Vox Tablet

Oral Tradition

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

June 23, 2009
Advertisement for Der Hoyz Fraynd(Courtesy of The Forward)

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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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Vox Tablet is Tablet Magazine’s weekly podcast, hosted by Sara Ivry and produced by Julie Subrin. You can listen to individual episodes here or subscribe on iTunes.

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