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The Founders and Current Curators
Robert (Bob) and Molly Freedman are the founders and current curators of the Archive. Bob is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School (June 1954) and has practiced law for over fifty years. Molly is a retired social worker.

            Both were raised in immigrant homes in which English was co-equal with Yiddish. They were exposed to the rich cultural content imparted by the afternoon Jewish schools and summer camps they attended and their homes resonated with Hebrew and Yiddish song sung by parents, family and friends long before the hootenanny was in style.            

FreedmansThe collection had its beginnings early in their marriage with Molly’s suggestion that they should buy a few recordings. Shortly thereafter they decided to build a collection by acquiring recordings wherever they traveled. Sometime in the middle or late 1970’s (the cusp of the “klezmer revival”), researchers began to visit the Freedman’s and by that time the collection had outgrown the space available in the Freedman home.

The first person to use the collection was a sixteen year old Gratz College student who wrote a paper on holocaust songs. Then Bob was asked to bring some of the music to a Jewish folklore class at Penn which subsequently developed into an annual visit by the Yiddish language classes to the Freedman’s apartment. In 1981 Bob bought his first computer and began to list the recordings. He subsequently developed the first Yiddish font for screen display and printer (See “Articles about the Archive” below), and over the years developed the database now displayed on the website.

There came a realization that the collection should be in an institution where it could be properly housed and preserved, available for wider use. In 1996 the collection was moved to the University of Pennsylvania.     

Bob and Molly have collected recordings, publications and ephemera wherever they have traveled – Continental United States, Canada, Argentina, British Isles, France, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Spain, Hungary, Russia, Ukraine, Holland. The Archive is also the beneficiary of gifts of recordings, books, sheet music, and ephemera from myriad donors.

In addition to continuing to collect recordings and catalog the Archive holdings, they provide a worldwide music reference service via the internet and for many years have given and continue to give classes upon request of various professors using material from the Archive and are cited in countless scholarly books, articles and papers. They have also given presentations at academic institutions and community groups over the United States and at the Jewish Music Institute at the School of Oriental Studies at the University Of London, England.

This couple, with their educational and family background, is uniquely equipped to fulfill the roles of lecturers, curators, catalogers, researchers and public librarians in support of the Jewish Studies Program at Penn.