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Oral Tradition

Yiddish radio was booming in the 1930s and ’40s. A scholar looks back.

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In the 1930s and ’40s, airwaves in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, and other major cities were filled with Yiddish-language shows which offered a mix of news, advice, cantorial music, and radio plays. They gave foreign-born listeners, many of them refugees, a chance both to learn about life in their new country and to be entertained. Ari Y. Kelman, a professor of American studies at the University of California, Davis, and the author of Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio in the United States, talks with Vox Tablet host Sara Ivry about how Yiddish programming both mimicked and deviated from its English-language counterpart—and about its family-centered melodramas, rabbi-adjudicated court shows, and performing lady cantors.

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Oral Tradition

Yiddish radio was booming in the 1930s and ’40s. A scholar looks back.

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