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Each week, we select the most interesting Jewish obituary. This week it’s that of Kenneth Libo, the legman to Irving Howe on World of Our Fathers, the definitive take on Eastern European Jewish migration to America. While Howe was writing the book, Libo populated it by mining archives, records, letters, forgotten 5-cent memoirs found canvassing used bookstores, and interviewing old vaudevillians. When the book was published, he was acknowledged on the cover: “With the Assistance of Kenneth Libo.”

Born in 1937 in Connecticut to a Jewish American mother and a Russian Jewish immigrant who operated a chicken farm, Libo taught literature and history at Hunter College, lectured widely and in 1980 would go on to be the first English-language editor of the Jewish Daily Forward, a publication where quite a few Tabletniks would find their sea legs.

Kenneth Libo, Scholar of Immigrant Life, Dies at 74 [NYT]

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Jesse Tisch says:

Ken Libo was a terrific man. He played a large, if largely unheralded, role in writing World of Our Fathers, and he was a wonderful scholar, lecturer, raconteur, and lunch partner. Ken was writing his memoirs, each colorful chapter recalling his childhood up through his introduction to Irving Howe. Ken lionized Howe, his mentor, but broke ranks with him over Philip Roth (Ken loved Roth’s boldness and ribaldry; Irving Howe, not so much). As a writer, Ken practiced incredible humility and diplomacy. Ken let me edit him–a sure sign that the universe is out of balance–and remained gracious, funny, generous, and quite fastidious throughout the short (too short!) time we knew one another. 
Jesse Tisch


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