Contemporary French Civilization

Lending identity: circulating literacy, current events, Yiddish culture, and politics in interwar France

Contemporary French Civilization (2020), 45, (1), 71–88.


This article traces the histories of three Yiddish-language libraries in 1930s Paris. Through an analysis of borrowing practices, holdings, and events, this article illustrates how the libraries of the Kultur-lige and Medem-farband functioned as vectors of culture and politics in interwar Paris. These Yiddish libraries created public and communal spaces within which people from all corners of the Yiddish-speaking Parisian world could sit and learn about current events, literature, history, and politics.1

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Archival sources consulted

Rare Books and Manuscripts, Butler library, Columbia University (CU) Zosa Szajkowski Collection, 1900–1939 (ZS) Google Scholar

Widener Library, Harvard University (HU) Judaica Documents: France (JDF) Google Scholar

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO) RG 116, Territorial Collection, France I Google Scholar

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Author details

Underwood, Nick