Tel Aviv Local Affairs Court verdict, Yiddish People’s Cultural and Library Center “Yung Yidish”, located inside Tel Aviv’s central bus station, will be forced to close by December 5 2021.
The eviction is part of a grand plan by the city to shut down the huge train station due to its lack of fire safety standards and to build a new one elsewhere in the city. For years, local residents have complained about the high level of air pollution and noise at the smelly resort – a huge seven-story maze, described for years as “a thorn in the eye” and “a monstrosity. “.
But going up to the fifth floor of the complex and entering the space inhabited by “Yung Yidish” is like entering another world: an impressive library of thousands of books in Yiddish, to leaf through. And if you’re lucky, you’ll arrive just in time to take part in one of their many activities: klezmer concerts, lectures, end-of-year parties and Yiddish lessons, all under the direction of the actor- singer Mendy Cahan, whose warmth and charisma hit you from the moment you walk in.
Itzik Gottesman, senior lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, who interviewed Cahan in 2009, praises one of Cahan’s greatest accomplishments, which no other Yiddish organization has succeeded in doing: attracting young Israelis.
“Its space in the central bus station looks surreal from the outside, but from the moment you walk in you feel right at home, among friends,” Gottesman said.
The Tel Aviv court had previously ordered the evacuation of all businesses and cultural groups located in the central bus station in 2016, unless Nitsba Real Estate, the company that owns the station, obtains approval from the station’s services. fire and rescue, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environmental Protection. – something that everyone agrees is practically impossible.
Trying to “sell” the move plan to the public, Transport Minister Merav Michaeli listed all the benefits. “In the near future, we will see alternative locations, more electric buses, better service and less Tel Aviv’s central bus station and its pollution,” she said in a statement.
She did not say whether the building will be leveled, an act sure to create even more air pollution in the city, or whether the new location, near the Panorama Center, is far from a train station or from a main highway. As a result, buses would have to weave their way through the streets of Tel Aviv to reach their final stop, dramatically increasing passenger travel time.
When Cahan first heard the news of the bus station closing on December 5, he was not worried. “We’ve heard this before,” he said in an interview with the Forverts. “But a few hours later, after calling reporters and some of my friends, it turned out to be worse than I thought.”
Because the ongoing feud has been between Nitsba and the municipality, or as Cahan calls it, “a dispute between capitalists”, no agency has bothered to approach the managers of the mom and pop stores housed in the station. road, or cultural centers like Yung Yidish, to see if they could find a solution. “No one has ever been interested in culture here, and now – let alone,” said Cahan.
What’s even more frustrating, Cahan added, is that last year, during the pandemic, he and his assistants finally expanded the shelves, allowing them to display thousands of extra pounds they had collected from of the townspeople. “Next month, they will all have to be put back in the boxes. “
Yung Yidish is not the only organization in Israel to organize Yiddish cultural events. There is also Yiddish theater, Yidishpiel, Yiddish classes at “Beit Sholem Aleichem” and universities, academics researching various fields related to Yiddish language and culture, and informal book clubs. in Yiddish all over the country.
But every other, more eclectic, aspect of Yiddish culture – cabarets, klezmer concerts, dancing, storytelling, memoir, filmmaking, working with Israelis in their twenties and thirties – is the very essence of Yung Yidish. This is his greatest strength.
“The closure of the bus station and the possibility that Yung Yidish no longer has his own space is something we cannot allow,” said Bella Bryks, a Yiddish activist in Tel Aviv. “The National Authority for Yiddish Culture is helping Mendy but his budget is limited. It is unfortunate that we do not have a Yiddish Book Center here in Israel, as we do in Amherst, Massachusetts, ”she added.
“If the municipality is serious about shutting down and demolishing the station, it needs to find another space for Yung Yidish and help transport the thousands of books it has,” Gottesman said. “Its library and the organization itself are national treasures.