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Komets-alef: o! Back to School at the Yiddish Kheyder

Robarts Library, 130 St. George Street, Toronto    -    May 7-July 31, 2018

Inspired by the kheyder, the traditional form of Jewish elementary education in Eastern Europe, this exhibit invites visitors to imagine themselves as pupils learning at the Yiddish kheyder, where they can explore some of the basic skills required to engage with Yiddish: how to read it, how to write it, how to speak it, and how to identify what it looks and sounds like. In this kheyder, The University of Toronto libraries’ rich Yiddish collection will be the melamed (teacher). On display, you’ll find everything from children’s primers to doctoral dissertations, with a worksheet to track your progress throughout.

Built into the concept of a Yiddish kheyder is a theoretical challenge that encourages us to think about space. As we know, learning and teaching Yiddish was not the express purpose of the traditional kheyder, where instruction instead largely emphasized liturgical and Biblical texts; as Max Weinreich wrote, “No one was ever flogged for not knowing Yiddish.” This Yiddish kheyder, then, is a new creation. It is a Yiddish space rooted in history, but not found in historical space or time. Rather, this Yiddish kheyder is a creation for this space and this time, inviting visitors to reflect on the fact that increasingly, 21st century Yiddish spaces have moved from the street, the home, and the shul into the classroom, the library, and the museum.

The exhibition cases are located in the lobby of the ground floor, surrounding the escalators. The exhibit will be open May 7-July 31 during regular library hours. It is open to the public, free of charge, and is wheelchair accessible. Water fountains and washrooms are located immediately beside the exhibition space.

Please note that during the summer, Robarts' hours are as follows:

Monday - Thursday 8:30 am - 11:00 pm

Friday 8:30 am - 6:00 pm

Saturday 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

Sunday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm


Can't make it? Explore the exhibit online below!

Tips for viewing the exhibit images online:


  1. Right click on an image.

  2. Select 'Open image in new tab' option.

  3. Your internet browser will open a new tab where you will be able to 'zoom' into the image.

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This exhibition is generously sponsored by the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, the Al and Malka Green Yiddish Studies Program, and the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies. It draws on the holdings of the University of Toronto library system and the documentary resources held at the Ontario Jewish Archives Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre.

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