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CYCO (pronounced "TSIko": ציקאָ, for "Tsentrale Yidishe Kultur-Organizatsye") is a treasure trove of Yiddish culture and literature. Its home in Long Island City holds poetry, history, novels, memoirs, songbooks, and political tracts – not on closed library shelves, but open to browsing; not in digital form, but in the beautiful volumes they were created to be read in.
Ever since its founding in 1938 , CYCO has been more than a bookstore. As a cultural center and publisher, it has been key to the preservation of Yiddish culture. And above all, it has been a safe haven for lovers of the Yiddish language. When publishing Yiddish books became difficult and dangerous in Europe, CYCO filled the void and became a major source of books for the Yiddish-loving world. (See below for more of this history) From here in New York, CYCO even saw other CYCOs pop up around the globe, as close as Paterson, New Jersey and as far away as Argentina. The other branches (which may have been independent or federated) have closed, but its New York heart has carried on.
That heart, and CYCO itself, is now in danger. Like so many other long-lasting small organizations and businesses, it has seen most of its peers close their doors. While the Yiddish language is heartily alive, the ecosystem of Yiddish organizations and clubs, newspapers and magazines, theaters and coffeehouses has been reduced to a few comparatively large institutions which draw most of the available resources, and a scattering of smaller groups struggling to survive.
Just as a thrilling wave of new translations and contemporary authors is bringing Yiddish literature to the forefront of the Yiddish cultural revitalization movement, CYCO – New York’s last secular Yiddish book center – faces a real possibility of closing. But CYCO, as a collection of books, a reading room, and a salon, is essential in keeping Yiddish alive in the hands of readers and writers, in the mouths of performers and debaters, and on the bedside tables of bookworms.
Friends of CYCO is a vetted group of young (and youngish) Yiddishists from NYC and beyond, who have come together to help CYCO continue, thrive and open its doors to all people and events that strengthen Yiddish culture. Friends of CYCO believe that CYCO and other small non-profit organizations are key to the future of a flourishing, vibrant, and diverse Yiddish cultural world. We are working with Hy Wolfe, CYCO's long-standing steward, to revitalize the organization and ensure its sustainable survival as an independent, non-partisan home for Yiddish language, literature, and culture.
We envision a CYCO whose space is a reading room by day and a salon space by night. A CYCO where you can browse among thousands of books, dipping into the ones that catch your eye or imagination, and then bring a few home with you if you want. A CYCO that is a home for readers, writers, poets, and performers alike. A CYCO that hosts book clubs, translation circles, songwriting workshops, readings, and performances of music and small-scale theater. A CYCO that continues its role as a publisher, bringing new Yiddish works to new Yiddish readers and longstanding supporters. A CYCO that prints new, affordable editions of hard-to-find and out-of-print Yiddish books, with newly written introductions by 21st century scholars.
We envision a CYCO that opens its doors to the full breadth of the Yiddish-speaking world and encourages the cultural ferment that is only possible in a diverse space. All Yiddishists – frum un fray, queer and trans, cradle-tongue speakers and late-life learners, elders and children, beginners and fluent, from all backgrounds and walks of life – all are welcome at CYCO, where works of classic and modernist Yiddish literature stand alongside works of Jewish history, chronicles of workers’ movements, children’s books, liturgical and paraliturgical texts, and queer and feminist poetry.
Some of these things can't happen until it's possible to safely gather in person again. But none of them are possible unless CYCO outlives the pandemic.
This campaign is aimed at raising a full year's budget for CYCO, so that we can have the time to plan and build for the long term. Beyond simply paying the rent, it will also make it possible for us to launch online versions of some kinds of programming, to prepare the space for regular public use, to fully catalog and reorganize the current stock of books, and to begin collaborating with Yiddish cultural initiatives we hope will be long standing partners.
All of this will take hard and painstaking work, and we want as much of it as possible to be paid work that can help support un- and under-employed Yiddishists at a living wage. You can find a breakdown of our projected budget for the year on our website, https://friendsofCYCO.org.
We know that the long-term sustainability of CYCO, like every community cultural organization, depends on the breadth of support it receives. And we know that these past two years have been hard on almost everyone. Please contribute if you can – even if it's just a symbolic amount – as a sign that you believe in the importance of CYCO, and of a vital, varied Yiddish cultural world. We will deeply appreciate it, and you!
And we have some beautiful thank-you offerings for folks who are able to contribute:
- For those who read Yiddish, or just enjoy beautifully-made books, we have works by modern and classic Yiddish writers (many published by CYCO!);
- For those who don’t, or who prefer visual art, we have gorgeous artworks by Molly Crabapple and others, and signed copies of English-language books, including Jeremiah Moss’ Vanishing New York;
- For those who want a deeper relationship to the CYCO space, there are chances to dedicate a shelf, or a full bookcase, and to hold a small event there;
- And for everyone, we have bookmarks and pins made specially for this campaign.
CYCO was founded in 1938 to cultivate and promote Yiddish culture. When the winds of war were swirling in Europe and publishing Yiddish books became a perilous undertaking, CYCO became one of the century's most important publishers of Yiddish books, bringing out new work by acclaimed writers like H. Leivick, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Chaim Grade and David Opatoshu, as well as standard editions of Y. L. Peretz and other classics, literary criticism, history, and more. CYCO did this while maintaining its original mission as being a place of safety for all readers and writers of Yiddish. CYCO’s books are in every library that contains works in Yiddish. The original CYCO, located on 78th Street in Manhattan (in a building owned today by former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg), was a hub for Yiddish literary culture, and its basement cafeteria was a place for conversation while enjoying a coffee and Danish; later incarnations, first further downtown on East 21st Street and now in Long Island City, have carried that role into the 21st century.
