Thursday, August 21, 2008

Looking Forward to Go Back

Today I am blogging on-site at the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research on 16th Street @ 5th Ave. It is housed in the beautiful Center for Jewish History.

I came here today to access the archives of the Forward, the Yiddish daily newspaper.  Long known for its connection to the people, I thought that this would be a wonderful place to find detailed and first-hand accounts of the riots.

I was right.  However, the information still proves elusive for me.  The archives have not been translated from Yiddish to English.  In fact, if it were not for the obliging research librarian, Yeshaya Metal, I would not have much of anything to show for my trip here.  I do not speak Yiddish.  I certainly have Yiddish words that have found their way from my grandparents' and parents' limited vocabulary into my own, but these are probably the most banal of Yiddish words:  oy, get the point.

Since I knew the months and year I was looking for, even down to a few specific days, Mr. Metal was kind enough to sit at the Microform reader (the archives are all on microfilm) and scan through the paper looking for headlines.  He found several and I have printed the articles for later translation (brush up on that Yiddish, Katy Rubin!).  The first one - February 21 - was a huge success as it also included a photo of hundreds of protesting women surging towards the forefront of the photograph.  

It was an interesting experience, sitting beside him as he would read bits of Yiddish out loud and chuckle, occasionally translating for me.  

"crazy prices!"
"This happened in America"
"Don't buy potatoes!"
"The riots are going well!"

We printed up several articles from February 21 - 23.  After Mr. Metal returned to his desk, I stayed to look through the papers at the ads which were featured.  Many of them were in English.  D. Jones Furniture at 62 Orchard Street.....Luden's Cough Drops for 5 cents...Ridgeways India-Ceylon Tea....Narimova in War Brides at the Majestic Theatre on Second Avenue at 1st Street.

I am fascinated by these little bits and pieces - it's like opening up a time capsule.  I want to immerse myself in all the details of life in New York City at the early part of the 20th Century.  I want to visit these locations and squint my eyes and try to imagine what it was like 100 years ago. I want to connect with the memory of these women and these places.

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