The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
(A Companion to MENDELE)

Contents of Vol. 10.008 [Sequential No. 173]
31 August 2006

1) This issue of TMR (ed).
2) Yehoyesh Shpil [Yehoash Game]:
Play Way to Learn Yiddish and Tanakh (ed.)
3) Artists' Portraits of Yiddish Writers, 4th Series [Aleksander Mukdoyni] (David Mazower)
4) Two new poems by Boris Karlov: "Brivele" ; "Kh'ob gehert meshiekhs yidish"
5) Comments on Boris Karlov's ELABREK; lider fun nayem yorhundert (ed.)
6)  Form and Meaning: Variations on the Word mishpokhe (ed.) 
7) Books and Periodicals Received
8) On the horizon:
*** The tenth volume of Khulyot;
9) ***
- , ' -. -...
["Shprintse, kh'kum fun erets-yisroel. Gib mir a bisl floymen-tsimes"
(Sara Retter reads Bashevis's "Tayves")

Click here to enter:

31 August 2006

From: ed.

Subject: This issue of the TMR

*** We need to give more thought on how the internet can be used as a learning site for students of Yiddish. "Yehoyesh-Shpil" in this issue is an experimental notion which the many pedagogues, linguists and computing specialists who read TMR should be able to develop further. *** David Mazower continues his highly original study of Yiddish literary iconography, centering in his 4th installment on the pioneer of Yiddish theater criticism, Aleksander Mukdoyni (1878-1958). *** Two new poems by Boris Karlov, the most global of Yiddish poets. *** Bulletins from Jewish research institutions like the Yivo report great strides in making their treasures accessible on the internet these are exciting times for young scholars in the entire Judaica and Hebraica fields *** Yiddish interest in Israel shows signs of growing one can point to the Yidishspil theatrical company, the new periodical Davka and a highly successful summer course at Tel Aviv University.


Date: 31 August 2006
From: ed.
Subject: Yehoyesh Shpil [Yehoash Game]: Play Way to Learn Yiddish and Tanakh

There are an endless number of questions that can be asked of any text. The main point of Yehoyesh Shpil is to surf in the rich Yiddish text of Yehoyesh's Tanakh translation, one which is very traditional and will be familiar to all who know the Hebrew Bible. By devising various quiz games and utilizing the efficiency and rapidity of the latest Acrobat Reader search functions, one can in almost all instances find the correct answers (watching out, however, for absence of vocalization in searching).

One needs the text (which can be found at Di velt fun yidish website ( and the latest Acrobat Reader, suited to carrying out complex searches in PDF files. The simplest way to play with the Yehoyesh text is to use it as the source for quiz questions, the search program being the adjudicator of all queries.

Here is a series of simple questions, all by choice limited to the Khumesh. The answers of course would not be visible to the gamesters. They would have to find the answers and that is where some learning could occur.

1.     Q. Which word appears most in the five books of the Khumesh, milkhome or sholem? [A.. milkhome appears a total of 51 times; sholem a total of 9 times]. Each instance is given and the student can see where Yehoyesh has used the synonym krig 'war, battle' as few as 6 times in the entire Khumesh.

2.     Q. In which book of the Khumesh does the word milkhome appear most? [A. Dvorim has it 23 times; Bamidber 16 times; Shmoys 10 times and Breyshis 2 times; Vayikro 0 times.]

3.     Q. List the frequency of appearance of the personal pronouns in Breyshis. Which appears the most? Any gender differences detectable? [A. er = 755, ikh = 488, zey = 458, im = 430, mir = 320, ir = 238, zi = 224, dir = 176, es =161 [not counting s'], du = 118, aykh = 93, undz = 80]

4.     Q. What is the most common word in Breyshis?
[A. One player guesses "hot" ('has') and gets a figure of 1786; another player "plays" "tsu" ('to') and gets a miserable 843; the clever one gives "un" ('and') and that gets 3357. According to the rules made up at the outset, this could be the winner or there could be an even more common word in the text.]

5.     Q. How many times does the word khet 'sin' occur in Breyshis? [A. Only twice! Surprising? Remember that this Yehoyesh text follows the SYO (Standard Yiddish Orthography) and khet is spelled khes, tes, alef.

6.     Q. Which word appears more frequently in Breyshis, himl 'heaven' or erd 'earth'? [A. erd = 155 times; himl = 40 times]

This last question brings me back to earth and I acknowledge that this game will not beat Monopoly not to mention violent computer war games but there must be devices for employing it to learn Yiddish better and to get to know our Yiddish Tanakh better. Yehoyesh deserves our interest! Suggestions are welcomed.


