_The Mendele Review_: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to _MENDELE_)
Contents of Vol. 06.011
30 November 2002

1)  About this and future issues (ed.):
2)  A Note on _lebnsbild_  (Brigitte Dalinger)
3)  _Khulyot_ 7 Table of Contents (ed.)
4)  The Bayonne miscellany _Ineynem_ ['United'] (ed.)
5)  "der yidn-fraynd"  (Yekhiel Reznik) (romanized)
6)  "The Friend of the Jews" (Yekhiel Reznik) (Translated by Leonard Prager)

Date: 30 November 2002
From: ed. 
Subject:  About this and future issues.

a. In my discussion of Louis Kramer's _di amerikaner kinder_ [in
TMR 6.008/YTF 1.001], I pointed to the playwright's use of
the term _lebnsbild_.  I wondered whether the term was a readymade
borrowing from German or a semantic innovation in Yiddish.  Did the
term have a history which we have forgotten?  Brigitte Dalinger's note
illumines these questions.

b.  _Khulyot_ 7 , the Table of Contents of which is given below, is
now available.  Copies may be ordered from the editor Shalom Luria,
c/o Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of
Haifa, Mt. Carmel, Haifa 31905, Israel.  Price for individuals is $15
per issue; for institutions $28.  ISSN 0792-9064. Price in Israel is NIS
50 [fifty shekels]. Abstracts of essays in _Khulyot_ [also spelled
_Chulyot_] are given in English and in Yiddish in each issue. The
English abstracts may be viewed at The World of Yiddish/Di velt fun
yidish/HaOlam HaYidi site (http://yiddish.haifa.ac.il).

c. In December there will again appear a joint issue of _The Mendele
Review_ and _Yiddish Theater Forum_. Look for a response to Joseph
Sherman's probing review of Joel Berkowitz's groundbreaking study of
the American Yiddish theater.

d. Coming soon in _TMR_:  Joel Berkowitz, editor of the _Yiddish
Theater Forum_ reviews _Journey to a Nineteenth-Century Shtetl_.
Edited with an introduction and notes by David Assaf and translated
from Yiddish by Margaret Birstein. This is the first volume of Yekhezkl
Kotik's much-admired _Mayne zikhroynes_ [see _TMR_ 3.007, 3.020,
4.001, 4.002, 4.003, 4.004, 4.012, 4.013, 4,014 ].

e. Books received: Aleksander Shpiglblat, _Bloe vinklen; Itsik Manger --
lebn, lid un balade_, Tel-Oviv:  Y.-L.  Perets farlag, 2002, 445 zz.
[ISBN 965-7012-53-8].  [English:  Alexander Spiegelblatt, _Blue
Corners_, Tel-Aviv:  Y. L. Perets Farlag, 2002, 445 pp.] To be reviewed
in _TMR_.

Date: 29 November 2002
From: Brigitte  Dalinger 
Subject: A Note on _Lebensbild_ > _lebnsbild_


I think this term comes from the 19th-century German theater where it
was used for popular plays which showed the "life of the people."  I
found two points that might interest readers.

a) The term "Lebensbild" is connected with the teacher, actor and
Viennese folksinger Albert Hirsch (Wien 1841-1928).  According to Georg
Wacks, Hirsch was the first Viennese folksinger to bring Jewish life on
stage, using the dramaturgic form of a "Lebens bild."  Wacks writes:
"Hirsch ist deshalb so beachtenswert, weil er angeblich der erste war,
der juedisches Milieu aufs Brettl brachte und bekannte Figuren im
'juedischen Jargon' sprechen liess, vor allem in seinen Possen oder
sogenannten 'Lebensbildern'."  [Hirsch is important because he is
thought to be the first to present the Jewish milieu on the stage and
have known characters speak in the 'Jewish jargon', particularly in his
farces or so-called 'scenes of real life'.  (p. 41)] The "Lebensbildern"
were staged by the so-called "Budapester Orpheumsgesellschaft."  In such
works as "Chaim Katz vom Karmeliter Platz" [Haim Katz of Carmelite
Square], they showed the life of Jews in the Jewish district of Vienna.
Wacks writes:  "Diese wurden ueberhaupt zu einem Spezifikum der
Budapester Orpheumgesellschaft und waren Teil ihres grossen Erfolges.
In den Lebensbildern brachten sie vor allem die kleinen Leute des
juedischen Viertels auf die Buehne.  Eines davon war die Szene aus dem
Volksleben Chaim Katz vom Karmelit er Platz von Josef Armin, ein anderes
die ‚Szenen aus der Tiefe des Lebens' Nachtasyl in der Schiffgasse von
Richard Grossmann."  [The Lebensbildern became the speciality of the
Budapest group and were largely responsible for their great success.
These ske tches portrayed the simple folk of the Jewish quarter.  Joseph
Armin's "Chaim Katz vom Karmeliter Platz" was one such scene of folk
life, and another was Richard Grossman's 'scenes from the depths of
life' from "Night Shelter on Schiffgasse" (Ship Steet), (p. 42)].  See
George Wacks, _Die Budapester Orpheumsgesellschaft.  Ein Variete in Wien
1889-1919_ (Wien:  Holzhausen, 2002) These facts raise a number of
questions, such as Was it Hirsch who first used the term "Lebensbild" or
did he borrow an expression fr om the German stage or one used by the
(Yiddish) Broder Singers?  Was the term "Lebensbild" connected with the
staging of Jewish life?

