_The Mendele Review_: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to _MENDELE_)
Contents of Vol. 05.002
25 February 2001

1) _Peintres Juifs a Paris 1905 - 1939_ (reviewed by David Mazower)
2) A New Edition and Translation of Mendele's _Peyrek Shire_ (ed.)                                (              )
3) More on _Odes_/_Ades_ (Shaya Mitelman)

Date:  25 February 2001
From:  David Mazower 
Subject: David Mazower on _Peintres Juifs a Paris 1905 - 1939_

Nadine Nieszawer (with Marie Boye and Paul Fogel), _Peintres Juifs a
Paris 1905 - 1939_ [Jewish Painters in Paris 1905 - 39], Paris:
Editions Denoel [9 Rue du Cherche-Midi, 75006 Paris], 2000, 366 pp.

The prominence of Jewish artists, art dealers and critics in the
development of modern art in Paris ca. 1905 - 30 is now well-known.
But, despite the considerable attention devoted to figures like Chagall,
Soutine, Mane-Katz and Kisling, certain specific dimensions of their
Jewish identity have been little explored.  There is an important and as
yet little-understood Polish context to many Polish-born Jewish artists,
who trained in Cracow, Warsaw or Lodz, spoke Polish, and maintained
links with Polish artistic groups.(1) There is also a Yiddish dimension;
many of the Paris Jewish artists spoke and wrote Yiddish, had close
contact with Yiddish writers and journalists in Paris, and embellished
the works of such colleagues with specially commissioned illustrations.

Nadine Nieszawer's book is an important contribution to the overdue task
of exploring the Yiddish dimension of the Ecole de Paris.  As her
introduction makes clear, she relies heavily on the work of two
important Paris-based Yiddish art critics - Khil Aronson and Hersh
Fenster.  Aronson, born in Poland in 1898, was an art dealer and Yiddish
journalist.  His monumental book _Bilder un geshtaltn fun monparnas_
[Pictures and Figures of Montparnasse] published in Paris 1963 (with an
introduction by Chagall), discussed the work of more than fifty artists
he had known personally.  Fenster was born in Galicia in 1892 and
settled in Paris in 1922, working for a time as Sholem Ash's secretary.
In 1951 he brought out _Undzer artistn martirn_ [Our Martyred Artists],
a yisker-bukh [memorial book] for the dozens of Paris-based artists who
had died in the Holocaust.  Both books were years in the making,
contained a vast amount of otherwise unobtainable information, and of
course have long been out of print.

_Peintres Juifs a Paris_ condenses the vast amount of detail in these
two books and recycles it in a well-designed, attractive and accessible
format.  Nieszawer presents over one hundred individual artists, some of
them well-known (Chagall, Kisling, Pascin, Soutine), and others much
more obscure.  In each case, the entry includes a brief biography, a
painting or drawing (most of them in colour), exhibition details and a

This is a valuable and informative addition to the growing body of work
on the Jewish painters of Paris, particularly useful for retrieving
dozens of lesser-known but nonetheless distinguished artists from
obscurity (many of them, for example, unmentioned in the _Encyclopaedia
Judaica_).  However, it is not without faults and omissions.  Notable
among these is the failure to include sculptors, thus excluding
important figures like Chana Orloff, Jacques Lipschitz, and Osip
Zadkine.  Many of the biographies have not been properly updated to take
account of careers extending beyond the date of the books by Aronson and
Fenster.  There is virtually no mention of the Yiddish book
illustrations done by such artists as Benn, Henryk Berlevi, and Arthur
Kolnik.  Finally, there are some surprising errors -- for example, the
Yiddish actor Maurice Schwartz is repeatedly referred to as Boris
Schwartz, and an unfortunate paragraph on the Czernowitz Yiddish
Conference gives the wrong date and erroneously includes Sholem-Aleichem
among the participants.  However, these are minor irritants; overall,
the book is to be warmly welcomed, and -- with suitable corrections and
additions -- richly deserves an English-language publication.