Date: 31 August 2006
From: David Mazower
Subject: Artists' Portraits of Yiddish Writers, 4th Series [Aleksander Mukdoyni]

Artists Portraits of Yiddish Writers, 4th Series; Portraits of Aleksander Mukdoyni

This article was prompted by a random find on a recent visit to that Mecca of Yiddish bibliophiles: the National Yiddish Book Center. Browsing the shelves I came across one of those anniversary publications so beloved of Yiddishists two or three generations ago: a 50th birthday tribute to the Yiddish theatre critic Aleksander Mukdoyni. Yoyvl zamlbukh / lekoved dem 50 yorikn geburtstog fun / dr a. mukdoyni [Jubilee anthology in honour of the 50th birthday of Dr A. Mukdoyni] , published in New York in 1927, contains articles by some of the luminaries of the Yiddish theatre and literary world, including Shmuel Niger, Yankev Mestel, Moris Shvarts (Maurice Schwartz), Yankev Kalikh (Jacob Kalich), and Yoysef Rumshinski. The brochure also reproduces pictures of Mukdoyni by four Jewish artists: a sculpture by Ayzenberg, a caricature by Zuni Maud, a Cubist style portrait by Issachar Ber Ryback and a portrait by Abraham Manievich. As the portraits and tributes suggest, Mukdoyni was a figure of some considerable weight in Yiddish intellectual circles between the two world wars. Further evidence in support of this claim comes in the form of a commercial postcard with his likeness, issued in Russian Poland, which I came across on Ebay and take the opportunity to reproduce here. Incidentally, I am not aware of what became of any of these portraits; the Ryback is by some way the most artistically significant of the group, but it would be interesting to hear any information about their present whereabouts.

Aleksander Mukdoyni [Alexander Mukdoni] 1878 - 1958 [pseudonym of Aleksander Kapel]

Mukdoyni has been hailed as the first (professional) Yiddish theatre critic (by Sh. Niger and others) and he is undoubtedly an important figure for the study of Yiddish theatre. But in the course of a literary career spanning half a century his interests and subjects ranged well beyond the Yiddish stage. Mukdoyni was active in radical politics, studied philosphy, drama, law and classics at advanced university level, wrote fiction, published widely on the theatre and world affairs, was a leading Yiddish cultural activist in New York and also published an important autobiography running to well over a thousand pages.

He was born in Lekhevitsh in the region of Minsk, Byelorussia in 1878. (At least that is the date given in all the major biographical reference works; however the appearance of the 50th anniversary brochure in 1927 would appear to suggest a date of 1877). Following a traditional kheyder and yeshiva education, in 1894 he moved to Pinsk where he became active in the socialist Zionist workers movement. After a period studying philosophy and classics in Berlin, he returned to Lekhevitsh in 1902 and spent a year as a private teacher. Between 1903 and 1909 he studied and taught philosphy, law, classics, literary history and theatre in Warsaw, Dijon, Lausanne, Geneva, Paris and Berne. In 1909 he received his doctorate from the University of Berne for a dissertation on factory inspections.

Mukdoyni returned to Warsaw in 1909, joined the literary circle around Perets, began to publish stories and sketches in a wide variety of Yiddish periodicals, and embarked on his career as a Yiddish theatre critic, historian and activist. Along with Perets and the writer Hersh-Dovid Nomberg, Mukdoyni was a leading intellectual advocate for art theatre in Yiddish. During the 1914 - 18 war he was involved in Jewish relief efforts in St Petersburg. He left Russia in 1920, worked as a Yiddish journalist in Kovno for a couple of years, then made his way via Germany to the United States.

In New York Mukdoyni joined the staff of the newspaper Morgen zhurnal as its theatre critic. He was also active in numerous societies and organisations concerned with Yiddish theatre, including magazines, theatre studios and a theatre museum. The author of many hundreds of articles, Mukdoyni gathered some of this material into a volume entitled Teater (New York, 1927) and published another study of Perets and the Yiddish theatre (New York, 1949). He devoted much of his final years to writing his memoirs. Almost nothing of this voluminous output has been translated into English, nor has any recent scholarly work been done on his writings and his career as a cultural activist; indeed, in the words of Leonard Prager, Mukdoyni emerges as a largely forgotten figure who could be rewarding to rediscover. .

