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Other Zions: From Freeland to Yiddishland


Michael Chabon’s best-selling novel The Yiddish Policemen’s Union imagined European Jewish refugees colonizing Alaska as a Yiddish-speaking homeland in the 1930s. In fact, the Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonization, with its organ Afn Shvel, attempted that and much more.

The League for Yiddish/Afn Shvel magazine, in conjunction with the YIVO Institute, opened a special exhibit in honor of several important anniversaries relating to this history: the 70th year of publication for the all-Yiddish Afn Shvel; the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonization, Afn Shvel’s first publisher, and the 30th anniversary of Afn Shvel’s current publisher, the League for Yiddish.

For over 30 years, the Freeland League worked to create a mass Jewish settlement outside the Land of Israel in order to rescue Jews and Jewish culture from Europe. Its most notable projects include attempts to establish settlements in Australia, Tasmania, Suriname, and yes, Alaska. Over time the Freeland League gave up all territorial goals but the organizational devotion to the Yiddish language and culture continued, and even strengthened. Finally, in 1979, the Freeland League dissolved itself and legally changed its name to the “League for Yiddish.”

The YIVO exhibit devoted to these three intertwined Yiddish organizations is curated by Krysia Fisher. It will be open from June 15 until November 15.

Hours: Mon and Wed 9:30am-8pm, Tue and Thu 9:30am-5pm, Fri 9:30am-3pm, Sun 11am-5pm

The exhibition is now on view in the 3rd Floor Gallery outside the Reading Room
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