b) Michael Weichert in his study of Jacob Gordin and the Yiddish Theater
writes that most Gordin plays revolve about an everyday life incident.
"Das Gerippe der Handlung ist ein einfacher alltaeglicher Fall."  (p.
180) "In der Regel geschieht dieses Tatsa echliche im Expositionsteil,
gewoehnlich im ersten Akt; die unausbleiblichen verderblichen Folgen
bilden das traurige Familiengemaelde, das vor den Augen des Zuschauers
entrollt wird.  Es ist nicht ein starkes, zusammengeballtes
Menschenschicksal, in kuerz ester, komprimiertester Form, nicht ein
Moment im Leben, in dem sich das ganze Leben zum sinnbildlichen
Ausdruck erhebt.  Das belehrende Theaterstueck umfasst einen ganzen
Lebensausschnitt, je breiter, je laenger andauernd, von desto
staerkerer, ueberzeuge nderer Wirkung. ‚In vier Stunden ueberlebt man
Jahrzehnte,' sagt Gordin in einem seiner dramaturgischen Aufsaetze.
[...] Der Zuschauer muss unmittelbarer Zeuge all dieser Vorgaenge sein,
soll er befugt sein, ein Urteil zu sprechen.  [...] Unter diesen
Umstaenden kann die ein ‚Lebensbild' (und nicht Charakterbild) bildende
Handlung nicht einen strengen architektionischen Bau darstellen, eine
aufsteigende und fallende Linie, ein allmaehliches Anschwellen und
jaehes Abnehmen.  Sie verlaeuft vielmehr im Zickzac k, bildet eine
Revue, eine lose Aneinanderreihung breit ausholender Bilder mit langen
oeden Strecken dazwischen, aehnlich wie das mittelalterliche
Passionsspiel."  (p. 181) "Die meisten Stuecke bezeichnet Gordin als
Drama, einzelne als Lebensbild.  Die letz tere Bezeichnung waere fuer
alle zutreffender.  Welche Merkmale fuer den Gattungsunterschied
bestimmend waren, laesst sich nicht ermitteln.  Auch in den Schriften
findet sich kein Hinweis."  (p. 182)

[The core of the action is a simple everyday event that is generally
presented in the first act.  The dire results of this event are
dramatized for the audience.  It is not a fateful and critical moment of
life, but a didactic sketch comprising a slice of l ife whose effect
grows as it is magnified.  Gordin in one of his essays says that one
lives decades long in four hours.  The audience must directly witness
the event and be empowered to pronounce a verdict.  Under these
circumstances the Lebensbild cannot b e architecturally structured as a
rising and falling curve; rather it moves in zigzags, a loose collection
of individual scenes separated from one another in the manner of the
episodic medieval passion play.  (p. 181) Gordin classifies most plays
as "drama" and only some of them as "lebnsbilder."  The latter term
more aptly fits them all.  One cannot understand his criteria; written
sources are also lacking."] See Michael Weichert, " Jakob Gordin und
das juedische Theater," in _Der Jude_.  Eine Monatsschr ift (Berlin,
Wien: Loewit, 1918.  Jg. 3. 27-32, 88-96, 130-139, 180-191.