Photographic postcard of Mukdoyni
published in
Warsaw, c 1912
(photographer unknown)


Probably one of the earliest commercially available images of Mukdoyni, this card is one of dozens of similar portraits of Yiddish and Hebrew writers and intellectuals issued in Warsaw in the early decades of the twentieth century. (As well as the great literary figures, there are many relatively obscure authors and poets pictured on such cards, but they are invariably men; I cannot recall seeing a single woman featured in these series). The caption reads: Der emes vert in teater geshpilt un in lebn farleydikt.dr a. mukdoni (The truth is depicted in the theatre and denied in lifeDr A. Mukdoyni). Mukdoyni was clearly proud of his academic doctorate and seems to have insisted on the Dr Mukdoyni formulation for public appearances and in all publications by and about him.

Sculpture of Mukdoyni
by Ayzenberg
c 1925

This image was selected for the front cover of the commemorative brochure issued in New York in 1927 to mark Mukdoynis fiftieth birthday. The artists name is given as A. Ayzenberg; is this the same person as the Bezalel artist Yankev Ayzenberg (Jacob Eisenberg) but with the wrong initial? The latter artist was born in Pinsk, Poland in 1897, made his way to Palestine in 1913 to study art, and in 1919 specialised in ceramics at Viennas School for Arts and Crafts. He returned to Palestine in the 1920s, teaching at the Bezalel school, and opening a ceramics workshop in Tel Aviv. He died in Jerusalem in the 1960s.


Caricature of Mukdoyni
by Zuni Maud
c. 1925


For biographical details about Maud, see this authors article in TMR Vol. 10.003 (March 2006). This is a further example of that artists witty, irreverent style of caricature portraiture. On a linguistic note, the Yiddish word used to describe the portrait is sharzsh charge, caricature, comic exaggeration (the full caption reads: sharzsh fun z. maud ) rather than the more commonly used karikatur or vitsbild.

Portrait of Mukdoyni
by Issachar Ber Ryback
c. 1922


Ryback (Ribak) was a leading figure in the movement to create a modern Jewish national art by means of a synthesis of traditional folk art and avant-garde painting. In his brief career, Ryback experimented with many different styles. Much of his best work was produced around the period of the Russian revolution, notably several masterpieces showing the world of the shtetl collapsing under the strain of war and revolution. But Ryback was also capable of lapsing into gross sentimentality, and some of his crude and exaggerated portrayals of shtetl backwardness might, in other hands, be accused of verging on the anti-semitic.

Born in Ukraine in 1897 into a Hasidic family, Ryback studied at the Art Academy in Kiev, alongside Mane-Katz and Boris Aronson. An enthusiastic supporter of the Russian revolution, he was an active member of the influential secular Yiddish cultural organisation Kultur Lige. His Pogrom series of 1918, painted following the murder of his own father the previous year and now in the collection of the Museum of Art in Ein Harod, Israel is one of the most powerful depictions of such anti-Jewish attacks in modern art. He left Russia in 1921 and spent several years in Berlin, coming under the influence of the Constructivists. Ryback was also active in Berlin as an illustrator of Yiddish childrens books and limited edition albums of lithographs, eg Shtetl / Mayn khorever heym / a gedenknish [Small Town, My Destroyed Home, A Recollection] (1923). He spent his last decade in Paris, where he died in 1935. His widow donated many of his paintings to a Ryback Museum in Bat Yam, Israel, which opened in the 1960s.

(For more on Ryback, see the articles by Seth Wolitz and others in Ruth Apter-Gabriel, ed. Tradition and Revolution / The Jewish Renaissance in Russian Avant-Garde Art, 1912 - 1928 (Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, 1987).

Sketch of Mukdoyni
by Abraham Manievich

The first half of Manievichs artistic career was spent in Europe, the final part in America, where he was among the large group of mainly leftist Jewish immigrant artists who achieved prominence in the interwar years. He was born in 1881 in Bielorussia and studied art in Kiev and Munich. Primarily a landscape painter, Manievich held solo exhibitions of his work at the State Museum in Kiev and at commercial galleries in western Europe in the years before the First World War. He was appointed Professor of Art at the Kiev Academy in 1917, and his work gradually evolved a greater degree of Jewish consciousness. In 1919 Manievichs son was killed in an anti-Jewish riot in Kiev, a personal tragedy which prompted the painting Destruction of the Ghetto, now in the collection of the Jewish Museum in New York.

Manievich left Russia in 1921, and settled in New York the following year, around the same time as Mukdoyni. His cubo-futurist landscapes of the Bronx and other neighbourhoods were immediately noted, and he was given two solo exhibitions at American museums in the 1920s. Manievich shared a studio with his friend the sculptor Aaron Godelman and was an active member of the American section of the Yidisher kultur farband (YKUF), the Communist-affiliated Yiddishist cultural organisation formed to promote Jewish culture and combat anti-semitism in the late 1930s. Manievich died in 1942; his last solo exhibition in the USA was held one year later. His portrait of Khayim Zhitlovski, the leading ideologist of secular Yiddishkayt, is in the archives of the YIVO Institute in New York.