(David Mazower)
Date:  25 February 2001
From:  Leonard Prager 
Subject: A New Edition and Translation of Mendele's _Peyrek Shire_                                (              )

Mendele Mokher-Sefarim.  _Perek Shira_, tirgem, arakh vehosif mavo
Shalom Luria.  ['Chapter of Song', translated, edited and introduced by
Shalom Luria] Kheyfa:  Hotsaat sefarim shel universitat kheyfa /
Zmora-Bitan, 2000 [Haifa:  Haifa University Press / Zmora-Bitan, 2000]
[ISBN:  965-311-036-5].  Price:  80 shekels.

A Hebrew liturgical work dating from the middle ages (and possibly going
back to third-century mystical sources) inspired Mendele, the maskil and
nature-lover, to write a quite remarkable poem (known today mainly by
specialists) in an original Yiddish verse form.(1) Shalom Luria, critic,
translator and editor of _Khulyot_, has now translated Mendele's poem
into Hebrew.  In the interest of clarity, here is a schematic outline of
a new bilingual book containing all these riches:  [1] Shalom Luria,
"Befetakh hasefer" ['Foreword'], pp, 9-10 [Hebrew].  [2] 'Perek Shira'
benusakh Sh"Y Abramovitsh ['Chapter of Song' in Sh"Y Abramovitsh's
version], pp. 11-28 [Hebrew](2).  [3] Mendele Moykher-Sforim.  "Psikho"
["Petikha"] ['Introduction'], pp. 31-51 [Hebrew].  [4] Mendele
Moykher-Sforim.  "Peyrek Shire" [Mendele Moykher-Sforim, 'Chapter of
Song'] [with each section preceded by the biblical passages that make up
the liturgical "Peyrek Shiro"], pp. 53-145 [Yiddish].  [5] Mendele
Mokher-Sefarim.  "Perek Shira" ['Chapter of Song' translated into Hebrew
by Shalom Luria [with each section preceded by the biblical passages
that make up the liturgical "Peyrek Shiro", pp. 147-239] [6] Mendele
Moykher-Sforim, "Tuv ta'am" ['Good Taste'], pp. 241-327 [Hebrew].

"Perek Shira" in the words of its closest student, Malachi Beit-Arie, is
"a short anonymous tract containing a collection of hymns placed in the
mouths of creatures praising their Creator."  Beit-Arie continues:  "All
of creation, except for man, is represented in this collection:  the
natural orders and the orders above nature, inanimate nature, the
heavens and all their hosts, the world of plants and the world of
animals according to their kinds.  The hymns together compose a kind of
cosmic song of praise by the entire creation.  They are set in a prose
midrashic framework that imparts a firm literary structure to a
collection that in itself would lack textual continuity."(3)

The work, which differs from edition to edition, has often been attacked
for its personification of nature -- an alien strain in Judaism; it has
also been interpreted in a great variety of ways.  In the well known
"vayberisher" _korbm-minkhe sider_(4), it is said that those who busy
themselves with the "Peyrek Shiro" are especially blessed.  Mendele adds
secular as well as pious meaning to this tradition.  His "Peyrek
Shire"(5), composed in rhymed syllabic verse with each line (with
occasional exceptions) containing eleven syllables(6) celebrates the
beauty of God's creation.  The 1911 text gives the Hebrew "Peyrek Shiro"
in several lines at the top of the page, the poem being given beneath,
concordance style.  And, indeed, the poem is an elaboration and an
interpretation of the medieval composition.  Here is an illustrative

