Yiddish Book Center and Mystic Aquarium Receive Top Award from Michelle Obama

First lady Michelle Obama, right, presents a 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to the Yiddish Book Center, of Amherst, Mass., represented by Peter Manseau, far left, and center Founder and President Aaron Lansky during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, May 8, 2014, in Washington. The National Medal is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
First lady Michelle Obama presented a 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to the Yiddish Book Center, of Amherst, Mass., represented by Peter Manseau (left) and founder and president Aaron Lansky during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House on May 8.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst and Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut were awarded the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service this week by Michelle Obama.

Peter Manseau and Aaron Lansky from the Yiddish Book Center and Justin Richard and Stephen Coan from Mystic Aquarium traveled to the Washington D.C. to accept the framed medals in the East Room of the White House from the first lady.

The award, presented by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community.

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“You all are redefining what it means to lead a museum or a library in the 21st century,” Obama told the winners.

The Yiddish Book Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to rescuing, translating, and disseminating Yiddish books. Lansky, founder and president, has collected millions of Yiddish books over the past three decades, sharing the collection with 600 university and research libraries, and posting the full texts online of 12,000 of those volumes, reports the Boston Globe.

Manseau is the author of “Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter,” a novel about Yiddish literature and preservation that draws from his experience at the Yiddish Book Center. The book won the National Jewish Book Award for fiction as well as the Sophie Brody Medal for Outstanding Achievement in Jewish Literature.

First lady Michelle Obama, right, presents a 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to Mystic Aquarium, of Mystic, Conn., represented by Justin Richard, far left, and aquarium President and CEO Stephen Coan, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, May 8, 2014, in Washington. The National Medal is the nation�s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
First lady Michelle Obama presented a 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Service to Justin Richard (left) and Stephen Coan of Mystic Aquarium.
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

The Yiddish Book Center celebrated the honor Thursday with a viewing party, streaming the ceremony on a big screen at its Amherst location.

“We are thrilled to accept this award, not only as a recognition of the Yiddish Book Center, but far more important as a tribute to the enduring nature of Yiddish itself,” said Lansky.

Mystic Aquarium is the first aquarium to receive this award since 2009. The aquarium was recognized for its educational programs for children with intellectual disabilities and families in underserved communities.

“It is an honor of the greatest magnitude to be recognized as a top institution among so many worthy candidates across the country,” said Coan, president and CEO. “We have worked hard with our many educational and public engagement programs to make Mystic Aquarium an enjoyable family destination that seeks to steward our oceans and aquatic creatures, and through outreach helps everyone learn about and understand the wonderful and fragile ecosystem around them.”

Massachusetts and Connecticut senators were quick to congratulate the New England recipients.

“Congratulations to the Yiddish Book Center on receiving the 2014 National Medal for Museum and Library Science,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren in a statement. “The Center’s work chronicling the Jewish story and educating families about Yiddish and Jewish culture is outstanding. This award is a well-deserved recognition of the Center’s efforts to preserve Yiddish books and literature for future generations.”

“Mystic Aquarium is a true state treasure,” said Senator Chris Murphy in a statement. “Its commitment to educating the community and visitors about ocean life and exploration, as well as the importance of preserving and protecting our natural resources, had made a hugely positive impact on the country. The aquarium also serves as a terrific draw for tourists, boosting Connecticut’s economy year after year with new and exciting exhibits for thousands of visitors to enjoy. I could not be more proud of Mystic Aquarium’s hard work and I offer my congratulations to this extraordinary institution.”

The eight other recipients of the award are the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District, Chicago Public Library, Mid-Continent Public Library in Missouri, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciencs, Octavia Fellin Public Library in New Mexico, and Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.