe Pardiñas Comentarios sobre las enseñanzas del Concilio Vaticano II acerca del pueblo judío (Commentaries on the Teachings of the 2nd Vatican Council about the Jewish People), published by the Instituto Cultural Mexicano Israelí, in March of 1966.
A third step is the acceptance of the receiving society of Jewish themes written by Jewish intellectuals. An example is the book by Sergio Nudelstejer, Albert Einstein, un hombre en su Tiempo (Albert Einstein, a Man in his Time) published in Mexico by Costa–Amic editors in 1980.
The book Encuentro y alteridad. Vida cultural judía en América Latina (Meeting and Otherness. Jewish Cultural Life in Latin America) coordinated by Judith Bokser Liwerant and Alicia Gojman de Backal, published by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Mexican Association of Friends of Tel Aviv University and the Fondo de Cultura Económica in 1999.
The Mexico Fonds of the Documentation Center is the largest collection in Mexico, in spite of the fact that some books included in it may appear in private collections, but as a Fonds, it is unique in Mexico.
As the Jewish Community began taking root in the country, so did its literature. The Mexico Fonds has the first Yiddish books edited in Mexico, among which are:
a) The book Drei Wegn(Three Roads) appeared in Mexico in 1927; it is a compendium of poems written by I. Berliner, J. Glantz and M. Glicowsky. The book was typographed in Yiddish characters by the writer B. Vladek of the Forwards newspaper of New York in 1924 and sent to the Cultural Jewish Society of Mexico. The typographic job was performed by Moises Glicowsky, who learned the trade during his work as editor of the Mexicaner Lebn (Jewish Life in Mexico) newspaper. This book was sponsored by the Yugnt (Youth) literary group.
b) In 1929, the book Blondzendike Gaister (Lost Spirits) of poetry and prose by Moises Glicowsky appeared. It was edited in the Alma printing press, located in Soledad 24. One and only book in Mexico.
c) Meyer Perkis (Meyer Bal Hanes) wrote the book Matbeyes Fun Main Pushke (Coins from my Piggy Bank) that holds stories, poems and maxims. The text was published in the Alma printing press, property of the same Perkis. One and only book in Mexico.
d) In 1936, the community newspaper Der Weg (The Road), edited Shtot Fun Palatzn (City of Palaces) by I. Berliner with drawings by Diego Rivera, with a prologue by Moisés Rosenberg that included a glossary of Mexican vernacular words. This book is considered the first great Jewish Mexican work that described the difference of the social classes in Mexico and the poverty that prevailed in this country.
e) In 1936, Jacobo Glantz wrote the book Fonen und Blut (Flags and Blood) that dealt with Spain in 1936, work sponsored by Guezbir of México (Jewish political party that sponsored the idea of creating a Jewish homeland in Birobidjan in the USSR) located in Palma 31, first floor. In his poems, Glantz described the Spanish Civil War. The money from the sale of those books was allotted to backing those who were fighting for the liberty of Spain.
f) In 1939, Glantz published, again sponsored by Guezbir as well as his friends and colleagues, the book Trit InDi Berg (Steps in the Mountains), poems written between 1926 and 1936. Parts of the book contain Mexican subjects such as: The Indian Hut, Mexico surrounded by Mountains, A Native Village, Chapultepec Castle, etc.
g) In 1939, Der Weg edited a book by Leo Forem, titled Carmen un Andere Dertzeilungen(Carmen and other Stories) which is divided in two parts: the first one titled Mexicanismos (Mexican Vernacular) that includes nine stories about life in Mexico.
h) Meyer Corona wrote Heimishe Mentchn (Trustworthy People), sponsored by the Cultural Club of Mexico, in 1939. It is made up of sixteen stories about Jewish life in Mexico.
i) In the middle of 1939, Yosef Winiecki wrote the book OifBiblishe Motivn (Biblical Motifs, maxims, epigrams and paraphrases) with a prologue by Moises Rosenberg, edited by Der Weg (The Road).
3) TRANSLATIONS TO YIDDISH AND HEBREW The series of translations of the Works of Universal Literature to Yiddish and Hebrew holds 725 volumes:
The series of translations of Works of Universal Literature is located within the library of the Center of Documentation and Investigation of the Ashkenazi Community.
These translations were made so as to approach and involve European Jews into universal culture.
The creation of the Bund (Union), a Jewish Polish socialist party, was very influential in performing these translations because the leftist Jewish parties in Poland tried to palliate the great economic needs that prevailed in the country through the richness of culture. They created clubs, libraries, cultural leagues, theater circles, professional groups, press, magazines written in Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish and Russian, as well as Jewish schools where Jewish history and literature were taught. There were courses for workers and hundreds of classes for the Jewish working population were organized. These classes were taught in Yiddish, considered the language of the people, of the common man, who had at the same time generated a very rich press and literature. The Yiddish language got the Jews to approach universal culture and began to awaken their interest in the non Jewish world.
The translations to Hebrew were influenced by the Haskalah (Illustration), movement that had its birth in Germany in the 18th century. Through this movement Jewish education became secular: instead of studying the Bible, Jews were supposed to study secular subjects in Hebrew and thus plunge into universal literature.
