The Yiddish Collection

A collection of about 400 books in the Yiddish language, formerly stock from Gorbals District Library which was purchased to serve the Jewish community in Glasgow. The collection is now housed in the Mitchell Library.

About the collection

Between the 1890s and the outbreak of the First World War, thousands of Yiddish-speaking Jewish immigrants, mainly from the Russian Empire, arrived in Glasgow. In the inter-war years, in spite of more rigid immigration controls, they were joined by refugees fleeing from the rise of fascism. Most settled in the densely populated tenemental district of the Gorbals.

To provide cultural and educational nourishment for this economically challenged but highly literate community, the Gorbals Library amassed some 400 Yiddish books. With the last generation of native speakers of the Yiddish mameloshn (“the mother-tongue”) almost entirely gone, the collection is now housed in the Mitchell Library.

Its well-thumbed pages and library date stamps give us a flavour of its readers’ fascinations: drama, historical fiction, socialist essays, the poetry of celebrated female writers such as Rokhl Korn and Kadya Molodowsky, and Yiddish translations of classics such as Hedda Gabler and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Produced by Eastern European and American publishing houses– often to high-aesthetic standards–these volumes provide a vivid snapshot of an outward-looking, intellectually curious Yiddish-speaking world in decades before its near-destruction.

Finding aid

The collection is available on our online catalogue.

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