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YIVO Celebrates Israel at 60 with New Exhibition

 -For Immediate Release -


YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Celebrates Israel at 60 with New Exhibition

"From Dream to Reality : Zionism and the Birth of Israel"


(New York, NY - June 11, 2008)   The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research is proud to announce the opening of a new exhibit to mark the 60th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel. "From Dream to Reality: Zionism and the Birth of Israel" uses rare documents, photographs, books and other materials from the YIVO Library and Archives to explore the earliest origins of Zionism in Eastern and Central Europe, through the British Mandate, to the establishment of the modern State of Israel.


The traditional Jewish connection to Eretz Israel and Jerusalem is found in Jewish prayers, poetry, and secular literature and in the Psalms. Because of this strong bond that spans many centuries, in each generation, groups of Jews traveled to and settled in Israel, among them, in 1810, students of the Vilna Gaon. These students from Lithuania were deeply impressed by their new home: “How wonderful it is to love our country – even in her ruins, there is none to compare to her, even in her desolation, she is unequalled.”


This complicated history is explored through unique items such as young Theodor Herzl's diary, and a signed first edition copy of his Der Judenstaat/The Jewish State (1896), and also is reflected in the minutiae of daily life: appeals for donations in Yiddish to Zionist causes, a box that once held an etrog from Palestine, an album of photos from a unique kindergarten in Haifa during the 1930s that somehow made its way to Vilna, an announcement issued on Herzl's death to the English Zionist Federation indicating that all clubs and sporting activities would be cancelled, ticket stubs for Zionist congresses and meetings, and much more. 


 “When you come to YIVO and view this exhibition, you will be surprised and challenged by the mix of official Zionist movement documents and books with personal memorabilia, photographs, postcards, posters and other ‘ephemera’ that together help tell this complicated – and ongoing – story,” comments Executive Director Carl J. Rheins.


This YIVO exhibition features a number of rare and unusual items reflecting Jewish history as well as the history of Zionism. Beginning with the wave of pogroms that swept through Russia after the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881, the mass migration of Jews from Eastern Europe between 1881 and 1914 resulted in some 2,600,000 Jews emigrating to America, Many others believed that the future of the Jewish people lay in the restoration of Jewish nationhood, an idea embraced by philanthropist Nathan Straus, Sr. (1848-1931). An original letter from Straus, the American Jewish merchant and founder of Macy’s department store who committed two thirds of his fortune to supporting health centers and other projects in Israel, is part of the exhibit.

(YIVO Press News, p.2)


Items from the earliest days of modern Zionism include a Rosh Hashanah postcard depicting Theodor Herzl and the other attendees of the Second Zionist Conference held in Basel, Switzerland in 1898; three postcards from Chaim Weizmann written in Yiddish and in Hebrew to Yiddish writer Kalman Marmor in New York (1903); and a view of the Western Wall in Jerusalem (1897).


Curated by Krysia Fisher, Senior Photo and Film Archivist at YIVO, "From Dream to Reality: Zionism and the Birth of Israel" weaves together the many threads that describe the long journey from the dream, beginning in Central and Eastern Europe, to reality. In doing so, the exhibition touches on a multitude of places: from Irkutsk to Suwalki and Warsaw, from Brussels to Montreal and New York, from the Lodz ghetto, to Bad Gastein, Austria and Cremona, Italy, to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.


Among the other early Zionist books and materials displayed are a portrait of the members of the Maccabi sports club in Irkutsk, Siberia (May 1919); a Palestine Immigrant Certificate issued to Ze’ev Bolovsky, who arrived in Palestine on the ship Rumania (February 7, 1924); the Report on the Uganda Project in Basler Correspondenz, an official organ of the Zionist Congress (July 30, 1905); a photograph of Jewish nurses in Jerusalem (c. 1920); and Chaim Nachman Bialik’s Nach dem Pogrom/After the Pogrom,  translated from Hebrew by Abraham Schwadron (Vienna, 1919).


For those interested in further research on Zionism, the YIVO Archives contain correspondence in the collections from every major Zionist ideologue and writer (much of which is on display in the exhibition), including: Herzl, Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow, Menachem Ussishkin, Ber Borochow, Yitzhak Grunbaum, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Meir Dizengoff, Henrietta Szold, Chaim Nachman Bialik, and many more.  Many of these items, and several entire collections, like the records of the Tarbut Teacher's Seminary in Vilna (Tarbut was Hebrew Language School System) were collected by YIVO in Vilna before the World War II.


Exhibition hours: Monday – Thursday, 9:30am – 5:00pm, Sunday, from Noon – 4:00pm. "From Dream to Reality: Zionism and the Birth of Israel" will be on display through December 2008 at the Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011.



Founded in Vilna, Poland (now Vilnius, Lithuania), in 1925 and based in Manhattan since 1940, YIVO is the preeminent institution for the study of East European Jewish history and culture; Yiddish language, literature and folklore; and the American Jewish immigrant experience.  The YIVO Library holds 385,000 volumes and pamphlets; the Archives has 24 million manuscripts, documents, posters, photographs, sound recordings, and artifacts on Jewish life and culture. YIVO offers a series of cultural events, adult education and Yiddish language classes, scholarly publications, research opportunities and fellowships. Visit YIVO at