“I’m not going to be on Oprah,” said Zackary Sholem Berger matter-of-factly about his new book, “Zog khotsh l’havdil / Not in the Same Breath.” He’s realistic about his completely negligible chances, not because Oprah’s show and book club have just come to an end, but because he knows his work of original Yiddish poetry is not destined for a wide audience.
With no U.S. city today coming anything close to what pre-World War II Warsaw was (or even what New York was, for that matter) in terms of Yiddish publishing, producers of new literature in mameloshn need to go it alone and get creative about getting their work out there. Berger, 37, having translated a number of popular and beloved children’s picture books into Yiddish over the past decade, was well aware of this prior to writing his collection of poetry. He and his wife started their own Yiddish House (formerly Yiddish Cat) publishing company in 2003 to produce and distribute their Yiddish translations of Dr. Suess’s “The Cat in the Hat” and “One Fish Two Fish,” and “Curious George” by Margret and H.A. Rey.