"midber" (zz' 51-70) [preceded by Isaiah 35:1 and 42:11 (Hebrew)]

di midber, vos iz shreklekh vist un trukn,
umatum nor zamd, vuhin men zol nisht kukn,
on vaser, on geveks un on keyn shum zakh,
nor giftike shlangen, ekdishe a sakh,
vos makhmes dem un di shreklekhe hitsn
hot badarft ummiglekh zayn dort tsu zitsn;
dokh in dem yam fun zamd gefinen zikh erter,
vos zey tsu bashraybn lozt zikh oys verter.
a gan-eydn prost, mit beymer un taykhn,[33]
tsu indzlen in yam ken men zey farglaykhn.
di midber freyt zikh mit zey, zogt gots vunder,
un es freyt zikh itlekher step bazunder,
arum un arum iz vist, naket un bloyz,
un in der mit blit a step vi a royz. [34]
es zingt di midber un di shet ire dort,
di heyfn funem toter in aza ort.
es zingen di aynvoyner oyf a skale,
fun di shpits berg dortn shrayen di ale.(6)
[Peyrek shlishi, "midber," (zz' 69-70)]

Shalom Luria's Hebrew translation of Mendele's "Peyrek Shire"

Luria has translated Mendele's 2002 verse lines into contemporary
informal Hebrew, attempting to emulate the rhyming ingenuities of the
original and to give the reader a sense of Mendele's larger project --
to teach about nature by engaging the reader's feelings as well as his
intellect.  Here is Luria's translation of the first half of
the above original:

Hamidbar hashomem, hayavesh lehakharid,
Misaviv rak khulot, ba'asher rak tabit,
Eyn bo mayim, bakol akrabim rokhashim,
Teunim bearsam lokhashim nekhashim,
Venosaf al kol ze -- hatsekhikhut vehakhom,
I efshar sham bikhlal lo lagur, lo linshom.
Akh afilu beyam hakholot yesh makom
Bo shruya pinat-khen maksima kmo khalom.
Ze keilu gan-eydn: eytsim uflagim,
Vekamohu ke'i bisdot yam rekhokim.

It has been argued that the copious notes attached to T.S.  Eliot's
"Wasteland" are an integral part of the poem.  Likewise, Mendele's
introductory essay, "Psikho" [Petikha], together with the 189 notes to
"Peyrek Shire" in his "Tuv ta'am" compilation (which could as easily
have been named "Notes to 'Peyrek Shire'), designed for the
Hebrew-reading "talmid-khokhem" and the learned maskil, may be seen as
organic to the composition as a whole.  The learned alone would
understand this particular early modern Hebrew of the 1870s, an idiom
drenched in biblical, midrashic, talmudic and rabbinic allusions.  The
Yiddish poem was intended to widen the ordinary Jew's understanding of
the liturgical text (one version of which is to be found at the
beginning of the _korbm-minkhe_ prayer book mentioned above).  It was to
stimulate readers of all kinds to appreciate nature -- conceived as
object of religious and esthetic wonder and of study and scientific
exploration as well.  Mendele wanted to provide scientific notes for the
learned, and stir the imagination and interest of the ordinary reader.
"Tuv-ta'am," with its numerous references to the three volumes of
Mendele's _Toldoys HaTeva_ [Toldot Hateva] ['History of Nature']
accomplished the first, and the rhymed colloquial Yiddish the second.
Luria has given us a more readable "Tuv ta'am":  Arabic numerals replace
Hebrew letters, the font is larger, abbreviations are spelled out, and
in general the reader is well served.

Reading the commentary in the _korbm-minkhe sider_ one can appreciate
the temerity of Mendele's plan.  My copy of this siddur was published in
Jerusalem in 1971 by Lewin-Epstein and is readily available today.  The
commentary entitled "Zimras ho'orets" which is found under the "Peyrek
Shiro" tells us that, according to the Gemara, God endowed certain pious
men with God-like powers to create:  "vi di _gemore_ dertseylt Rovo hot
bashafn a mentsh, Rav Khanino un Rav Ushayo hobn ale erev shabes bashafn
a kalb zey zoln hobn fleysh oyf shabes" ['as the Gemara tells us, Rovo
created a person; Rav Khanino and Rav Ushayo created a calf every
Sabbath eve so as to have meat for the Sabbath'](p. 4).  These magical
notions were never acceptable to normative Judaism but must nevertheless
at one time have been widespread among the folk.  Mendele's purpose was
to shift the commentary to higher levels, merging his own deeply felt
piety with his scientific interests.  Many challenges faced Mendele in
this undertaking.  Readers accustomed to traditional allegorical
readings could not be offended; a style had be found which was both
familiar and dignified.

