Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings receives Marinus and Minna B. Koster Foundation award

The Mayrent Institute for Yiddish Culture and Mills Music Library have received a $5,000 grant from the Marinus and Minna B. Koster Foundation to further our ongoing efforts to catalog and preserve the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings. The award will help support the hiring of a full-time cataloger with Yiddish-language expertise.

Russkyj Narodnyj Orchester, “Ukrainian dance,” featuring the famous klezmer clarinetist Naftule Brandwine. One of the 8,000+ recordings from the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings. Courtesy University of Wisconsin-Digital Collection Center.

This year’s grant marks the second time the Koster Foundation has supported the Mayrent Collection, adding to the $10,000 grant provided in 2014.

According to Mayrent Institute director Henry Sapoznik, the Koster Foundation’s generous gift will help ensure these recordings reach the widest possible audience so that anyone can learn more about the rich history of Yiddish music and culture: “The Mayrent Institute is grateful for all support helping us get our unique collection out to more new users.”

Once completed, the Mayrent Collection of Yiddish Recordings will offer free, online streaming access to the world's largest collection of Yiddish-language recordings. The full-time cataloger will play a critical role in this project by providing translated titles and other metadata that will make the collection fully accessible for all visitors.

Listen to Solomon Smulewitz (here working under the pseudonym Solomon Small) perform "Yetzias Mitzrayim" for the Lambert Company of Chicago (c. 1902).

“We’re very grateful to the Koster Foundation for their continuing support to make these historic recordings accessible to everyone,” says Jeanette Casey, Head Librarian, Mills Music Library. “Over 2,200 recordings from the Mayrent Collection are already freely available on the web. This award will help us reach our goal of placing the entire Collection online.”

Donated by Sherry Mayrent to Mills Music Library in 2010 the collection offers over 8,000 78-rpm recordings of pre-World War II Yiddish music, including cantorial hymns, klezmer, theater songs, traditional music, poetry, ballads, and spoken word. The collection is unique in its scope, featuring recordings from the United States, Eastern Europe, Latin America, South Africa, and Israel.