Some examples of works of universal culture translated into Yiddish are:
a) Karl Marx, The Capital, published in New York for the Literary Kropotkin Organization in 1917, translated from German to Yiddish by Dr. I. A. Merison.
The translator of this work expressed the difficulty of translating political economics into Yiddish, but in spite of that, he felt that it was very important to translate The Capital, because for him it was the Bible of socialism. Dr. Merison’s translation is based on Kautsky’s text which was the fifth translation of the book into German. The translator used a series of Germanic words to enable him to express Marxist terminology, because he was convinced that there should be a large Jewish socialist movement in the United States instead of the “Yiddish speaking” small socialist groups. Dr. Merison considered that the translation of The Capital to Yiddish was very timely because he could envision a very ample field for Jewish culture in Russia, as well as socialist activities.
b) Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quijote de la Mancha, edited in Buenos Aires by IKUF press, in 1950 and translated into Yiddish by P. Katz.
Thanks are due to the Muzikansky family for the advent of this work. It influenced the creation of Jewish institutions, the building of the House of Culture and the I.L. Peretz Synagogue, as well as the creation of the IKUF press in Argentina. By financing the first volume of Don Quijote de la Mancha, the Muzikansky brothers gave life to universal literature translated into Yiddish.
The IKUF press considered the arrival of Don Quijote in Yiddish quite an accomplishment for the participants of the spiritual movement in that language in Argentina and the whole world, because it reminded them of the translations that had been made in the great cultural Jewish centers of Eastern Europe, extinguished during the Holocaust. The press also felt that the translation of El Quijote into Yiddish was very important at a moment when Jewish youth were abandoning Yiddish and losing interest in translations since they considered them only a means of relating to “the others”, while the press considered that universal literature is not alien, it is our own, it belongs to everybody.
Pasternak’s literary works had ceased being published in the USSR in the 30s. During the terrible years for Jewish writers in Russia he devoted himself solely to translating books of universal literature into Russian. But, during the war years some of Pasternak’s poetry began to be published. In 1956, Moscow radio announced that the book Dr. Zhivago would be published in that city and that the original had already been sent for its publication to a magazine. In the meanwhile, the manuscript of this work was smuggled out of the USSR and was published in several languages, including Yiddish.
When Pasternak was granted the Nobel literature award, Moscow responded that the author was not authorized to go to Sweden to receive it because it had not been published in the USSR. The appearance in Yiddish of this masterwork of universal literature was a social and literary event.
d) The New Testament in its second edition was translated into Yiddish in 1959 by Dr. Chaim Einspruch, sponsored by the Leibush Fonds un Chaye Lederer, located in Baltimore.
It was first edited in 1941 and the author’s rights are valid in Great Britain, Canada and all the countries that belong to the International Copyright Union and those with agreements with the Copyright Conventions of Montevideo, Mexico, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Havana.
The fourth edition of this book was printed in Israel in 1962.
4) INCORPORATED LIBRARIES The Documentation Center receives donations of private books and libraries. The most important, because of their contents or rarity, are under Incorporated Libraries. Among the best are the following:
a) BORIS ROSEN
He was born in Kippel, Ukraine on January 22, 1917. and he arrived in Mexico in 1928.
He studied law at the UNAM. In 1935 he interrupted his studies to travel to New York and study to become a teacher and later on he entered the Workers’ University. This university was very influential towards his leftist leanings.
In 1930 he participated in the foundation of the Yugnt Club (Youth Club) where he became General Secretary. The goal of this club was to attract children and youngsters to take part in after-school activities that were held in Yiddish.
In 1937 he became a member of Guezbir which was a leftist Jewish organization that tried to help Jews to form their own state in Birobidjan in the USSR. They also studied Mexican and Soviet politics.
He was a member of the Folks Ligue (Society to Help the Soviet Union) founded in 1942.
He had relations with various politicians among whom was Lombardo Toledano. He edited the Fraiwelt (Free World) Magazine and was secretary of Politics magazine.
He participated in a work of three volumes called Mexico in Peace and worked for the position of Mexico in the matter of peace.
Boris Rosen was a very important intellectual in Mexican society as a researcher of liberalism in the 19th century.
BOOKS OF THE BORIS ROSEN COLLECTION
We believe the books that were edited in the USSR or in Poland after the Second World War and that are part of this Fonds are extremely important because they are unique in Mexico, since few Jews had any interest in getting them because of their distaste towards the politics of the USSR.
In 1946 there were pogroms in Poland against the few Jews who survived the Holocaust. In 1948, when the State of Israel was created, most of the 80 thousand survivors managed to get to Israel and served as narrators of the meaning of living in Poland. On the other hand, Jews living in Mexico were increasingly disappointed with Stalin’s policy, considering him an infamous leftist dictator. The books published in the USSR and its satellite countries were controlled by censors about their contents so as to benefit the image of the state it desired to present to the world. The Yiddish in which they are written is Soviet Yiddish that by government order could include no word written in Hebrew.
The most important are the following:
The book Dos Shtetl(The Village) by Zinovi Tolkatshov was printed in 1946 by the Dos Naye Lebn (New Life) press in Warsaw and Lodz.
