September 16 - December 16, 2011
The exhibit “Of Place and Memory: The Yizkor Book as a Window into a World Destroyed” at the Portland State University Library tells the stories of Eastern European Jews and their communities destroyed in the Holocaust. It is the result of a first-time collaboration between the University Library and the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies.
Yizkor books were assembled by survivors from all over Eastern Europe to document their lives, those of their lost family members and friends and their obliterated shtetls (towns). Part memoir, part family tree, part family photo album, Yizkor books tell not only of a people and culture destroyed, but also of a people’s renewal and post-1945 regeneration that followed in Israel and the Diaspora.
Portland State University Library’s Special Collections is the steward of 136 Yizkor books—the largest collection of its kind in the Pacific Northwest. Its Yizkor holdings include a volume dating back to 1929, published in Pinsk, well prior to World War II, as well as unique copies not yet included in the recent digitization project undertaken by the New York Public Library’s Dorot Jewish Division. “Of Place and Memory” is curated by Natan M. Meir, the Lorry I. Lokey Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies, with assistance from Special Collections.
“For researchers, Yizkor books are a precious resource, providing a glimpse of everyday life in the shtetls that were home to so many Eastern European Jews before the Holocaust,” Meir states. “Though many of the books have a strongly nostalgic strain, their collage-like quality makes them a genre of their own, and they are fascinating both in and of themselves as well as because of the vanished world that they memorialize.”
Learn more about the Yizkor Book Collection online at http://library.pdx.edu/yizkor.html.