In September 2008, the University of Michigan received the library and personal papers of Beatrice (Bina) Silverman Weinreich, a scholar whose life’s work was to preserve the Yiddish language and culture. A few years before her passing in March 2008, Bina Weinreich had given some of her late husband, Uriel Weinreich’s as well as her own papers to the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, with whom the Weinreichs share deep roots. She left no instructions concerning the rest of the papers and the family library. Michigan’s blooming Yiddish scholarship and Bina’s personal connection to her former student Vera Szabó brought about the family’s decision to donate the rich collection to us. We thank Bina’s children, Don and Stephanie Weinreich.
The collection is housed in three locations. Books and journals can be found at the Salinger Resource Center. Rare books and archival material have been placed into the care of Special Collections, together with some private audio recordings of the Weinreich family. A small number of CDs and video tapes have been added to our collection at the Language Resource Center.
Books and Journals
The approximately 800 volumes reflect the interests of their owners. They are primarily from the field of Judaica, Yiddish literature, folklore, music, cookery, photography, art, linguistics, history, and the Bible. They include books inscribed to Bina, Uriel or Max Weinreich by Yiddish writers Avrom Sutskever, Chaim Grade, Itsik Manger, and H. Leyvik. There is an extensive collection of Jewish and general folklore, including hard-to-find Yiddish publications, a variety of Yiddish children’s books, and Passover hagadot. There are also several editions of College Yiddish, including the first edition inscribed by Uriel Weinreich to his wife, Bina.
Rare items are housed at the Special Collections Library and at the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the William L. Clements Library.
Among the private papers were found Yiddish artwork and personal correspondence among members of the entire Weinreich family. (Read Uriel Weinreich's letter to Max Weinreich from Ann Arbor, 1955, in Yiddish and English.)
Some unique items are books inscribed by:
- Manger, Medresh Itsik, to Max Weinreich
- Manger, Lid un balade
- Leivick, A blat af an eplboym, to Max Weinreich
- Chaim Grade, Der mentsh fun fayer, to Regina and Max Weinreich
- Sutskever, Oasis, to Uriel Weinreich
- Dan Miron, Der imazh fun shtetl, to Bina Weinreich
Rare Books and Archival Material
Archival material and other items requiring special care are available for researchers at the Special Collections Library. These materials include manuscripts, personal documents, correspondence, professional papers, rare books, and audio recordings by various members of the Weinreich family. Here are some highlights from the collection:
Among the manuscripts we find a Yiddish operetta in three acts called Shmerl nar in Boiberik, written by Uriel and Gabriel Weinreich and Abe Brumberg; a poem written by Malka Lee upon Uriel Weinrech’s untimely death in 1969; a letter written in verse by Itzik Manger to H. Leyvik in London, June, 1941; and Max Weinreich’s Yiddish translation of Sigmund Freud’s Introduction to Psychoanalysis.
The hundreds of documents include passports, immigration documents, wedding invitations, ksubes, circumcision records, school reports and university records, diaries and phonebooks of the Weinreich & Silverman families, Max Weinreich’s Yiddish Pen Club membership card (1947) and Yiddish Writers’ Union membership card (New York 1949), many photographs, eulogies for Uriel Weinreich, tickets and receipts dating back to the 1940s, family trees, CVs, and bibliographies.
Members of the Weinreich and Silverman families were writing each other letters on a daily basis whenever they were not together, and the thousands of letters have been carefully preserved. On the Weinreich side, the correspondence begins in 1940, when Regina and Gabriel Weinreich in Vilna were separated from Max and Uriel, who traveled to Denmark and later to New York. In 1941, thirteen-year-old Bina Silverman was writing letters home to her parents in New York from Camp Boiberik. In 1943, Uriel Weinreich was already sending letters from the US Army. By 1948, the lives of the Weinreichs and Bina Silverman were intertwined. Their letters give a vivid account of the events and their thoughts.
In 1948, Max Weinreich taught at UCLA where Bina was his student; in 1949–1950, Uriel and Bina went on a research trip to Switzerland. Later, Uriel was writing home to his parents and wife from Munich and Israel in 1951, and from Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1955. In 1956, he was sending letters from Israel, India, and Indonesia; in 1957, from Palo Alto; and in 1958 from Boston.
In addition to the internal family correspondence there are also letters from several generations of prominent Yiddish cultural figures like Avrom Sutzkever, Melekh Ravitsh, Y.Y. Trunk, Irving Howe, Dvoyre and Benye Hrushovski-Harshav, Khone Shmeruk, Dov Noy, Shikl, Rokhl and Gele Fishman, Mordkhe Schaechter, Dan Miron, Rakhmiel Peltz, Zachary Baker, Susanna Heschel, and the Mlotek family.
These include notes to Uriel Weinreich’s English-Yiddish, Yiddish-English Dictionary; Syllabi, bibliographies, index cards, research notes, and notebooks of Max, Uriel and Bina Weinreich; a copy of the published Language and Culture Atlas of Ashkenazic Jewry with additional handwritten notes inside; papers relating to the the YIVO folksong project, Y.L. Cahan, and the Vilna Ethnographic Commission.
The highlights of the audio materials are the voice recordings of the Weinreich family.
Uriel and Bina Weinreich spent the 1959–1960 academic year in Israel. In addition to the almost daily written letters exchanged between them and Max and Regina Weinreich, they also sent each other some “reyd-briv,” tape-recorded correspondence. In the days before internet and voice communication, when long-distance phone calls cost a small fortune, people often turned to tape recorders to hear a loved one’s voice, and so did the Weinreichs. In Jerusalem, Bina and Uriel recorded “interviews” with their young children in Yiddish and in Hebrew about their daily lives. In return, Max Weinreich sent a recording of his own narration of the children’s favorite Yiddish folktale,Bebele. Digitized copies of the recordings are available for researchers at Special Collections. (Some of them will be featured on this website in the near future.) A much later recording features Bina Weinreich’s talk Girls and Women in Yiddish Folktales: from the Rebellious to the Goody-Two-Shoes, given at the Women and Yiddish Conference in 1995.