The contents of this book are scenes inspired in the writer Shalom Aleichem’s characters. In fact, the twenty paintings in this book were painted before the Second World War. What is important in this case is that they were painted anew by the Jewish-Soviet painter Tolkatshov, who apparently confronted the work already done with the national catastrophe. The painter was one of those who marched with the Red Army, so he was obviously an artist identified with the Soviet State.
According to M. Mirski “Dos Shtetl by Tolkatshov is the first important artistic attention call to our national catastrophe”.
This book was a gift from the great poet Wainper to Boris Rosen. Unique sample in Mexico.
The book Baricht fun land tsuzamenfor fun der Idisher Kultur Guezelshaft in Poiln(Report of the National Meeting of the Jewish Cultural Society in Poland) that took place in Bratslav in October 14-16, 1949, printed in Warsaw by the Yiddish Buch Editorial.
A report said that 300 delegates and representatives of the previously mentioned institution arrived. There were cultural commissions from cooperatives and factories, social institutions and cultural activists, artists, writers, etc. Representatives from various countries such as Rumania, the United States, Canada, etc. were present. Leo Katz went from Mexico; he devoted himself to criticizing anti-Semitism in capitalist countries.
At the conclusion of this activity, the representative of the Jewish Central Committee in Poland, Mr. Stoller said: “The Leninist-Stalinist idea will lead us to victory”. Unique sample in Mexico.
The Boris Rosen Library includes a collection of the Sovetish Heimland (Soviet Fatherland) magazine, organ of the Writers Council of the Soviet Union, written in Yiddish and edited by Sovetsky Pisatel in Moscow. The first number appeared in July-August of 1961. An article titled Di Lichtike Tzukunft fun der Mentchhait (The Luminous Future of Humanity), taken from the programmed project of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union that promotes the construction of communist society as an important and basic project of the Soviet people, introduced the first number.
In the article dedicated to the reader it says: “We place the first number of Sovetish Heimland in your hands. Here you will feel the breath of our time, you may receive greetings from literary life and listen to the voice of Soviet national literature. Because we are part of that literature, we think just as you do, that our magazine will proudly carry the name that is inscribed in the cover”.
The collection holds magazines that go from 1961 to 1991, thus becoming the most complete collection in Mexico. In the magazine edited in October of 1981, the photographs made by Itzik Fefer and Sh. Michoels in 1943 in which they appear with then ambassador of the USSR in Mexico, Constantin Umansky, were published. They are considered rare archival photographs. Michoels and Fefer were murdered by Stalin’s order.
b) ALICIA AND ISAAC BACKAL LIBRARY
This collection deals with very varied aspects such as life in the Mexican Jewish Community, Jews in the world, Mexican history, education in Mexico, history of the United States, Jewish religion and mysticism, and others.
Among the most important of that collection is the Polish Black Book, edited in that country in 1941, as well as the books by Marte R. Gómez, written during the 30s.
c) BERTHA MOSS LIBRARY
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, she studied drama in the Nacional Conservatory of her native city.
Her work in Argentinean theater was outstanding. Her restlessness found an opening in Argentinean movies and television. She worked side by side with the most renowned actors of her country and Mexico. The actress Dolores del Río invited her to come to Mexico. Her first role in our country was in 1959 in the play “Quite a Lady”. She was a tireless theater actress, notably in “Fiddler on the Roof”.
Her library includes books of art, theater and Judaism.
Eva G. de Gojman was born in Minsk, Russia in 1921. She arrived in Mexico in 1928. Later she became a tireless activist of the WIZO organization (1940); she was president of the Yardenia group during 18 years and through her constant participation in WIZO’s Council she became an exceptional woman.
José Gojman was born in Pogrevische, Ukraine (1913). He immigrated to Mexico where his participation in community life through conferences in the Jewish Youth Club, his actions as representative in the Council of the Ashkenazi Kehillah, in the OIRIM organization and in the creation of Temple Bet-Itzhak made José Gojman a basic part of the Ashkenazi community in Mexico.
The CDICA has the complete works of Jules Verne in twelve volumes translated into Yiddish. It was published by the Hebrew Publishing Company in New York in 1922. This collection also has three private files of Jewish institutions in Mexico such as WIZO, the Bet-Itzhak synagogue and 56 handwritten letters in Yiddish that go from 1903 to 1929 sent from the Ukraine to Mexico and the United States.
The periodical library specializes in Jewish subjects. It is made up of yearbooks, bulletins, pamphlets, magazines and all kinds of miscellaneous newspapers. The material was created in: Mexico, the United States, Israel, the USSR, Poland, etc. Various languages such as Hebrew, Yiddish, German, Spanish, English, Russian and Polish can be found there.
a) DER WEG (THE ROAD). SPECIAL NUMBER TO CELEBRATE THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY (JANUARY 1930-1940)
This publication celebrated ten years of existence of Der Weg newspaper. M. Rosenberg, its editor, commented that the anniversary of this publication also recalled twenty years of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe into Mexico. The Center of Documentation and Investigation today has 6 specimens of that yearbook.