The History of the International Association
of Yiddish Clubs (IAYC) Conferences


In the early 1990’s there were 4 Yiddish club newsletters in North America. They and their editors were: Dos Bletl, Barry Shockett (Toronto); Circle of Yiddish Clubs, Sunny Landsman (Miami, Florida); Yiddish of Greater Washington, Arnold Kuzmack, Yiddish editor and Shelby Shapiro, English editor, (Washington, DC); and Fishl Kutner, Der Bay (San Francisco, California Area). Bess and Barry Shockett and Sunny and Iz Landsman had children in the San Francisco area and were visiting Fishl and Sally at the same time.

The First Conferences

The question arose of the possibility of having a meeting of Yiddish clubs. They approached the Washington, DC group headed by Dr. Jonathan Sunshine. The result was that a trio headed by
Dr. Harold Black, Dr. Jonathan Sunshine and Sid Verner held a Conference of Yiddish Clubs at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland.

The group decided to follow up with the second conference in Toronto headed by Bess Shockett and then in Miami, Florida. The Miami conference headed by Ruth and Dave Barlas still holds the record for the largest attendance.

IAYC Formed

At the fourth conference held in 1997 at Trinity College in Fairfield, Connecticut, a Board of Directors and officers were elected and the decision was made to incorporate as the IAYC. Dr. Harold Black was elected the first president and Fishl Kutner as Vice President. Dr. Black held that position until his death. Since then Paul Melrood of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been President. At this conference, Mel Rogow stepped forward and said,
 “We should have a conference on the West Coast and I'll chair it.” This was held on the beautiful campus of UCLA in Los Angeles.

Dr. Black again co-chaired a conference, this time with Elaine Mann at the 4H International Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The seventh conference was headed by Paul Melrood our President in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Number eight was in a Baltimore suburb. Sylvia Schildt, who is disabled, and in a wheelchair, did a magnificent job.

Board member Mike Baker was to chair the Milwaukee conference, but exactly as in the Toronto conference, his wife had to step in because of health problems and single-handedly chair the conference.

Lifetime Yiddish Service Award

The tenth conference in Teaneck, New Jersey was a key and went in a new direction. It saw the parent group assume a much larger role in supporting the local committee. While Sam Kutner was the chair, this was the first time that we had an official host, hostess and host club—Gregg and Stephanie Hudis and the Teaneck JCC Yiddish Club. It also was the first time IAYC gave the Lifetime Yiddish Service Award (Chana Mlotek). This was the first of three successive conferences at Marriott Hotels.

Board member Harold Ticktin chaired the eleventh conference in a Cleveland suburb. The second award went to Simon Swirsky. Again someone stepped forward and volunteered to come back to the West Coast. Norman Sarkin was a magnificent chair with the assistance of Bella Suchet. Lilke Majzner, long time leader of the premiere Los Angeles Culture Club, received the IAYC Award