Kleeblat, Norman and Chevlowe, Susan (eds.), Painting a Place in America / Jewish Artists in New York 1900 - 1945 (New York: The Jewish Museum, 1991)

Mane-Katz - Issachar Ryback / Connections (Haifa: Mane-Katz Museum, 1993)

Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur [Biographical dictionary of Modern Yiddish Literature], Vol. 4 (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, 1963)

Yoyvl zamlbukh / lekoved dem 50 yorikn geburtstog fun / dr a. mukdoyni [Jubilee anthology in honour of the 50th birthday of Dr A Mukdoyni], (New York: A. Mukdoyni yubiley komitet, 1927)

Zylbertsvayg, Zalmen (ed.), Leksikon fun yidishn teater [Biographical Dictionary of Yiddish Theatre], 6 vols, Warsaw, New York and Mexico City, 1931 - 70.


Date: 31 August 2006

From: (ed.)

Subject: Two new poems by Boris Karlov: "Brivele" ; "Kh'ob gehert meshiekhs yidish" [from ELABREK; lider fun nayem yorhundert]


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Date:31 August 2006
From: ed.
: Boris Karlov, the most global of Yiddish poets 

Boris Karlov. ELABREK; lider fun nayem yorhundert. Yerusholaim: Farlag "Eygns", tashza"v [2006]. [English title: Boris Karloff. ELABREK: poems of the new millennium]

Boris Karlov [English pen-name Boris Karloff] don't let the name frighten you is a very special breed of poet. Son of an accomplished poet, he both continues his father's tradition and invents his own. More so than his father, he is a natural-born globetrotter, linguistically and poetically at home in Moscow, Jerusalem, Oxford, Washington and Bloomington! Despite his tribute to Menke Katz "S'hot mikh Menke gelernt/ Zikh bafrayen fun di gramen" (p. 48), Karlov is an adventurous rimer -- he revels in rime. He has no difficulty in coupling oybn-on and Vashington and is not abashed by riming the blatant Americanism olrayt with tsayt in a poem "Blumington harbst" which opens with the trite "A simfonye fun farbn" but improves with the playful "Bleter, bleter, bleter faln / Mit yedn fal vert alts farfaln / Mit yedn ris vert alts farlorn / S'faln bleter metaforn". The latter poem also reveals the poet's excessive fondness for phrases like "mame-naket" and "tsvaygn-tsiter". (pp. 21-22) He crosses borders easily consider shure: sinecure (p. 17) and can play with homonyms: "Derzen di shtern / Un farkneytsht dem shtern" (p. 27). One hears Frostian and Eliotic echoes in "Kh'hob lib dem fal fun 'letste' bleter" ("Prolog") and "Lomir bald aroys tsuzamen / beyde ikh un du " (p. 11), but he generally turns them to his own purposes. The chief subject of this new collection is poetry itself and the poet ceaselessly meditates on the wonder of composition. The central poem of this slim volume may be "A lid iz nit stam azoy" ('A poem is not just as it is") (p. 40).

Date:31 August 2006
From: ed.
Subject: Form and Meaning: Variations on the Word mishpokhe (ed.) 



Cover of a catalogue of a Haifa 2006 exhibition on the theme of the common and also contrasting histories and life paths of two Jewish and two Arab families in Israel. It is interesting that the author chose as title a Yiddish word, one with strong emotional overtones, and retained it in its Ashkenazic form, perhaps to communicate a sense of the complexity and tangledness of family connections . The substitution of /u/ for /o/ would have made a large difference. In the most recent book of Israeli slang, Rubik Rosenthal's Milon haSleng haMakif, we find the entry mishpUkhe, pronounced as SEY speakers would normally pronounce it and which carries an ironic or ambivalent view of the family, different from the straight Israeli referential mishpaKHA


Date: 31 August 2006
From: ed.
Subject: Books and Periodicals Received

*** Lebns-fragn; sotsialistishe khoydesh-shrift far politik, gezelshaft un kultur. Nos. 645-6 (July-August 2006). Ed.: Yitskhok Luden. Address: 48 Kalisher St., Tel-Aviv 65165. Tel. 972-3-517-6764.

*** Yivo News / Yedies fun yivo. No. 201. Spring 2006. 29 pp. English; 7 pp. Yiddish. This attractively produced bulletin never disappoints with its bibliographical nuggets that warm a Yiddish scholar's heart.

