In addition to hand-lettered calligraphy, I practice the craft of letterpress printing, which uses individual metal and wooden letters (“type”) to compose texts and print them on hand-operated presses. My work explores the intersections of diverse languages, alphabets, and texts across the wide span of Jewish history, inspired by my academic research on the history of Jewish printing and global Jewish book culture. I currently have a selection of typefaces in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and German characters, both antique and newly-cast; I print at home with two small personal presses, and I have access to several other printing studios for larger projects. If you have an idea that you think would be a good candidate for collaboration, please reach out!

The Folkshule Press

My printing operation is named the “Folkshule Press,” in homage to my great-grandfather Samuel Polisky — a pressman by trade — and my great-grandmother Gitl (Katie) Blumenthal. They were co-founders of an educational program in Ottawa which operated from 1913 until 1936, called the “Jewish People’s Institute” in English and the “Folks Shule” or “Folkshule” (literally, “the people’s school”) in Yiddish. The Folks Shule was a Yiddish-speaking, secular, socialist school, inspired by the work of the radical philosopher and political theorist Chaim Zhitlowsky, that provided education for adults and children. It hosted readings of Yiddish authors, political salons, holiday celebrations (including an annual Purim masquerade ball), and lectures by both local community members and visiting scholars from across North America, Europe, and Mandate Palestine.

The Folks Shule was also home to a literary society called “The Jewish Literary and Dramatic Circle of Ottawa,” which put on plays and musical performances. Sam and Katie served on various Folks Shule committees, acted in its theatrical productions, delivered lectures and speeches at events, and sent their daughters — my grandmother and great-aunt — to its school for children, as well as organizing literacy programs in their own neighbourhood.

I am inspired by several aspects of the Folks Shule’s history: its devotion to Jewish vernacular languages and the richness of diasporic history; its commitment to accessible Jewish education; and its aims to articulate the striving “for an equal, just, and peaceful world” in a Jewish voice. My hope is that Folkshule Press lives out these values through my own artistic and creative productions, while expanding its scope to include the diversity of Jewish culture and history around the world.

Drawing on the educational mission of the Yehoash Folks Shule, and the professional work of my great-grandfather Samuel as a pressman, Folkshule Press uses the craft of letterpress printing to bring together historical and contemporary expressions of Jewish visual and textual culture. It is my honour to participate in the ongoing story of Jewish printing.