“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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Aaron Lansky and the Gospel of Yiddish

by Bennett Muraskin   IS THERE A FUTURE for yidishkayt in North America? Aaron Lansky thinks so and offers as a model his National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. I just heard him speak at a synagogue in Livingston, New Jersey. Anyone who read his outstanding memoir, Outwitting History, would have been familiar with the first […]

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Mishegos and Mayhem in the Yiddish Press

by Bennett Muraskin Discussed in this essay: Bad Rabbi and Other Strange But True Stories From the Yiddish Press, by Eddy Portnoy. Stanford University Press, 2017, 264 pages.    EDDY PORTNOY, a senior researcher and director at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, who knows Yiddish as well as anyone in his field (and has unearthed such forgotten […]

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Celia Dropkin’s Scintillating Poems

Yiddish poet Celia Dropkin died at 68 on this date in 1956. Born and educated in the Russian Empire, she was active in Yiddish circles in New York as a poet and fiction writer while raising five children. Her “explicitly sexual imagery and themes,” writes Kathryn Hellerstein at the Jewish Women’s Archive, ” . . . redefined the ways modern Yiddish poetry could […]

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