teacher of Yiddish and PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto,
is winner of the 2020 Honey and Wax Book
for “Building a Nation of Little Readers:
Twentieth-Century Yiddish Primers and Workbooks for Children.”
Borden collects twentieth-century Yiddish educational materials.
Language primers form the core of her collection which also
includes songbooks and workbooks, flash cards, and scripts from
school plays. These artifacts testify to a once-thriving Yiddish
school system across North America, a network that collapsed after
World War II as Jewish immigrants assimilated and Hebrew emerged as
the language of the State of Israel. As a teacher of Yiddish,
Borden now uses these vintage materials to instruct adults hoping
to reconnect with a lost part of their heritage.
This from her winning essay:
“There was no heirloom china
in the house where I grew up, no silver from grandmother’s chest to
be taken out and polished for holidays and family celebrations.
That china had all been shattered, the silver stolen. . .The
heirlooms, and most of the family, were lost. But that does not
mean I am bereft of inheritance. I was raised with an heirloom
language, a treasure that could be taken out and polished and used
on those rare moments when no word in English or Polish or Hebrew
would fit the occasion. I was raised to speak the language of the
dead. But never for a moment did it ever dawn on me that it was a
Miriam’s collection represents "an
impressive effort of historical preservation and an inspiring
example of how a collection that began as something personal
becomes a collective resource," said the Prize judges.