Haifa University Press and Zmora-Bitan are to be congratulated for
producing a well-designed book which is a delight to hold in one's hands
as well as to read.

A Note on Pronunciation:  Perek shiRA = Modern Hebrew; Peyrek SHIre =
Yiddish; Peyrek SHIro = Ashkenazic Hebrew; MENdele MoKHER-SefarIM = Mod.
Heb.; MENdele MOYKHer-SFORim = Yiddish and Ashkenazic Hebrew

(1) No one would regard Mendele as a great poet, but his verse is
integral to his opus as a whole, illuminates it in numerous ways -- none
more so than "Peyrek Shire."  In his able study of Mendele (see _Mendele
Mocher Seforim_, Boston:  Twayne, 1977), Theodore L. Steinberg does not
mention any of Mendele's verse.  Dan Miron (_A Traveler Disguised_, New
York:  Schocken, 1973, p. 295, fn 60) writes that "It should not be
overlooked that Abramovitsh published some minor works in Yiddish ...
such as... the long and, I might add, quite mediocre allegorical poem
_Yidl_ ("The Little Jew' [Warsaw, 1875]); _Zmires yisroel_, free Yiddish
adaptations of the traditional Hebrew hymns sung on the Sabbath
(Zhitomir, 1875); _Peyrek shire_, a Yiddish verse elaboration on the
mystical hymns added to the hasidic prayerbook (Zhitomir, 1875)...."
There is probably little disagreement over _Yidl_, but Mendele's verse
need not be judged solely by aesthetic criteria.  _Zmires yisroel_, for
instance, has been called a language laboratory.

(2) Revision of an essay first published in _Dapim lemekhkar besifrut_ 1
(1984), pp. 143-162.

(3) Malachi Beit-Arie, _Perek Shira, mevo'ot, umahadura bikortit_, 2
vols. [Hebrew University doctoral dissertation (supervised by Gershom
Scholem}, 1966, p. V]. The sole comprehensive study of the subject.

(4) Written korbn, pronounced /korbm/.

(5) The first edition of Mendele's _Peyrek shire_ appeared in Zhitomir
in 1875 under the name Sh"y Abramovitsh.  It was reissued in Vol. 13 of
Mendele Moykher-Sforim's _Ale verk_ (Warsaw 1911; 1913).  The poem
itself is preceded by an introductory movement of nine sections of
varying line length, each section ending with the ten-syllable couplet
"vos iz khidushim groys gor on a breg / vos hot altsding bashafn in zeks

(6) Luria has quite rightly standardized Mendele's obsolete spelling.
In a few instances this may slightly affect the eleven-syllable pattern.
Thus where Luria regularizes Mendele's _blihet_ to _blit_, he reduces
the line by a syllable; conversely, where he writes StY _zeyer_, Mendele
wrote monosyllabic _zehr_ (e.g. in chapter four, "shemesh", line 3).

(7) The footnotes point to Mendele's notes to his poem entitled _Tuv
ta'am_ ['Good Taste'] . Footnote 33 can be translated:  "These places
are referred to in the written literture as 'oases'."  Footnote 34
points out the desert allusions in Song of Songs 2:1 and Isaiah 41:19
and 35:1.

Date: 25 February 2001
From: Shaya Mitelman 
Subject: _Odes_/_Ades_

You write [see _TMR_ 5.001] that there are two common pronunciations for
this city.  I think that there are two spellings, while the
pronunciation seems quite uniform -- Ades.  And Hugh Denman writes, "the
harder part is to know why the last syllable has been truncated" (i.e.
in 'Odes').  If anything, there's a tendency to truncate the last
syllable in some geographic names, at least in those regions -- Odes,
Moskev, Olaskev (Goloskovo, now Pervomaysk, birthplace of Leyb Kvitko),
End of _The Mendele Review_ 05.002

Leonard Prager, editor

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