[English translation by E.S. and L.P.]
Date: 29 November 2002
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: _Khulyot 7 (2002) Table of Contents

_Khulyot_  [also spelled Chulyot] / _Ringen_ No. 7,  Autumn 2002

Journal of Yiddish Research  / Zhurnal far yidish forshung

Editors: Shalom Luria, Haya Bar-Ytzhak

                             Table of Contents

Shmuel Werses, Hebrew Haskala Verse in Yiddish Holiday Dress

Ziv Friden, Parody and Hagiography:  On Y.-L.  Perets' Ostensibly
"Hasidic" Stories

Ze'ev Goldberg, On Y.-L. Perets' Relationship to Zionism

Zelik Kalmanovitsh, On Y.-L.  Perets [Two fragments are translated here:
1. A letter from Kalmanovitsh to Yankev Dinezon on the day the editors
of the Vilna _Di yudishe velt_ learned of Perets' death]; 2. A short
article by Kalmanovitsh in the Kovno daily _Tsayt_ (27 April 1927) in
which he discusses Perets' view of Jewish literature and Perets' ideal
of what the Jewish writer should be.

David G. Roskies, On Sholem-Aleichem's "Iber a hitl" ['On Account of a

Avner Holtzman, Acquaintance with the Bible:  A Major Autobiographical

Ziva Shamir, "Naive" Nature Poems as Subtle Political Allegories

Leah Garfinkel, The 'Anxiety' in Moyshe-Leyb Halpern's Verse

Bilhah Rubinstein, Invitation to the Author's Laboratory -- Isaac
Bashevis-Singer:  _My Father's Court_, Sequel-Collection, Selection and
Introduction by Chone Shmeruk

Katherine Hellerstein, Names Set in the Works of Yiddish Women Poets

Shalom Luria, The Art of Daniel Charney's Memoirs

Seth Wolitz, On Israel Rabon's _Di gas_ ['The Street']

Yechiel Szeintuch, The Novel _Salamandra_ as a Literary-Historical

Shalom Cholawski, Itsik Manger

Dov Sadan, On Itsik Manger

Shalom Luria, Five Choice Poems:  Avrom Sutskever's "Bashafung"
['Creation'] and "Poezye" ['Poetry'], Dovid Hofshteyn's "Es zenen
farfult shoyn di felder" ['The Fields are Full Already'], Moyshe
Kulbak's "Zumer" ['Summer'] and Perets Markish's "Brokhshtiker"
['Fragments'] are here presented, Yiddish original beside Hebrew
translation with brief explication.

Adina Bar-El, Shloyme Bastomski and His Relations with Writers and Poets

Yechiel Szeintuch, The Humorist Credo of the Writer and Journalist B.
Yeushzon (Moyshe Yustman)

Shmuel Werses, 70 Years of Joseph Perl Research

Haya Bar-Itzhak, Meir Balaban's Contribution to the Study of Jewish
Ethnography and Folklore

Meir Balaban, Saul Wohl -- The Jewish King of Poland (Legends and

Itsik Manger, Folklore and Literature

Max Weinreich, Ashkenaz: The Yiddish Period in Jewish History
Date: 29 November 2002
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: _Ineynem_ (1930): Yiddish writing in Bayonne and Jersey City

Efforts are constantly being made by publishers of encyclopaedias and
dictionaries of literary biography or criticism to determine who "the
most important" (or "the best" / "the most significant"/ "the most
influential") writers are (or were).  It is, of course, never possible
to achieve concensus in such projects and while everyone admits the
need to select scrupulously, everyone chooses differently.  One
would think there were considerable agreement among Yiddish-lovers as
to what writers are most admired, but when actual lists are drawn up
they are found to agree on a number of consolidated reputations
(e.g. Sholem-Aleykhem, Perets), but to differ from one another greatly
as regards less famous figures (e.g. Y.-Y. Trunk, Yehoyshue Shpigl). The
smaller the list of selected "greats," the greater the frustration of
readers with a close knowledge of unincluded, perhaps "minor" (not
a pejorative!) figures.

Canonization makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker.  A
writer who is repeatedly anthologized is assumed to deserve
the high rank which inclusion in any given collection brings him.  Many
good writers never get into anthologies and their best work is lost
sight of.  This group includes writers who may have written only a few
memorable stories, plays or poems -- i.e.  "minor" artists, but fine
nonetheless.  The periodical press hides many such works in its
seas of dross and it is not easy to gain access to this material -- much
of which is being allowed to disintegrate.  Canonization penalizes
"minor" writers whose output is slight, whose genre is uncommon,
whose work is inaccessible, or it penalizes them  for some other special
reason not intrinisic to their work.

