You are now entering the Jewish Currents archive.

July 15: Avrom Sutzkever

Lawrence Bush
July 15, 2010

050606_150_bAbraham (Avrom) Sutzkever, Israel’s most acclaimed Yiddish poet and a hero of the Vilna Ghetto, was born on this date in 1913 in Belarus. In the ghetto, Sutzkever helped hide from Nazi confiscation a diary by Theodor Herzl, drawings by Marc Chagall, and other gems of Jewish culture cared for by the YIVO Institute. He and his wife escaped to the forests in 1943 and joined a Jewish partisan unit before being smuggled into the USSR. In Israel, he founded the Yiddish literary journal Di goldene keyt (The Golden Chain) in 1949 and kept it alive until 1995, serving as a key advocate of Yiddish culture and becoming the only Yiddish poet to be awarded the Israel Prize (in 1985). Sutzkever lost his mother and an infant son in the Holocaust and used poetry to help himself, and his people, survive the trauma. “If I didn’t write, I wouldn’t live,” he told the New York Times in 1985. He died at age 96 in January of this year.
“The poet asks:/Tell me the truth, oh, shoes,/Where disappeared the feet?” —Avrom Sutzkever

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.