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

Contents of Vol. 12.009 [Sequential No.
Date: 13 April 2008

11th Anniversary & 200th Issue

1) This issue of TMR (ed).
2) Introducing the Editor
3) Letters to the editor re mentsh and khurbm (to be continued)
Anniversary messages (selection)
Prof. Dov-Ber Kerler (Indiana University,
Prof. Joseph Sherman (Oriental Institute, Oxford)
Prof. Seth Wolitz (University of Texas, Austin)
Prof. Yechiel Szeintuch (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)
Morrie Feller (Phoenix, Arizona)
Dr. Zelda Newman (Lehman College, New York)
Prof. Avrom Novershtern (Hebrew University, Jerusalem; Bet Shalom Aleichem,Tel-Aviv)
Dr. Ian Young (Lingua Medica, London)
Dr. Heather Valencia (The Stirling University, Scotland, UK)
Dr. Boris Kotlerman (Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel)
Dr. Yael Chaver (University of California, Berkeley)
Andrew Firestone (Monash Univerity, Melbourne, Australia)
5) The Oldest Review of a Yiddish Play in America (New York Sun, 1885)
6) Nathan Birnbaum [Nosn Birnboym] Delivers Opening Speech at Czernowitz 1908


Date: 13 April 2008
From: ed.
This issue of TMR

*** When Mendele, the parent of The Mendele Review, started out many years ago, contributors were asked to introduce themselves. Either from laziness or shyness I failed to do so. On this occasion, the 200th issue and eleventh anniversary of TMR, I provide both a biographical sketch and two photos.*** The main body of this issue is composed of congratulatory messages from appreciative readers. They have given me very great satisfaction and I hope that I continue to deserve them. *** TMR deals with an array of critical questions, from entire works to individual words. In this issue we continue our discussion of mentsh and khurbm (see TMR12.008). ***Two fundamental documents in the history of modern Yiddish culture round out this celebratory issue. The first theater review of a Yiddish play in America, published in the New York Sun in 1885, is important despite its confusion between Hebrew and Yiddish and other incongruities. The final item in this issue is Nosn Birnboym's notable address opening the Czernowitz Language Conference of 1908, his first speech ever in Yiddish (and said to have been read in the Galitsianer dialect).


Date: 13 April 2008
From: ed.
Introducing the Editor

Leonard Prager was born in 1925 to an immigrant family from Ukraine that settled in Philadelphia in the neighborhood known as "Strawberry Mansion". He attended Central High School and later studied English literature at Temple and Yale Universities. From age fifteen he was active in the Hashomer Hatsair Youth Movement group which founded Kibbutz Sasa. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1944 to 1946 and in 1948 worked on ships carrying refugees from Europe to Israel and later at several collective settlements. Returning to the USA he was Teaching Fellow in Humanities at Brandeis University, taught at the University of Connecticut, completed his doctorate at Yale, taught at Washington University in St. Louis, followed by three years in London teaching for the University of Maryland Overseas Program while researching Yiddish culture in the United Kingdom. In 1963 he settled in Israel, teaching at the Hebrew University's Tel-Aviv branch before moving to Haifa, where he has remained. In 1967-8 he was Visiting Professor at Teachers' College, Columbia University and participant in a Yiddish seminar taught by Max Weinreich. At the University of Haifa he founded the Yiddish Studies Program and co-edited the Jewish Language Review (1981-1987). He is the author of Yiddish Literary Periodicals and Miscellanies and of Yiddish Culture in Britain, scores of essays on Yiddish authors in the Encyclopaedia Judaica and other reference works. Now an Emeritus Professor, he edits The Mendele Review, an electronic journal of Yiddish studies, and Di velt fun yidish (The World of Yiddish), a website that gives the entire text of the Hebrew Bible in the exemplary Yiddish translation by Yehoyesh. This website has earned international recognition for its readings of classic Yiddish texts. Leonard Prager helped to found the Haifa Branch of the Israel Assn. for Civil Liberties. He lives on the Carmel, close to his daughter, son and three grandsons.


Somewhat more than a decade ago when TMR was born:

The background is a tapestry my parents bought from a boatsman while their ship from Constanta, Romania to Providence, Rhode Island in 1923 passed through the Straits of Gibraltar.



A recent photo in a favorite old sweater almost as old as I am:



Date: 13 April 2008
From: Zach Smith
Letters to the editor re mentsh and khurbm

I must agree that the much-feted sense of 'mentsh' "a real human being, a decent individual" looks like a stretch in Ms. Wisse's Warsaw example. A return inside and perhaps a light dressing of wounds seems  like a poor opportunity for the demonstration of grace, civility, and  responsibility that we expect when we would call someone 'a mentsh'. But I would have to say the straightforward 'be a man' rings similarly off for me. After all, unless she's sternly telling him not to cry, the mother's actions towards her son are the opposite of macho exhortation: she's tenderly attending to him after (and only after, for what could anyone have done?) he's been roughed up by absurdly huge forces beyond his control.

