AMHERST – Josh Lambert, academic director of Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, is experiencing one heck of a summer, as teens are filling the place and surprisingly delving into Jewish literature and college students who are immersed in Yiddish language and culture.
Before joining the Book Center, Lambert served as a Dorot Assistant Professor/ Faculty Fellow in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. He holds a BA from Harvard and a PhD from the University of Michigan in English literature. His teaching and research focus is on American Jewish literature and culture, in English and Yiddish. He is the author of “American Jewish Fiction: A JPS Guide” and a contributing editor to Tablet, and his work has appeared in “The Jewish Graphic Novel” and “Sleepaway: Writings on Summer Camp.”
Lambert’s secret is having unique activities at the center, that communicate with what’s interesting for teens nowadays, and make them eager to talk about issues of identity and culture. “They had intimate Q&A time with novelist Allegra Goodman and poet and critic Adam Kirsch, as well as with Aaron Lansky,” Lambert says. “In their free time, they went to Look Park, Cook Farms, and Amherst Center, and they also spent a fair amount of their free time reading aloud to each other, reading silently together, playing games, and sitting on the balcony of their dorm talking about God and singing pop songs.”
“The talent show on Saturday night featured a (modern Orthodox) boy singing as many TV theme songs as he could in three minutes; another boy reciting the (critical-of-religion) lyrics of a Frank Zappa song; and a beautiful Yiddish and English duet of ‘Bay Mir Bistu Sheyn.’”