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)

Advertisement for Der Hoyz Fraynd(Courtesy of The Forward)

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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