***CJHNews No. 14 (Spring / Summer 2006). This 12-page bulletin informs us that the Center for Jewish History is now an Affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and that its Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) "will now open the pages of Jewish history preserved at the Center as they have never been before." Brad Sabin Hill's piece on Joseph Wulf, author of Kritishe minyaturen, will be of interest to all students of Yiddish literature. The rare Kritishe minyaturen, Hill tells us, is "The last volume of Yiddish literary criticism issued in Poland before the destruction of Polish Jewry" (p.8)

Book cover design by David Luria for Shalom Luria's translations of seven stories
by Der Nister (Pinkhes Kahanovitsh (1884-1950)
MeOtsar Sipurey HaNistar

[Sifriat Khulyot 3, Yerushalaim:
Carmel, 2006]

Shalom Luria's Hebrew translations of five of the difficult-to-translate Der Nister's stories has been published as the third work in the Khulyot Library Series. (Mendele's Dos kleyne mentshele and Der Nister's Mayselekh in ferzn, also the work of Shalom Luria, were the first two translated books in this series.) All three books were published by Carmel, POB 43092, Jerusalem 91430. [Tel. 972-2-6540578, Fax 972-2-6511650;;]. The Der Nister stories translated are "Meylekh Magnus," "In vayn-keler," "A bobe-mayse oder di mayse mit di mlokhim," "Fun mayne giter," "Gekept." The translator has added a lengthy afterword discussing the writer and his works. David Luria's illustrations make this an especially attractive volume.


Date: 31 August 2006
From: ed.
Subject: The tenth volume of Khulyot

The tenth volume of Khulyot is presently at the printer's (Tsur-Ot in Jerusalem, an important address in the Yiddish world!). It can be ordered from the Department of Hebrew Literature, Eshkol Tower, University of Haifa, Haifa 31905, Israel for the subsidized price of 60 shekels in Israel and 15 dollars abroad. This volume should interest all Yiddish scholars who read Hebrew and prove useful even to those who do so haltingly. The annual Khulyot is the only academic journal in Israel devoted to the study of Yiddish language, literature and folklore. It is especially rich bibliographically in its tenth appearance since it includes a cumulative index of the first ten volumes. The contributors represent most of the universities in Israel and their essays mirror the scope and variety of current Yiddish research in and out of Israel.

In the forthcoming tenth volume we can read Avner Holzman on Berditshevski's bilingual writings, veteran scholar Shmuel Werses on Mendele's play "Di takse" [tax on kosher meat], Ziva Shamir on Bialik's ambivalence towards Hasidism, and studies by both younger and experienced scholars of Shomer, Bashevis, Manger, Ash, Grade, Yankev Fridman , Mortkhe Shtrigler, Hilel Tseytlin and others. The issue is especially rich in exploring periodical publications, with investigations of the Tsushtayer Group in Galicia: 1929-1932, Tkhies-HaMeysim the first shoa survivors' periodical, Undzer shtime -- The Bergen-Belsen displaced persons' camp periodical, the New York Folksadvokat [People's Advocate], the New York Kinder-zhurnal. Avidov Lipsker writes on Jewish book design and illustration from the beginnings of printing in eastern Europe until today. These mentioned items are but a part of a large and varied selection.

31 August 2006
From: ed.
Subject: Bashevis' "Tayves"

*** - , ' -. -...

["Shprintse, kh'kum fun erets-yisroel. Gib mir a bisl floymen-tsimes"

The Yiddish text of Bashevis's three-part story "Tayves" ('Passions') is already in place at and within the coming fortnight the accompanying audio will join it so that readers will be able to simultaneously scroll the text and listen to Vilna-born Sara Retter read it. There is no better way to learn Yiddish.

Zalmen Glezer, Leyvi-Yitskhok, and Meyer Tumtum the same triad of batlonim we meet in the titular story of the earlier volume entitled Mayses fun hintern oyvn [Stories Behind the Stove] (Tel-Oviv: Perets, 1970) are the narrators of "Tayves" ('Passions'), which appeared in Di goldene keyt 87 (1975), 16-26. Glezer tells the story of an extraordinary Palestinophile, Leyvi-Yitskhok of an amorets turned talmed-khokhem by the force of implacable desire, and Meyer Tumtum (Meyer the Eunuch) spins out a yarn of a Hasidic rebe who found his deepest and indeed most sensual pleasure in the abnegations of yonkiper, turning the Hasidic pleasure principle on its head and proving, as the teller concludes in the closing sentence of the entire tryptych: "Yede zakh ken vern a tayve, afile dinen dem eybershtn"


End of The Mendele Review Vol. 10.008

Editor, Leonard Prager

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