I nevertheless do agree that the existent hierarchy of  Yiddish writers
(= "the canon") _by and large_ reflects artistic achievement (rather
than ideology, public relations or any other extrinsic factor). This
ordering, however, requires continuous reassessment. Moreover,
forgotten names -- the foot soldiers of Yiddish letters, if not the
generals -- should occasionally be recalled. Minor literature often
reflects its times more faithfully than do works of superior quality.

The Hudson River divided New York's vibrant Yiddish world from the
far less intense Yiddish cultural scene of New Jersey.  But in Jersey
City, Hoboken and Bayonne in the first third of the last century there
were amateur and professional Yiddish writers and journalists who tried
to make their side of the river a literary territory independent of the
metropolis. They had their own weekly, the _Dzherzi shtime_ (1928-1931)
and later the periodical _Eygns_ (1935-1941), both based in Bayonne. They
also issued a miscellany _Ineynem_, which we will look at somewhat

On the front cover of the miscellany we find the group's leitmotif,
whose imagery echoes contemporary left-wing sympathies:

mir zaynen di yunge,
s'iz undzer baginen,
un nokh baginen kumt likht.
to zol klingen, khaveyrim,
alts shtarker un hekher --
undzer baginen gedikht!
un meg der baginen doyern leynger,
nisht shrekt zikh kolegen --
farlirt nit a klang!
sof sof veln vintn muzn dertrogn,
tsu farfroyrene hertser --
undzer baginen gezang!

['We are the Young
And this is our Dawn,
And Light follows Dawn.
So sing, comrades, sing
Stronger and clearer
Our Song of the Dawn!
Fear not, my fellows,
Don't lose a tone,
And may this Dawn last!
Fresh winds will sooner or later
Reach frozen hearts --
Our Song of the Dawn!'](2)

It is Purim Eve 1930 in Bayonne, Hudson County, New Jersey and M. Bezin,
editor of the _Dzherzi shtime_ ['Jersey Voice'], a local Yiddish weekly,
writes in his celebratory foreword to the dawn-welcoming miscellany:

"di kolegen veln zikh nokh lozn heren. in der _Dzherzi shtime_ veln
zey... hobn di meglekhkayt... oyfhoybn dem kultureln matsev fun der
yidisher mase bay di bregn fun dem tsveytn zayt Hudson taykh."

['We will hear of the participants in the volume in the future. In the
_Jersey Voice_ they will have the opportunity to raise the cultural
condition of the Jewish masses on the second side of the Hudson River.']

None of the six participants were to earn reknown, although several of
them enjoyed quite respectable intellectual careers.  Only three of them
are even mentioned in the _Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literature_
[=nl].(3) But the stories of one writer in the collection merit
attention.  Had Yekhiel Reznik had the right editor or publisher his
fiction might have developed further.

The seven short stories by Reznik in this collection allude to the
Ukrainian pogroms which terrified Jews around the time of the World War
I and soon after.  "In farlegnhayt" focuses on the inner struggles of a
young woman immigrant who has lost her parents and was herself raped in
a pogrom.  In transit to the New World she meets a likely mate and
continues to see him when they land.  She cannot decide whether or not
to tell him of her blighted past.  "Tsu shpet" is the story of a delayed
migration which proves tragic.  "Der meshumed" is a story of an
apostate's return to and reacceptance by his people.  The protagonist of
"Der meshugener amerikaner" left his village ahead of his family and was
prevented by the world war from uniting with them.  Wife and children
have been murdered by the pogromists and the father returns to his old
home and becomes unsettled in his mind.  He is understood by the older
members of the community, but mocked by the young to whom he is simply
"The Mad American."

In "Iber der grenets" Reznick paints a complex psychological scene,
again using the unstable years in the Ukraine as his setting.  A young
wife wants to emigrate; the husband is reluctant to move.  The couple is
bogged down in a corrupt town whose major trade is smuggling people
across the border to Romania.  The woman entrusts her jewelry to her
husband and he surrenders it without a struggle when accosted by
thieves.  The wife cannot forgive him for not resisting -- a notion
utterly foreign to him.  The wife wants her jewelry back -- presumably
because it is the means with which she will pay for their passage as
well as for reasons of vanity and nostalgia.  She is away for a number
of evenings and somehow recovers her jewelry.  The husband comes to feel
revulsion for his wife and cannot share her pleasure at the prospect of
crossing the border to a new life.  "In a fremd land" is also a story of
immigrants and immigration, focusing on the chinks in the myths of
solidarity among relatives and hometown friends.  The protagonist misses
the warm greeting he hoped for from a childhood sweetheart and his
uncle's welcome is cold.  He had heard that people change in America...

