Posts tagged yiddish.


Hecher von der Erd/Higher than the Earth, by Der Nister

(via makhshayfe)


Soviet Educational Advertisement in Yiddish, 1920
The “Kheyder” (traditional religious school) is compared to the modern “Rotn shul” (“Red School”): “The old school has fostered slates. The red school prepares healthy, capable working men, builders of the Soviet Order.”

Before the state established several Soviet Yiddish-language schools to further a Soviet agenda.

(via marxistswithattitude)


Hofshteyn, Dovid and Arn Kushnirov. Shtam: azkore. Moscow: Farlag “Shtrom”, 1922.

Rare collection of poems by Hofshteyn and Kushnirov, two very prominent Yiddish modernist writers. In the early 1920s they co-edited the influential literary journal “Der shtrom” (The Stream) in Moscow; in the late 1940s, both fell victim to the Stalinist purges of Yiddish writers. Inscribed by Hofshteyn and Kushnirov to David Vardi (1893-1973), founding member of Habimah, the first professional Hebrew repertory theater, which later became the National Theater of Israel. Wrappers by avant-garde artist and illustrator Nathan Altman.

more on Dovid Hofshteyn

more on Arn Kushnirov

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The Shofar Blower

by Kadya Molodowsky

The shofar blower keens a melody,
An old melody to God.
Above him—
A sky without stars,
Primordial darkness lost in darkness,
The shofar blower keens a melody:
Teki’ah, Teru’ah, Shebarim.

The blackness—a wind, a wall,
There is no congregation,
No quorum at all.
The shofar blower keens a melody,
An old melody:

Near him, an extinguished thorn,
As he stares into even blacker darkness,
The shofar blower keens a melody,
An old melody,
And waits—
The thorn shall begin to burn,
A flame shall inscribe on a wall.
Above him, a sky without stars,
And primordial darkness,
And deadly venom.
But this does not interrupt,
Does not silence the horn:

more Kadya Molodowsky


Alef-beys (Alphabet). Yisakhar Ber Rybak, 1918. Oil on canvas.

More on Yisakhar Ber Rybak

In the decades before the Holocaust, national identity and Yiddish spelling were deeply intertwined. When I read Yiddish literature printed before World War II, I can often guess the writers’ political milieu through their spelling alone. In 19th-century Europe, religious writers spelled Yiddish words by imitating Hebrew, using vowel markings where none were necessary so their new writing would resemble ancient Hebrew texts. Meanwhile, Jews who wanted to assimilate into European life wrote in a Yiddish spelling that openly imitated German. This brand of spelling — it used Hebrew letters to represent even silent German characters in shared cognates — subtly announced, as leaders of the German Jewish Reform movement once proclaimed, that “Berlin is our Jerusalem.”

Spelling in the early Soviet Union was even more perverse. There, government control over Yiddish schools and presses led to the invention and enforcement of a literally anti-Semitic Yiddish orthography by spelling the language’s many Semitic-origin words phonetically instead of in Hebrew. (Imagine spelling “naïve” as “nigh-eve” in order to look less French.) It was an attempt to erase Jewish culture’s biblical roots, letter by letter.

Dara Horn, “Jewish Identity, Spelled in Yiddish" (The New York Times)
  June 11, 2013 at 09:20am via The New York Times

A Socalled Musical

Music & Lyrics by Josh Dolgin AKA Socalled
Book by Derek Goldman

Based on the stories of Isaak Babel

Translated by Miriam Hoffman

Directed by Audrey Finkelstein

A Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre Production

“Let’s talk about Benya Krik. 
He was not always the King… How did he become the King, and why does it matter to us?”

A new tradition is born when the Dora Wasserman Yiddish Theatre meets the vision of Klezmer-pop superstar Socalled in this new Yiddish musical based on the stories of renowned writer Isaak Babel. Step into the colourful underworld of Odessa in the last days of the Russian Empire, where mob boss Benya “The King” Krik reigns over the bustling Jewish neighborhood of Moldavanka. Chronicling the shady adventures of this anti-hero and his rise to power, this wholly original musical tale will take you back to a forgotten world of smugglers, peddlers and gangsters, where the dreams of one man reflect the emancipation of a whole population.

You should probably check this out if you’re in/around Montreal!

more info // BUY TICKETS

  June 06, 2013 at 09:20pm


Long and mild are the dawns of Tammuz and Av,
When I hold my wakeful head
On a brown, sunburned hand:
I have kept a place for you near me, a cherished place,
But I have not kept any peace or place for myself.
Through closed eyes, my tears fall slow and warm,
And stillness spreads,
Like drowsy hares around my bed.
Soon the first cry of day will sound,
And they will scatter,
And I will rise to a long, hard way.

— Kadya Molodowsky, “Women Poems (V)”

more Kadya Molodowsky

(via dvar22)

Today in Yiddishkayt… May 1
International Workers’ Day

In honor of the Internatsyonaler arbeter yontef, enjoy Sidor Belarsky singing Y.L. Peretz anthem for the first of May: 

האָף, האָף, האָף!
ניט װײַט איז שוין דער פֿרילינג.
ס׳װעלן שמעטערלינגען שפּרינגען,
נײַע נעסטן, נײַע פֿייגל
װעלן נײַע לידער זינגען.

גלויב, די נאַכט איז שוין פֿאַרשװאונדן!
און די װאָלקנס אויך צערונען,
בלוי װעט זײַן, װעט זײַן דער הימל,
נײַע שטערן, נײַע זונען.

נײַע רויזען, נײַע בלומען
װעלן בליִען, װאַקסן הויך.
עס װעט שײַנען, שמעקן, זינגען,
און אין אונדזער װינקל אויך!

Hope, hope, have hope!
Spring is not far off.
Butterflies will be abounding.
New nests, new birds will sing new songs.

Trust, the night has disappeared,
And the clouds have faded away.
The sky will be blue—
New stars and new suns.

New roses, new flowers 
Will blossom and grow tall.
There will be light and sweet smells and and song,
All around us, as well!

(via Yiddishkayt)

more Sidor Belarsky
more I.L. Peretz


National Poetry Month
On a Poem by Leyb Kvitko
by J.D. Arden, M.L.I.S. candidate, Reference Services Research Intern, Center for Jewish History

Inscrutable Cat
by Leyb Kvitko (c.1890-1952), 
translated from Yiddish by A. Mandelbaum & H. Rabinowitz

This poem is taken from The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse, published in 1987, and is one of many such books available in the Lillian Goldman Reading Room at the Center for Jewish History. 

Inscrutable cat!

I am as still, as still as you,
Although you tread with shadow-steps - 
The peace of distant worlds within your gaze
So softly in the shadows of my rage…

I am as still, as still as you…
Along my meager island shore - 
The island of my memory - where ruins flicker faintly through
Awareness with its waves, its fog,
On that pathetic island
At times there creeps an ancient frog.
Lazily he looks about, lazily he croaks - 
At all that was, the old, the shriveled heretofore.
Then lazily he turns around; he croaks another croak - 
At the insane, the stolen here and now.
In me the present and the past are soon to speak no more.
Only the croaking will be etched into my island shore.
I start to sink into a shapeless torpor
And - 
I am as still, as still as you…

more on Leib Kvitko

& Dos Ketsele, Kvitko’s book The Kitten, specifically