Itsik (Robert) Goldenberg

I was born in Toronto, Canada, in 1936 and lived there until 1959, then moved to a small town near Buffalo NY, but still in Canada. I taught high school chemistry there until I retired in 1991. 

I learned Yiddish as a child, at home and in an old-fashioned kheyder where we learned Yiddish by repeating after the rebbe line-by-line translations from siddur and khumesh. We also learned to write letters but never studied Yiddish grammar or Yiddish literature. My father took me with him to the Yiddish theatre in Toronto (I still remember being introduced to Maurice Schwartz backstage) and to hear the great cantors who performed there. My father lovingly read me stories from Sholem-Aleykhem and from the Yiddish newspapers.

Although I maintained an interest in Yiddish, I had little time to cultivate this interest.. At about the time of my retirement, my wife, who had no background in Yiddish, was invited to join a klezmer band as a vocalist.  In 1992, we went to KlezKamp, the Yiddish Music and Folk-Arts Institute, and it was a seminal experience. The following summer we attended the workshop at the National Yiddish Book Center, and also participated in theYiddish Cultural Experience program run by the Workmen's Circle in upstate New York. We travel constantly, often hundreds of miles, to attend klezmer and other musical and cultural events. 

A few years ago I undertook to catalogue the 1000+-folio Yiddish sheet music collection of the NYBC, a project that greatly increased my Yiddish vocabulary. I began subscribing to the Forverts, and sought out native Yiddish speakers with whom I could converse. I became an active zamler for the NYBC and, in the process of collecting many thousands of books, I have made friends with manyYiddish speakers. I assist my wife who performs concerts of Yiddish art and theatre song. My work for The Mendele Review and Di Velt Fun Yiddish under Leonard Prager's direction continue to challenge and stimulate me. 

Yiddish has become my prime interest, forcing me to neglect my bookbinding, microscopy, letterpress printing, darkroom photography, woodworking, gardening, antique phonographs and antiquarian book collecting. And I subscribe to more than a score of journals! Every Monday I lead a Yiddish group which meets in Buffalo, New York. Here I can share, face to face with others, my enthusiasm for the wonderful world of Yiddish. 

Fort Erie, Ontario, Canada