I would say that the contrast the boy's mother draws is one between the hostile, violent and senseless world of the courtyard, and the quiet and relative safety of their home. I think the transformation into 'mentsh' is neither the assumption of moral qualities, nor of masculine onesbut rather, the restoration of the boy's general sense of humanity in the face of a pervasive dehumanizing experience. 'Come, be a human being again, by being among other human beings.'


I would like to address the argument, '"After [P] and [B], syllabic [N] is sounded as [M]."' This is true. But it displays a crucial category error. The key word there is 'sounded'. And the romanization  is a transliteration, not a transcription. In other words, it's an orthographic transfer, from one standardized writing system to another, and not a recording of speech. And after all, in the standard Yiddish orthography, [m] is recognized as an allophone of syllabic [n], i.e. they are considered the same phonemethough they patently differ phonetically.

But allophones they are, because they derive from the same written letter. After all, it would be thoroughly improper to start talking  about 'carz' and 'planez'; in many cases a written /s/ is pronounced  with voice, rendering it [z] on the tongue. But [z] is recognized as an allophone of /s/, and thus not phonemically distinctive in those cases. I think you will agree that in that case the language is better served by orthographic consistency than by phonetic faithfulness. 

After all, we write 'oyf', when writing in Latin script, though we know it's not pronounced that way. In a language with as much dialectical variation as this, orthographic adherence is more important.

Date: 13 April 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Readers write to the TMR

Prof. Dov-Ber Kerler (Indiana University)

, ,

- ! 200 TMR ! , -- , , ! TMR , ! , , , , -, , ! - ,




Prof. Joseph Sherman (Oriental Institute, Oxford)

TMR Anniversary

That TMR has steadily reached its astonishing 11th anniversary and its 200th issue is wholly due to the indefatigable dedication of Leonard Prager, its founder editor. Thus in celebrating this milestone, it is to him firstly that we owe all honour, credit and gratitude. Without his tireless work, his erudite and discerning judgement, and his gentlemanly determination to conduct debate and encourage research with scrupulous fairness and courtesy to all, this inestimable on-line resource would not exist.

In and of itself, this on-line journal dedicated to all matters related to Yiddish language, literature and culture the only one of its kind has for over a decade provided not only a forum through which contributors have been able to reach fellow Yiddishists all over the world, but has also ensured that the research, debates and discussions it has promoted will be preserved.

We have all grown so long accustomed to the regular appearance of TMR, and become so used to consulting it, challenging it and sharing our work with it, that we all, perhaps, complacently take its existence for granted. I am surely not alone in hoping that the magnificent work it has fostered will endure indefinitely.

It is therefore with a deep sense of privilege, as well as the greatest pleasure, that I send my warmest congratulations on the occasion of this anniversary, and my heartfelt good wishes for its long and successful continuance. We need TMR!

Joseph Sherman
Woolf Corob Fellow in Yiddish Studies
Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies


Prof. Seth Wolitz (University of Texas, Austin)

On the approaching anniversary of TMR. let me be among the many who wish TMR hearty congratulations for its central importance in keeping all the scholars involved with our secular Jewish studies aware of our worldwide ties. The richness of the articles, the variety and the width of intellectual interests underscore how essential a role TMR plays in our Republic of Letters. I hope that in the coming years it will permit more growth in the area of inter-cultural studies as we become more and more aware of the interfaces in the various parts of the world where Jewish life encounters the Other and has both received and affected the Other. We also need to see more studies of generic forms and their implications as well as studies of narrative plotting with its implications both formal and ethical. We should also be moving to separate the nationalist from the national themologies  in Jewish literatures and seek parallels in both other Jewish expressions and parallel cultures experiencing the same subaltern conditions. I look forward to more theater studies and performative studies. We also need to better integrate folklore studies with our literary and cultural studies so that Jewish folklore is not just a separate area of study but a necessary part of the literary culture that enriches the fullest expression of the culture.

TMR is a magnificent act of Jewish self-determination in scholarship and you, Leonard Prager, have played the masterful role of both scholar and impresario in making the field a living source of fruitful fellowship and intellectual stimulation. You have accomplished a legacy for yourself and for the culture of Catholic Israel.

