This Week in JPL History: Jacob Zipper speaks at the Jewish Public Library in 1974.

Yaacov Zipper is a name synonymous with Montreal Jewish education, with steadfastness, and drive. In addition to his long career as principal of Jewish Peretz Schools, Zipper was also a celebrated author who was awarded the Manger Prize for Yiddish Literature. Born Yaacov Shtern, he changed his name to Zipper in honour of the woman who sheltered him from being arrested during his youth in Poland. He arrived in Montreal in 1925 and quickly became involved in Montreal’s burgeoning Jewish school system.

On February 9th 1974, Zipper lectured at the JPL on “The Reckoning of a Generation.” It was a Menachem Bareisha Memorial Evening which was co-sponsored by the Workman’s Circle. Zipper was a longstanding supporter of the JPL and participated in numerous evenings as a speaker. He was a lover of Yiddishkeit and championed the promotion and preservation of the Yiddish language.

Years later the Library would play host to Ode Garfinkle, Zipper’s daughter, and Mervin Butovsky for an evening centered on their translation of Zipper’s diaries and acknowledging the man himself. Published after Zipper’s passing, the diaries offer not only insight into Zipper’s inner world, but also leave the reader with impressions of Jewish Montreal between 1950-1982.

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