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Solomon Rabinovich, aka Sholem Aleichem

The best-known and best-loved Yiddish writer of all, Sholem Aleichem (pen-name of Solomon Rabinovich), was born on this date in 1859 (some sources say March 3rd) in the Ukraine, then controlled by tsarist Russia. Sholem Aleichem, whose works included Menahem-Mendl and Tevye the Dairyman (later adapted and commercialized as Fiddler on the Roof) wrote with shrewd humor and deep […]

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Israel’s National Poet

Modern Israel’s “national poet,” Haim Nahman Bialik, was born in Ukraine on this date in 1873. By his mid-twenties, Bialik was widely acclaimed for his writings in both Yiddish and Hebrew and had translated Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, and other classics of world literature into Hebrew. In 1903, Bialik went to Kishniev as part of a […]

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“Mendele the Book Peddler”

The birth in 1836 of Mendele Moykher-Sforim (“Mendele the Book Peddler,” pen-name of Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh), the pioneering writer of modern Yiddish literature, is traditionally marked on this date. (“[W]e Jews did not bother about [dates of birth], especially in the small towns,” Mendele wrote in a memoir, “[b]ut . . . my family decided on […]

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The Sun Has Not Risen Yet, the Dutch Are Still Asleep

Translated by Sarah Prais   Helene Khatskels was an extraordinary Yiddish educator, author and translator. A life-long socialist, she fought to secure Jewish national rights in the diaspora, and was a leading figure in the Bund, involved in smuggling books and other undercover activities and was eventually arrested by the Tsarist authorities. After Lithuania was annexed […]

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Defending History

Yiddish scholar and teacher Dovid Katz, who built the Oxford University Yiddish program from 1978 to 1996 before relocating to Vilnius University, where he developed the Yiddish program (and trained numerous American Yiddishists) until 2010, was born in Brooklyn to the Yiddish poet Menke Katz and artist Rivke Katz on this date in 1956. A […]

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Oedipus in Brooklyn

by Bennett Muraskin Discussed in this essay: Oedipus in Brooklyn and Other Stories by Blume Lempel, translated from the Yiddish by Ellen Cassedy and Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, Mandel Vilar Press/Dryad Press, 2016, 225 pages. THERE WAS A TIME when female Yiddish writers were virtually unknown in English translation. Irving Howe did not include a single one […]

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June 15: The Great Yiddish Critic

Shmuel Niger (Charney), a leading Yiddish literary critic who helped to launch the careers of Sholem Asch, Peretz Hirshbein, and Der Nister, among other Yiddish writers, was born into a khasidic family in the region of Minsk on this date in 1883. Coming into contact with leftwing Zionist ideas while preparing for rabbinical ordination at […]

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Elijah the Prophet by Sholem Aleichem

For His 100th Yortsayt Translated from the Yiddish by Curt Leviant   1 IT’S NO FUN being an only child, fondled and fussed over, the sole surviving son of seven children. Don’t stand here. Don’t go there. Don’t eat this. Don’t drink that. Wear a hat. Button your collar. Keep your hands warm. Blow your […]

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