In each of the seven stories Reznick shows us facets of Jewish history
as they affect individuals -- a shtetl philosemite, an apostate who
saves a Jewish community and is himself blessed by its rabbi, persons
tragically caught up by revolution and war, lives complicated by the
moral perils of immigration.  The story given here, "The Friend of the
Jews" is a fusion of the neo-hasidic tale and the realistic sketch.
Yiddish literature is not crowded with stories whose protagonists are
Gentiles.  Long before Yad VaShem honored the memory of "Righeous
Gentiles" who saved Jewish lives in the Nazi era, Reznik portrayed one
such character of an earlier period.  Reznik's use of the "cocking of
the crow" motif gives his story a resonance it would otherwise have
lacked.(4) The narrator explains the crowing naturalistically:  it is a
fear reaction.  But for many readers it signals, as in the famous New
Testament passages, the theme of betrayal.  In Reznik's story, this
betrayal is not only that of the Jews, but of the friend of the Jews by
his Christian neighbors.  Havrila cannot bear to think of this; he
"opens his mouth" and -- with the help of his sainted grandfather who
drove the Tsadik's coach for forty years?  -- finds relief by expressing
his horror in an eerie manner that is beyond reason.


1. _Ineynem_; a zamlung aroysgegebn fun Yehoyesh Shrayber Ferayn Farlag
/Dzherzi Siti un Bayon, 1930, 130 pp.  [United; a collection published
by the Yehoyesh Writers Association Publishing Co./ Jersey City and
Bayonne].  We note that a club of writers in two adjoining New Jersey
industrial cities honored Yehoyesh -- who is virtually ignored today --
sufficiently to name their association after him.  A giant in his day,
he would today be reckoned by most critics as "minor" -- despite his
monumental Bible translation.
2. Written by Khayem Grent, one of the contributors to the miscellany.
3. In order of  appeaance in the volume they are: Yekhiel Reznik
(1895-19??) [nl 8: 505-6];  Khayem Grent (1901-1952)
[nl 2:420-421]; Eliyohu Blokh (????-????); Yisroel Vigodski
(1888-1972) (co-editor of _Ineynem_) [nl 3:327]; Yankev
Zafren (????-????); Hersh Kohn (????-????). The Union List of
Serials in Israel does not list a copy of _Ineynem_.
4. See Matthew 26:71-5; Mark 14: 65-70.  The cock-crowing in Thomas
Hardy's _Tess of the d'Urbervilles_ is an augury of tragedy.

Date: 30 November 2002
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: Yekhiel Reznik's "Der yidn-fraynd"

                  "Der yidn-fraynd"
                    Yekhiel Reznik

a shtiler un laytisher mentsh iz havrila geven.

ale in shtetl hobn im fun kindvayz gedenkt, ven er flegt a borvoser un a
halb-naketer pashen bay yidn di kelblekh. un nit nor di arbet hot er
far yidn geton:  fraytik tsu nakht flegt er di laykhter fun tish
aropnemen, un in di vinterdike shabosim kumen oysheytsn dem oyvn.

havrila hot zikh oysgelernt afile yidish redn. shtetlshe hobn im vi a
heymishn un noentn gehaltn.

frume yidn hobn keyn mol nit gezhalevet far havrilan a greser shtikl
khale, a glezele mashke, vayl gevust hobn zey, az stefan, havrilas
zeyde, vos hot hundert un fir yor gelebt, hot karge fertsik yor getribn
dem boyd baym altn tsadik fun shtetl. hot men take dertseylt, az der
rebe hot stefanen di brokhe oyf arikhes-yomim gegebn.

havrila iz keyn mol not geven foyl tsu arbetn. a bisl gelt hot im zayn
zeyde yerushe gelozt, hot er take nokh in di yunge yorn farmogt a sakh
erd, vald, a shtibl un a sheyn direle in ek fun shtetl. gevorn a
bal-guf, ober in der yidisher gas flegt er nokh kumen fun tsayt tsu
tsayt. mase umaten gehat mit yidn:  vemen er hot a mestl tvue farkoyft,
vemen -- a beheymele. bay vemen gelt gelign un tsu vemen er iz glat azoy

azoy hot havrila gelebt yorn lang in shkheynes mit yidn. in di vinter
nekht flegt er lib hobn zitsn bay a glezl varims in a yidishn shokhns
hoyz un dertseyln mayses fun dem zeydn zaynem, vos iz fertsik yor baym
tsadik an ontrayber geven.

