Poet Peretz Kaminsky, 88, Worked To Preserve Yiddish

Published March 04, 2005, issue of March 04, 2005.
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Peretz Kaminsky, an artist and poet, died February 24 in New York. He was 88.

The author of four volumes of published poetry — “Reflections in The Eye of God, ” “Adam, Cain and Other Prayers,” “Book of Rituals” and “Book of Questions” — Kaminsky is best remembered for his contributions to modern Yiddish culture and literature.

Kaminsky belonged to the country’s oldest housing coop, The Amalgamated Housing Community in the North Bronx. He lived nearly his entire life in the Bronx, facilitating writing workshops in the borough’s historically Jewish community centers and cooperative houses. He supported himself for much of his life as a graphic artist, printing and designing book covers.

Born in 1916 to founding members of New York’s folkshul movement, Kaminsky chose to carry Yiddish culture and language into his adult life. To him, Yiddish was a sacred tongue and, until the early 1950s, he chose to write his poetry in the language. In the mid-1960s he began studying rabbinic literature and Torah, a phase of learning that led him to publish four collections of poetry in the three years between 1969 and 1972. Later poems that Kaminsky wrote appeared in the Forverts. In the mid-1970s, Kaminsky collaborated with artist and sculptor Judah Goldstein to create a loose-bound portfolio of etchings and poems, called “Something Long Ago Paid For,” now archived at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

At Kaminsky’s funeral, his daughter, Riva Danzig, read one chapter of “Trying To Remember,” a memoir he had worked on until he was 83. Danzig, also a writer, read a section of the memoir she had written with her father in 1999, soon after he realized that he was no longer able to write himself.

In 1986, Kaminsky suffered the loss of his son, Akiva. Kaminsky’s survivors include Danzig, of the Bronx, a son, Marc Kaminsky, of Brooklyn and four grandchildren.

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