Columbia’s Yiddish Studies Program is the oldest in the country, beginning in 1952 under the direction of renowned Yiddish scholar Uriel Weinreich. Weinreich’s student, Marvin Herzog was one of the major figures in the creation of the Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry (LCAAJ), whose archives are held at Columbia.
In terms of historic Yiddish manuscripts, Columbia has a 19th century Purim Shpiel, a funeral ceremony from 1813, some legal documents and discourses, and letters. A purchase in December 2011 of a manuscript of unpublished plays from Avrom Goldfadn, known as the “father of Yiddish theatre” was a wonderful addition to our collection.
There are four plays included in the manuscript:
1) Der Katter.
2) Ikx, Mikx, Drikx.
3) Fier Por Porcelain Teller.
4) Di Shveblach.
Ikx, Mikx, Drikx is a particularly amusing comedy, about a father trying to find a match for his three daughters.
The manuscript passed through Odessa, and includes a date of September 14, 1879. There is also a censor’s stamp in the manuscript. As far as we know, these plays were never published.
Other New York collections with Goldfadn materials include the YIVO Institute of Jewish Research, which holds a Goldfadn archive, and the New York Public Library, which includes some Goldfadn materials in its Tomashevsky Collection.