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YIVO Names Jonathan Brent Executive Director and CEO

PRESS NEWS : For immediate release
Press inquiries :
Elise Fischer
tel. 212-294-6131
e-mail :
[New York City - 21 May 2009]  The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research has appointed Jonathan Brent, 59, to be its executive director and CEO effective July 1. Brent succeeds Carl J. Rheins, who has resigned for health reasons. In ten years as executive director, Rheins helped renew YIVO’s position as a preeminent resource center for East European Jewish Studies, successfully shepherded 23 major publishing projects, and formed strong institutional collaborations.

Jonathan BrentBrent comes to YIVO from Yale University Press in New Haven, CT, where he served as editorial director and associate director. During his 18-year tenure at Yale, he published leading educational, academic, and trade books, including several publications sponsored by YIVO, such as The History of the Yiddish Language; The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania, by Herman Kruk; and The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. In 1992 Brent founded the internationally acclaimed Annals of Communism series, a project he will continue to direct. In 1997 he was appointed the first editorial director of Yale University Press. Brent greatly expanded Yale’s publications in Jewish studies, acquiring in addition to many individual titles The New Yiddish Library and the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization.

“Jonathan Brent’s appointment shows a strong commitment to YIVO’s future, as he brings a robust background of scholarship combined with outstanding management skills, as well as a successful history of work with nonprofit cultural institutions, including YIVO,” says Bruce Slovin, chairman of the YIVO Board.

“I am confident that YIVO will grow and prosper by building on the foundation of its traditional strengths, which are its cultural legacy,” adds Jonathan Brent. “I look forward to working with the YIVO board and staff to develop a vibrant, new vision for YIVO based on its extraordinary history as both a teaching and a research institute with priceless archival holdings.”

The YIVO Institute for Jewish Research was founded in 1925 in Vilna (Wilno, Poland; now Vilnius, Lithuania), by key European intellectuals, including Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, to record and study the history, language, literature, and culture of the Jews of Eastern Europe. In 1940, YIVO moved its permanent headquarters to New York City, becoming the only pre-Holocaust institution to successfully transfer its mission to the United States from Europe.

The YIVO Library collection is ranked as the third-largest Judaica collection in the Western Hemisphere, with 385,000 volumes in 26 languages. The YIVO Archives holds over 24 million documents, photographs, recordings, posters, films, videotapes, and items of ephemera. These include the world’s largest collection of East European Jewish sound recordings; over 200,000 photographs; 400 videos and films; and 50,000 posters documenting Jewish life from the 1900s to the present. Today YIVO is a global resource center for Eastern European Jewish Studies; Yiddish language, literature and folklore; and the American Jewish immigrant experience. YIVO offers public programs, symposia, exhibitions, scholarly publications, and research fellowships.