Yiddish


Ruth Wisse: Generous Mentor, Worthy Adversary

By Josh Lambert

In September 1976, Commentary printed the letters of three novelists who had taken umbrage at appraisals of their work, in a previous issue, by a relatively unknown Yiddish professor named Ruth Wisse. Cynthia Ozick, the most fervent of the respondents, judged Wisse guilty of a “fundamental (and, for a good reader, unforgivable) critical error”: confusing literature with sociology.Read More


Theatrical Translations

By Laura Collins-Hughes

It’s a funny thing, the way a young artist’s raw vitality is often forgotten in posterity, obscured by the seemingly tamer, more popularly appealing self that emerged later. Seven decades after “Our Town” was a Broadway hit, for example, almost no one remembers Thornton Wilder as an experimental dramatist, though he once was one. These days, we perceive him through muffling layers of homespun hokeyness.Read More


Women’s Work

By Myra Mniewski and Chana Pollack

Each month, a handful of New York feminists, who are also students of Yiddish, get together in each other’s homes to read the work of Yiddish women writers. Several writers, a couple of filmmakers and librarians, a culinary scholar and a singer/songwriter form the core of the group. Our population, however, expands and contracts, following cycles of visiting researchers, friends and the occasional curious academic.Read More


The Poetry of Language

By Zackary Sholem Berger

There are many bilingual Jewish books in which the two languages are dependent on each other. The Gemara is a mostly Aramaic reworking of the Hebrew-language Mishnah. The stories of Reb Nachman of Breslov were told in Yiddish, but their first written versions were in Hebrew. The majority of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s work is now best known not in the original Yiddish, but in the English into which Singer reworked his stories.Read More


Kids Lit: More Yiddish Books Begin To Sprout

By Eddy Portnoy

Let’s say you’re raising your children in Yiddish and you want to buy them some books. What do you do? If you walk into the children’s section of any bookstore, you’ll be deluged with a huge number of engaging, beautifully illustrated books, from board books to chapter books to beautifully rendered pop-ups. But none of these books is written in Yiddish — right?Read More


Book Center Goes Digital

By Nathan Burstein

Long faced with extinction, Yiddish literature has been preserved for the digital age with a newly activated online archive.Read More


Yiddish Teachers Form New Group

By Rukhl Schaechter

When Lori Cahan-Simon, a singer and music teacher at the I. L. Peretz Workmen’s Circle school of Ohio, in Cleveland, was promoted to Yiddish teacher 10 years ago, her excitement was hampered by anxiety.Read More


A Book of Insults — Exploring Yiddish Curses

By Teddy Wayne

If the classic Yiddish imprecation has an inverse, it is the Irish blessing. While the Gaelic bards gaily start benedictions with “May…” before politely wishing their recipient good fortune (“May the wind be always at your back; May the sun shine warm upon your face”), the Yiddish curse is a spell of invective, typically cast with the conditional “You should…” prior to the litany of ill tidings (“You should get windburn and a melanoma”).Read More


Sholom Aleichem: Finding Freedom in America

By Dara Horn

‘Wandering Stars,” Yiddish master Sholom Aleichem’s comic novel about the Yiddish theater, has just been published in a new translation by Aliza Shevrin. The novel tells the story of Leibl and Reizel, two talented teenagers who flee their backwater shtetl with the help of a traveling Yiddish theater troupe. Sweethearts separated by corrupt theater companies, they each achieve their own successes in European cities and eventually in New York. But while Leibl devotes his talents to the Yiddish stage, Reizel becomes a star of the gentile theater — and always remains one city beyond his reach.Read More


Life Imitates Art: An Excerpt From ‘Wandering Stars’

If you live long enough, you achieve your goal. The day of the big test arrived for the “Yiddish Star from Bucharest,” whom the press had elevated to a place among the greatest actors like Sonnenthal, Schildkraut, Irving, Possart, and Rossi.Read More


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