Seth Wolitz
Gale Chair of Jewish Studies
University of Texas at Austin


Prof. Yechiel Szeintuch (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

My best wishes to Prof. Leonard Prager for a long-range continuation of his unique internet journal devoted to Yiddish literature and culture. His manifold interests in what's going on in the field of publications of Yiddish books and Yiddish research nourish month by month our interest for up-to-date developments in this field. The short and concise commentaries and longer critical reviews written by Prof. Leonard Prager give the TMR an interactive character and a vivid élan. One of the exclusive features of the TMR is Leonard Prager's inclusive policy to relate with due respect to any manifestation of creative zest and commitment to the almost millennial Yiddish culture. In order to maximize the benefits of Leonard Prager's long and sustained efforts to inform the general public about Yiddish culture, I wish him to be able to provide us with a full index of the first 200 issues of TMR, an endeavor that calls for help, which the editor of TMR undoubtedly deserves

Prof. Yechiel Szeintuch.


Morrie Feller

Sholem aleykhem, Leonard!

Your TMR issues have been so outstanding in terms of content and presentation, that I have been saving them for many years. You have not only contributed vastly to the corpus of Yiddish which is available on the Internet, but at the same time have demonstrated the power of the internet to help Yiddish not only survive, but thrive. Yasher koekh!

Mit vareme yidish-grusn,

Morrie Feller


Dr. Zelda Newman (Lehman College, New York)


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Prof. Avrom Novershtern (Hebrew University and Bet Shalom Aleichem)

Es kumt a hartsikn yasher-koyekh Leonard Prager far zayn gebentshter initsyativ aroystsugebn dem Mendeler Review. In di letste yorn zenen mir gevorn shreklekh orem vos shaykh zhurnaln vegn yidish un  khokhmes-yidish. Iz "bimkoym sheeyn ish...", staret zikh der Mendele  Review oystufiln dem bloyz, un er tut es af a gor gerotenem oyfn. Mir  freyen zikh mit yedn nayem numer fun Review, un mir hofn az zayn redaktor vet hobn genug koyekh un akshones es tsu firn vayter af nokh tsvey hundert numern.

Avrom Novershtern


Dr. Ian Young (Lingua Medica, London)

The Jewish Language Review which Leonard Prager began to produce from Haifa in 1981 with David Gold was astonishingly detailed, authoritative and wide-ranging. Yet it was perfectly accessible to interested amateurs, who couldnt fail to be drawn into the worlds it revealed, perhaps never more so than in the responses to and from native dialect speakers often continents away from the cultures and communities into which theyd been born. It was a pre-Internet forum, one of the first of its kind in the learned journal field, within any discipline. In those early digital days Leonard Prager became a self-taught master of word-processed self-publishing. Once David Gold withdrew, it became impossible for him to continue alone, with the result that the JLR folded, to the huge disappointment of this reader. The Mendele Review's attributes were immediately recognizable: the same open expert forum format, the same unrestricted variety of topics, now extended by the potential of the high-speed internet, and the same mix of journal length articles. Completion of TMRs 200th issue makes it a worthy successor to the JLR. This non-specialist reader finds something new and fascinating in almost every issue. May The Mendele Review continue to climb towards volume 300!

Ian Young


Dr. Heather Valencia (The Stirling University, Scotland, UK)

Eleven unbroken years of The Mendele Review:  a wonderful achievement on the part of Leonard Prager, and a testimony to his sparkling erudition and dedication to Yiddish . Looking through the back numbers, one is amazed at the breadth and depth of the cultural topics which are covered. Shekoyekh to you, Leonard, and thank you for your unstinting work, which has nurtured and maintained this invaluable journal. Long may it continue.

Heather Valencia


Dr. Boris Kotlerman (Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel)

Hartsike brokhes tsu di redaktorn un leyener fun Mendele Review mitn 200tn numer - fun di lerers funem yidish-tsenter in Bar-Ilan! Ken-yirbu!

Ber Kotlerman


Dr. Yael Chaver (University of California, Berkeley)

Dear Lenny,

A groyser yasher-koyekh un a hartsikn dank far di arbet vos du leygst arayn ale yorn in TMR.  Alevay vayter! 

mit hartsike grisn,

Yael Chaver


Andrew Firestone (Monash University, Melbourne Australia)

Dear Leonard

Congratulations and thank you for reaching the two hundredth issue of The Mendele Review.  Together with Mendele you have created a community for lovers of Yiddish literature worldwide. The devoted scholarship displayed in TMR is an inspiration and a benchmark. The occasional controversy keeps us looking forward to the next issue! All power to you and your collaborators.

Andrew Firestone

5) ---------------------------------------------------------
Date: 13 April 2008
Robert Goldenberg
Subject: The Oldest Review of a Yiddish Play in America (New York Sun, 1885)


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Date: 13 April 2008

From: Robert Goldenberg

Subject: Nathan Birnbaum [Nosn Birnboym] Delivers Opening Speech at Czernowitz 1908


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End of The Mendele Review Issue 12.009
Editor, Leonard Prager
Editorial Associate, Robert Goldenberg

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