afile az a kind iz bay im krank gevorn, hot er gebrakht likht in tsadiks

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

az di shkhites oyf yidn hobn zikh in land ongehoybn, iz havrila geven
more-shkhoyredik, un az er hot a yidn. a shokhn, bagegnt, flegt er mit
hakhnoe dem kop boygn un di oygn tsu der erd arunterlozn.

hobn yidn shoyn gevust, az in an umglik kon men zikh bay havrilan

er flegt shoyn zey tsugreytn bahaltene erter, trogn ahin esn far
dervaksene un shikn zayn vayb onzoygn di oyfelekh...

besod soydes hot havrila es geton, un kedey m'zol oyf im keyn khshad nit
faln, hot er oyfgehert mit yidishe shkheynim tsu trefn, zikh dervaytert
fun zey, nit eyn mol zidlen zey befarhasye, tsulib mer zikherkayt.

a sod ken men ober lang nit haltn:  hobn goyim ongehoybn gevor vern, az
havrila ratevet di "zhides".

eynike hobn im muser gezogt, andere hobn im farmasert far "natshalstvo".
er flegt ober tomed zikh oysdreyen, konen dervayzn, az er iz, farkert,
der grester soyne dem yidishn folk.

kumt eyn mol an eltster fun a khopte gazlonim, kumt in aylenish. dervayl,
eyder vos-ven shekht men oys yidishe kinder. men roybt yidish hob un
guts, ober di blut-durshtike khayes viln nokh.

shikt er rufn havrilan:

-- du azelkher un azelkher, hostu zhides bay zikh oysbahaltn? di rege
zolst du zogn vu zey zaynen! un bikhdey oyfn goy varfn mer pakhed, iz er
im mekhabed mit a flamfayerdikn patsh.

azoy vi gazlonim un banditn zaynen yenem yor ibergegangen durkhn shtetl
in di toyznter, hot men on havrilan oykh nit fargesn:  a mol im a tson
oysgehakt, a mol blut fun der noz gelozt, a mol glat trukene klep im

havrila iz es alts mekabl beaave, khapt petsh un lozt zikh dervayl
arayn in rayes, az dos ales, vos der sar zogt iz der hipekh tsu dem vos
er, havrila, tut. a simen:  er hot shoyn nit eyn yidn ot mit zayne tsen
finger oyf yener velt aribergepeklt.

zogn flegt dernokh havrila, az nit er hot es getaynet, nor azoy vi
imitser hot geredt. er hot nor dos moyl gehaltn ofn.

s'rov iz der sof geven a guter:  er hot take gekhapt petsh nor tomed hot
men im nokh a klap geton in pleytse mayse guter bruder un gegloybt
havrilan, az er vet, kholile, keyn zhides nit bahaltn.

in zayn hoyz zaynen ale bahaltene kemerlekh geven ful mit yidn, dos
harts hot getsitert, s'zol khotsh keyner nit a shmek ton ahin..

yidn hobn gekukt oyf havrilan vi oyf a shaliekh fun dem oybershtn, vos
hot shoyn nit eyn yid geratevet.

geton hot er dos beshtike, ober eyn mol hot er gemuzt aroys befarhasye,
zikh aynshteln betn far a yidn un dermit tsugebn, az ale miseres zaynen
geven emes.

di mayse iz azoy geven:  gekumen iz in shtot a sar mit a por tsendlik
royber. zaynen yidn tsugevoynt:  zey zaynen nit shoyn di ershte.

iz ober der sar a modne khaye geven. vos -- hot er gezogt -- vos vel ikh
mayne hent shmutsn. dos gold un zilber darft ir mir gebn, vayl s'iz
undzers. dem rov vel ikh in mitn mark oyfhengen un mit di iberike yidn
-- vos mayn khevre vet voyl gefeln...

iz der rov fun shtetl, an eynikl funem altn tsadik, geven a kosherer
yid, geven a tate tsu zayn eyde, hot dos gantse shtetl oyf zikh di
kleyder gerisn, geklogt un geveynt, ven men hot dem rov tsum eltstn

geyen nokh yung un alt zeyer rov, brekhn di hent un konen zikh mit im
nit shaydn. un er, der rov, iz azoy ruik, zayne oygn finklen:  azoy vi
s'volt a freyd geven umkumen far zayn eyde, far di "tson kedoyshim".

demolt iz havrila gekumen tsum sar un gefaln im tsu di fis:  gevolt dem
rebn matsl zayn.

