Journal Editor, 102, Devoted to Yiddish

By Itzik Gottesman

Published January 05, 2007, issue of January 05, 2007.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Everyone active in the world of Yiddish culture has to have shoulders broad enough to carry the weight of history, but Itche Goldberg, who died December 27 at age 102, had the broadest shoulders of all.

As editor of the journal Yiddishe Kultur, Goldberg found the energy, even in his 80s and 90s, to maintain what he could of the lost world of Eastern Europe. Almost single-handedly, he kept America’s Yiddish culture afloat for the past 25 years.

While some half his age became embittered by the weak state of Yiddish today, Goldberg, never despairing, focused on practical solutions. Yiddishists of all stripes admired his ageless dedication.

Itche Goldberg was born in Apt, Poland, in 1904. He grew up in Warsaw and studied there in a modern secular Zionist school and a Jewish teachers’ seminary. He immigrated to Canada in 1920 and began teaching at socialist and leftist Zionist Yiddish schools in Toronto in 1925.

In 1932 he settled in New York. Following the radicalization of many of the Yiddish schools in the late 1920s, he became active during the 1930s in the newly organized Jewish People‘s Fraternal Order (the Ordn), which was aligned with the Soviet Union and the communists. Eventually he would become a central pillar in all the cultural branches of the Ordn, especially in their shuln, a national network of afternoon elementary schools and high schools.

When the politics of his earlier years no longer found an audience, Goldberg became a spokesman for the treasures to be discovered in Yiddish literature. Following in the footsteps of his models, Yiddish writers and thinkers I.L. Peretz and Chaim Zhitlovsky, he argued that the profound humanistic values of a secular Yiddish culture as reflected in this literature had yet to be fully appreciated.

As a teacher and writer he inspired thousands of students. He accomplished much: He edited such journals as Proletarishe dertsiung (Proletarian Education), and Yungvarg (Youth); wrote popular leftist Yiddish textbooks for schools, and, finally, wrote a major volume on Yiddish dramaturgy and two volumes of essays, the second of which was just published last year.

Now that he is gone, we will surely never again meet someone who attended Peretz’s funeral in Warsaw in 1915, as Goldberg did, or who met Ludwig Zamenhof, founder of Esperanto, and, more importantly, who, against all odds, was so central to building a Yiddish culture in America.






Find us on Facebook!
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.