HighlightsSee all activity681
A pair of stickers with CYCO emblems, designed specially for this campaign! Pick two: - 3" circular CYCO monogram: black on holo - 3" circular CYCO monogram: maroon on white - 4x1.5" diecut CYCO Bikher - Farlag [Books - Publishing] emblem: plum on white - 3x5" CYCO calling card: green on lavender
A pair of Yiddish futurist stickers, designed specially for this campaign! Pick two: - 3" circular pomegranate/alef Jewish antifascist emblem: red & black - 3x9" Tsukunft / The Future bumper sticker: black on hot pink - 3x6" Levyosn Veln Mir Esn [We will feast on Leviathan]: black on multicolored scales
One CYCO-emblem sticker and one Yiddish futurist sticker! Pick one from each set: - 3" circular CYCO monogram: black on holo /or/ maroon on white - 4x1.5" diecut CYCO Bikher - Farlag [Books - Publishing] emblem: plum on white - 3x5" CYCO calling card: green on lavender - 3" circular pomegranate/alef Jewish antifascist emblem: red & black - 3x9" Tsukunft / The Future bumper sticker: black on hot pink - 3x6" Levyosn Veln Mir Esn [We will feast on Leviathan]: black on multicolored scales
Keep track of your reading (in any language!) with a bookmark featuring original art created specially for Friends of CYCO.
Make your support visible with a pin: pick either CYCO’s publishing imprint or a pomegranate-and-alef Jewish antifascist emblem.
All seven stickers designed specially for this campaign! - 3" circular CYCO monogram (x2: maroon on white & black on holo) - 4x1.5" diecut "CYCO Bikher - Farlag" [Books - Publishing] tag (plum) - 3x5" CYCO calling card (green on lavender) - 3x9" Tsukunft / The Future (black on hot pink) - 3" circular pomegranate-alef (red & black) - 3x6" Levyosn Veln Mir Esn [We will feast on Leviathan] (black on multicolored scales)
Sing out! With a songbook of twenty-nine songs by beloved poet Avrom Reyzen/Abraham Reisen (many with music by Mikhl Gelbart), printed in 1947 as a gift for his friends to celebrate his 70th birthday. Or instead choose a complete set of all the bookmark designs made for this campaign.
A brand-new hardbound copy of Reyzl Zhikhlinski / Rajzel Żychlińsky's "Harbstike Skvern" (Autumn Squares), published by CYCO in 1969
A brand-new hardbound copy of Avrom Sutskever / Abraham Sutzkever's "Gaystike Erd" (Holy Ground), published in New York City in 1961.
A brand-new hardbound copy of modernist poet Yankev Glatshteyn / Jacob Glatstein's "Gezangen fun Rekhts tsu Links" (Songs from RIght to Left), published by CYCO in 1971.
A print of Molly Crabapple's drawing of a bookshelf at CYCO (featuring a bust of Y. L. Perets surrounded by Yiddish books), created for her New York Review of Books article about this fundraising effort.
A brand-new hardcover copy of "Lider" (Poems), by Esther Shumiatsher-Hirshbeyn / Esther Shumiatcher-Hirschbein, published in Los Angeles in 1956. Her final collection, its poems attest to "the profound impact her marriage, sexuality, and subsequent widowhood had on her creative life." [Faith Jones]
A brand-new hardbound copy of Franz Kafka's "The Trial" in a 1966 Yiddish translation by acclaimed poet Melekh Ravitsh / Melech Ravitch, with illustrations by Ravitsh's son Yossel Bergner.
A print of "Itka the Bundist breaking windows", a watercolor by memory painter Samuel Rothbort. (11" x 8.5")
A brand-new paperbound copy of CYCO's two-volume collection of classic 20th-century Yiddish theater, published in 1977. Eight complete plays by acclaimed writers who shaped modern Yiddish literature, including An-ski, Leyvik, Gordin, Hirshbeyn, Perets, and Sholem-Aleykhem.
A print of a watercolor by memory painter Samuel Rothbort showing kids in kheyder (traditional religious primary school) drawing caricatures of their teacher. (11" x 8.5")
A brand-new hardbound copy of the two-volume collection "Lider un Baladn" (Lyrics and Ballads) by modernist poet Mani Leyb / Mani Leib, published by CYCO in 1955.
A print of "Passengers helping horse push wagon up the hill", a watercolor by memory painter Samuel Rothbort. (11"x 8.5")
A pair of founding fathers! One volume each from the collected works of two of the “clasikers”, Y. L. Perets and Sholem-Aleykhem. Or instead, a limited-edition artwork to be announced!
$500 Make a mark! Put your name (or dedication) on a shelf at CYCO. Plus a selection of gifts (a pin, the full set of bookmarks, the Avrom Reyzn songbook, and your choice of two other books or artworks).
A book by one of the great modern Yiddish poets, in a beautiful hardbound edition! Choose from Yankev Glatshteyn/Jacob Glatstein, Reyzl Zhikhlinski/Rajzel Żychlińsky (both in CYCO editions), or Avrom Sutskever/Abraham Sutzkever. Or instead, a signed copy of Jeremiah Moss' Vanishing New York (only five copies available).
"Avram Sutzkever and His Angel" - a limited edition signed and numbered giclée print by award-winning artist & visual journalist Molly Crabapple. Only ten available! Or instead, choose a two-volume set of modern classics, in a CYCO edition! Choose either a collection of eight classics of the 20th-century Yiddish theater or the collected poems of acclaimed modernist Mani Leyb/Mani Leib.
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