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Yivo Comes to Morningside

- Abstract

Early last January a letter was found in Brooklyn near a house that had just burned down. Dated 1889, signed Jacob H. Schiff, it had been written to Chief Rabbi Jacob Joseph of New York. In it Schiff expressed his displeasure that the rabbi had written an appeal in Hebrew addressed to all Jews, asking that they participate in the centennial celebration of the adoption of the Constitution. The language of the Jews in the United States, he wrote to the rabbi, is English. If it were not, he said, then we would justify the accusation of anti-Semites “that we are a nation in the midst of nations, that we do not adopt the customs of the people among whom we live, that we do not speak their language, that we remain a foreign element wherever we live.”

Some will see it as a historic irony that this letter now reposes in the collection of the Yiddish Scientific Institute (Yivo), which uses the Yiddish language almost exclusively, in its building on 123rd Street, originally erected—by Jacob H. Schiff—for the Jewish Theological Seminary.

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