entfert im gornit der retseyekh, nor firt aroys havrilan in hoyf un
fregt bay zayne mekhablim un glat poyerim fun di arumike derfer beze

-- vos kumt dem mentshn vos shtelt zikh ayn far yidn? iz es gevorn a
groys gepilder. soynim hobn havrilan nit gefelt, hobn zey ongehoybn

__ ir zet, nit umzist hot men gezogt oyf im ... un a psak din hot men
aroysgegebn:  me zol take do oyfn hoykhn boym oyfhengen havrilan, nokh
eyder di zun ver fargeyn. keyner zol im tsu kvure nit breyngen. azoy zol
er heyngen oyfn boym biz s'vet fun im keyn zeykher nisht blaybn.

dervayl hot men genomen onton inuim koshim dem rov. un er, der tsadik,
krekhtst nor shtil, in zikh.

ligt havrila a gebundener, vart oyf der tlie un khidesht zikh, vos aza
shvakher mentsh vi der rov kon azelkhe gebrante laydn ibertrogn. un ven
dem rebns neshome hot zikh badarft mitn guf shaydn, hot er mit hislayves
getseylt vort ba vort, gezogt:  "sh-ma yis-ro-el!"

un havrila, vos hot nokh fun kindvayz gekont "krishme", hot opgeentfert

mit harts:  "e-khod!"

ven m'hot havrilan genumen dem shtrik ibern haldz fartsien, hot er
gekrogn groys pakhed un far shrek ongehoybn kreyen vi a hon.

hobn di tayvolim zikh dershrokn, gemeynt az a dibek iz in im arayn. hobn
zey opgevart a vayle...

dervayl iz ongelofn a rayter:  gikher, der soyne geyt!

-- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- --

un az di memshole in land hot zikh gebitn, hobn yidn gehat tsu dertseyln
fil vunder vi azoy havrila hot far zey dos lebn geshtrekt in yene
shreklekhe teg.

un vegn moyfes bay der tlie hot men dertseylt umatum, ibern gantsn land.

havrila darf zikh itst nit bahaltn mit zayn frayntshaft tsu yidn. kumt
er arayn, trinkt a glezele tey un dertseylt alts vegn yene teg.

a mol breyngt er a mestl kartoflyes a yidn a yoyred un iz mekhaye a

ale mol ven er redt vi azoy der rov iz umgekumen, vi azoy me hot im
gemutshet, dertseylt er, vi ale nakht kumt tsu im der rov in kholem a
ruiker, mit a shmeykhl oyf di lipn...

lang derfun redn kon er nit, vayl er heybt on kreyen vi a hon...

kinder tsuloyfn zikh fun shrek un eltere mentshn lozn farshemte arop di
oygn tsu der erd.

un zayn kreyen hert zikh vayt in shtetl...


Click here for Yiddish version

Date: 30 November 2002
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: 'The Friend of the Jews' in English translation (ed.)

        "The Friend of the Jews"  by Yekhiel Reznik

Havrila was a quiet, decent man.

Everyone in town remembered him as a child, barefoot and half-naked,
grazing the calves belonging to the Jews.  Nor was this the only work he
did for them:  on Friday evenings he removed the candelabra from dinner
tables and on the wintry Sabbaths he fired ovens.

Havrila had even learned to speak Yiddish.  The townspeople felt that he
was one of them.

Pious Jews were content to share their sabbath loaves with him and to
offer him a drink of shnaps, for they knew that Stefan, Havrila's
grandfather who lived to the age of 104, had driven the coach of the
town's venerable tsadik for no less than forty years.  Indeed, they
even said it was the old rabbi who gave Stefan the blessing of long

Havrila was never too lazy to work.  He inherited some money from his
grandfather and at a young age owned land, woods, a hut and a pleasant
little home in the corner of town.  He became a prosperous landholder,
but he still dropped in on Jews from time to time; He traded with them,
selling grain to one and a cow to another, borrowing money from one and
just paying a visit to another.

Havrila lived among Jews in this manner for many years.  In the winter
nights he loved to sit in a Jewish neighbor's home over a hot dish and
talk about his grandfather who drove the tsadik's coach for forty years.

Even when his own child was ill, the coachman brought candles to the
tsadik's prayer house...


When the massacre of Jews began in the country, Havrila became
depressed; when he passed a Jewish neighbor he meekly bowed his head and
lowered his eyes to the ground.

Thus Jews knew that if catastrophe struck they could hide at Havrila's.

