Ruth Rubin was a cornerstone in the current Yiddish revivalist movement and dedicated a lifetime to the collection and preservation of Yiddish folklore in poetics and songs. She wrote many books, articles and created music collections. As a popular performer-folklorist, she would describe the background of her selections and then sing them in a simple, unaccompanied style.
Born in 1906, her interest in Yiddish literature was sparked by a school visit 1915. In the early 1920s, she wrote Yiddish poetry, a collection of which was published by the end of that decade. She embarked upon Yiddish folklore studies and taught literature and music at several Yiddish schools. During World War II Ruth translated and had published Yiddish diaries that had been smuggled out of the ghettos and concentration camps of Europe.
The Holocaust defined Ruth’s mission to collect, document and perform the Jewish legacy of Eastern European folk song. In 1945 she began to make recordings for Folkways Records and then became a busy lecturer-performer for religious organisations and educational institutions. Family events meant that her next period of work came in the 1970s when she published many more collections of work and recordings, and received her PhD.
Over the course of her fifty-year career, Rubin collected about 2,000 songs, toting a bulky reel-to-reel tape recorder across the United States and Canada. She died in New York, on June 10, 2000, at the age of ninety-three. The New York Times obituary described her work as an important cornerstone in the current Yiddish revivalist movement.
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