This Week in JPL History: Rochl Eisenberg and Melech Ravitch

Melech Ravitch was the driving force behind of the JPL’s Yiddishe folks universitet (YIFO) for many years. Upon his arrival in Montreal he invigorated the Library’s educational program which had been part of the Library earliest initiatives. Under his leadership the YIFO grew in size and scope.

Melech Ravitch was the pseudonym of Zekharye-Khone Bergner, who was born in Radymno, eastern Galicia, in 1893. He was a Yiddish poet, essayist, playwright, and a cultural activist. His first Yiddish work was published in 1910. He moved around a great deal before settling in Montreal which was home to a thriving Yiddish literary and cultural scene. It was in this city that he published a comprehensive collection of his work in 1954.

Ravitch left Montreal in 1954, and the YIFO closed not long after his parting. Ravitch’s partner, Rochel Eisenberg, left with him and in this the Library saw the parting of not one, but two of its staunchest supporters. Eisenberg had worked for the Library for 28 years and in that time contributed greatly to its progress. She first became the JPL’s librarian in 1926, three short years after her arrival in Canada in 1923. As a part of her role she managed the Library’s collection, coordinated its cultural programs and gave monthly reports to the Board. Most importantly she is remembered as having passed on her own love of books to generations of readers.

The This Week in Jewish Public Library History blog series was made possible through the generous support of the Peter and Ellen Jacobs Virtual Archives Fund.

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