Attractive Hebrews Receives Award from Association for Recorded Sound Collections

The Association for Recorded Sound Collections awarded a Certificate of Merit for Best Historical Research in Record Labels to Henry Sapoznik of the Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture and Richard Martin of Archeophone Records for their research and historical essays accompanying Attractive Hebrews: The Lambert Yiddish Cylinders, 1901-1905.

Record collectors have long known about the Lambert Yiddish recordings but, until their recent discovery, no one had ever actually heard them let alone conducted research into their origins. In the course of their research for Attractive Hebrews, Sapoznik and Martin discovered the existence of a small New York-based, Jewish-owned company that may have been the ultimate source of the Yiddish recordings used by the Lambert Company.

Photograph of 10 Lambert Company cylinders from the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings. image courtesy of Ron Wiecki, Mills Music Library.

Released last year on Archeophone Records in cooperation with Mills Music Library, Attractive Hebrews captures the music and voices of the performers who first brought Yiddish theater to the U.S. more than 100 years ago. The arias, cantorial hymns, and folk songs heard here are the oldest extant recordings of Yiddish music.

“This music had been silent for over a century,” says Jeanette Casey, Head of Mills Music Library. “We’re thrilled to be part of the team bringing it back to life, and to share in this recognition.”

Scott A. Carter, Assistant Director of the Mayrent Institute, assisted with the research for the project. For Carter, these recordings reveal a tradition very much in transition: “You can hear on these early recordings how the performers are beginning to incorporate the sounds of other popular musics while still retaining a firm grounding in traditional Yiddish styles.”

The 56-page booklet accompanying the recordings features biographies and translated lyrics by Sapoznik with historical essays co-authored by Martin.

“We’re honored to have collaborated with the Mayrent Institute and Mills Music Library on preserving and telling the previously-unknown story of these important historical recordings in their collection,” says Meagan Hennessey, co-owner of Archeophone Records.

Ten cylinders presented on Attractive Hebrews are housed, cataloged, and preserved at Mills Music Library and form part of the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings, a repository of over 8,000 recordings of Yiddish-language music. The Mayrent Institute, along with UW Libraries, is committed to making these recordings widely accessible to the general public by providing free streaming access through the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections Center.