He prepared hiding places, supplied food for the adults and directed his
wife to suckle the infants.

Havrila did all these things in utmost secrecy.  In order to deflect
suspicion he cut off all his dealings with his Jewish neighboras and,
for the sake of security, even mocked them publicly.

But a secret is hard to keep.  Gentiles began to find out that Havrila
was saving "zhides."

Some preached to him and others reported him to the authorities.  But he
somehow always managed to crawl out of close spots, declaring how much
he hated those despicable Jews.

One day a gang of thieves entered town and slaughtered Jews and pillaged
their homes.  But they wanted more.  Their commander summoned Havrila
and addressed him thus:

-- You so-and-so!  Are you hiding Jews?  Tell me where they are this

And to increase Havrila's fear, he honored him with a searing slap.

The thousands of bandits that rolled through the town that year seldom
forgot Havrila.  He lost a tooth from one, had a bloody nose from
another, not to mention all the dry blows.

Havrila bore all without bitterness.  And in the very act of being
beaten he tried to convince the commander that he was the opposite of
whom he was thought to be, that with his own hands he had finished off
many a Jew.

Afterwards Havrila would maintain that he did not utter these words.  He
had merely opened his mouth and someone had spoken them.

Things usually ended favorably for Havrila.  He did get a beating but at
a certain point his inquisitors would give him a rough comradely slap on
the back, convinced that this man did not hide Jews.

At his home, Jews crowded in the concealed spaces, trembling lest they
be discovered.

Jews saw Havrila as a divine messenger who had saved many a Jewish life.

He never paid notice to what was said of him, but on one occasion he was
forced to take a public stand in defence of a Jew, thus confirming the
truth of his enemies' charges.

This is the story:  A score or so of marauders swept into town under the
command of a leader.  They were hardly the first of their kind and Jews
were accustomed to such incursions.

But the gang leader was a peculiar character.  He was not about to soil
his hands -- it was for the Jews to give up the gold and silver that
rightfully belonged to him and his men.  He would hang the Rabbi in the
public square and let his men decide what t o do with all the other

The rabbi of the town, a grandson of the old Tsadik, was a pious Jew.
He was a true father to his flock and when he was lead away to the gang
leader, the entire terrified community could not stop wailing.

Young and old followed the rabbi; they wept and were unable to part with
him.  The rabbi himself was serenely calm and his eyes sparkled as
though it were a joy to give up his life for his congregation, for his
"Holy Flock."

It was at that moment that Havrila approached the gang leader and fell
at his feet -- he wanted to save the rabbi.

The murderer said nothing but lead the rabbi out into the square and
asked his henchmen and the peasants of the district that had gathered

-- What does a Jew-lover deserve?

Tumult arose.  Havrila had enemies in this crowd and their raucous
voices could be heard..

"Sure, he has always helped the Jews.  Let's hang him from the tallest
tree before the sun sets.  And let him hang there and never be buried,
hang until there is nothing left of him, the Jew-lover."

In the meantime they had begun to torture the rabbi, and this tsadik
groaned quietly to himelf.

Bound and waiting to be hanged, Havrila marveled how the frail rabbi
bore such pain.  And at the moment his soul parted from his body, the
rabbi in an ecstasy of attention pronounced each syllable and recited
"sh-ma yis-ro-el!"...

To which Havrila, who knew the _krishme_ prayer from childhood,
responded with all his heart, "e-khod!"

When they came to draw the rope over Havrila's neck, he panicked from
fear and began to crow like a cock.

This frightened the devils -- they thought a dybbuk had entered his body
and so they hesitated to go on...

At that moment a rider galloped up and cried out, "Fast, the enemy is


And when the government of the country changed, Jews told wonder tales
of how in those cataclysmic times Havrila risked his life for them.

The miracle at the scaffold was talked of throughout the land.

Havrila no longer has to hide his friendship with Jews.  He visits,
drinks a glass of tea and talks about the old days.

Sometimes he brings a Jew whose luck is down a sack of potatoes to
cheer him up.

Whenever he speaks of how the old rabbi died, how he was tortured,

he tells that every night in his dreams the rabbi visits him, and he looks
serene and there is a smile on his face...

He cannot speak of these things for long, for he begins to crow like a

Children are frightened and run away, but older persons shamefacedly
cast their eyes to the ground.

And his crowing is heard throughout the town...

[translated by Leonard Prager (copyright 2002)]
End of _The Mendele Review_ 06.011
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