Pass The Schmaltz, Why Don’t You?!

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Esther K. Smith and Dikko Faust of Purgatory Pie Press in NYC not only have a so-called “mixed marriage” (as the union of Jew and Gentile were once quaintly labeled), they also share a mixed use printing company. Recently, they came into a trove of Hebrew wood typefaces, which they mixed together with Roman letters on a mixture of cards, and packaged them as a bilingual product called “Mixed Marriage.” I asked Smith about this joyful union and how they can be purchased for mixed gatherings. “Come to Purgatory Pie Press and pick them up,” she said, “they can email”

Where’d you acquire the type?

A Lower East Side printer was closing. In their basement was wood type from the former owner who had made posters for the Yiddish Theatre. An SVA student who’d seen Dikko’s demo with his typography course wrote me an email, apologizing for bothering us—but thought we might be interested in the wood type. WE WERE! Dikko rushed over and bought as much as he could carry of the English (Latin letters) typefaces. He told me they also had Hebrew letters. I said–get them–I know people who would use them. But when he brought them to Purgatory Pie Press, they were so beautiful I wanted to keep them. Our first project was the Thanksgivanukkah card (which the Newberry Library librarian had suggested). Then we made an alphabet poster, printed on sea chart paper. But I’d been thinking about a project with Yiddish words that non-Yiddish speakers use–finally we made it.

What prompted this project?

Silliness. I always wanted to make coasters with it that said things like Oy! We chose 6 common Yiddish words for this set– plan to make more sets in this series. When I was little, our next store neighbors mom went around saying Oy Veh under her breath – I thought of her with this project.

Do you believe there are more hidden Hebrew/Yiddish fonts to be found?

Yes. Wherever printers have stayed in business for a long long time, there are dusty basements. And as long as people are like us and do not discard the things that do not bring them joy, someone will later find them and be joyous.

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →