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

Contents of Vol. 12.011 [Sequential No. 202]
Date: 18 May 2008

1) This issue of TMR (ed.).
2) Yiddish periodicals (ed.)
Kadya Molodowsky: Clearing the Mist (Zelda Kahana-Newman)
Table of Contents of  Khulyot, Volume 11 (ed.)
Periodicals Received: Gilgulim 1 (Paris); Davka 4 (Jerusalem), Yidishe heftn 124 (Paris); Afn shvel 340-341 (New York); Lebns-fragn 665-666 (Tel Aviv) (ed.)

Date: 18 May 2008
From: ed.
This issue of TMR  

In this issue of TMR we briefly review the situation of the Yiddish periodical, give the table of contents of the forthcoming issue of Khulyot (vol.11), and illustrate the front covers of some of our leading Yiddish serials. Zelda Kahana-Newman shares with us her current research on Kadya Molodowsky.  We delay our promised discussion of romanization until we have heard from TMR linguists on the subject. Note that we spell the name of the periodical which has been referred to often as "Heshbon" according to the rules of the Standard Romanization as khezhbm.

Date: 18 May 2008
From: ed.
Yiddish Periodicals Today

***Periodicals: This issue of TMR notes (but does not comprehensively assess) the capital possessed by our highly variegated field of Yiddish studies in the form of periodicals (as distinct from books and reference works). They may call themselves weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies, or annuals, but often enough are of irregular frequency. They are literary, literary-political, partisan, non-partisan, all-Yiddish, partly Yiddish, all-English, all-Hebrew (e.g. Khulyot, see below). They are information bulletins (local or international, e.g. Der bay.) They are hard-copy (printed or photographed), cybernetic (e.g. The Mendele Review) or both (e.g. the Forverts).  They are principally pedagogic (e.g. Tam-Tam, Vayter) or of a "Notes and Queries" character (Mendele – these very days celebrating its seventeenth birthday!) A few are sold but almost all are in some way subsidized. None have large readerships. Every few years one of them expires, more likely for lack of writers than readers (e.g. a recent [2008] case: Heshbon [Khezhbm] of Los Angeles).

Among the periodicals in or about Yiddish language, literature and culture, the Yiddish Forverts – hard copy and online – commands a leading place. Recent articles of particular interest to readers of TMR are 1) Dov-Ber Kerler's review of the new Yiddish textbook Shlisl by Miriam Hoffman [February 2008:]; Prof. Yechiel Szeintuch's preliminary study of a decades-long dispute between the journalist and writer Mortkhe Shtrigler and  David Ben-Gurion [May 2998:]. Shtrigler strongly opposed Ben-Gurion's near-"Canaanite" privileging of the Tanakh and the subsequent rejection of the rich tradition that encompasses Talmud, Rambam and numerous other classic post-Biblical Judaic texts.

Many of the finest studies in the field of Yiddish appear in sophisticated English, French or German academic journals devoted to Jewish studies or contemporary Jewish problems, e.g. Shofar. Individuals with academic connections can reach full-text journals from home computers. "Little magazines" today happily print lively essays on Yiddish writers. To keep abreast of what is being said about Yiddish culture and its place in the larger web of Jewish life, one needs to read very widely – and not simply in the Yiddish-language periodicals. As Yiddish-lovers and Yiddish-students we live off the interest that this multi-lingual portfolio of periodicals provides. If we fail to review our holdings from time to time, we might find ourselves divorced from the yerid ('market, fair') of intellectual exchange.

Yiddish literature was always closely tied to the Yiddish press and that press is for the most part now history. The haredi-supported New York Yiddish press is regarded by some Yiddishists as a vigorous source – or at least a potentially vigorous source – of new writing.  There is still a place for original writing in Yiddish in the few remaining secular cultural journals (e.g. Yerushalmer almanakh, edited by Dov-Ber Kerler). Happily, our French comrades of the Paris Medem center have now published a very attractive new journal entitled Gilgulim (see below). We salute this brave action and wish it every success – and we urge all TMR readers to help assure the magazine a generous reception. Yet while we can be pleased with what we have, we must not be misled by attractive covers. (The graphic resources of contemporary publishing are breath-taking!) We need to be concerned with quality, with widening the circle of contributors and not least of all with strengthening the material foundations of content-rich periodicals. We need to maintain high editorial standards by being more self-critical and less self-lauditory.  *** Reviews. I mention books and reference works above. As often as books of Yiddish interest are reviewed in TMR, the sum total of books reviewed here in a year is but a fraction of the relevant reviewable volumes. TMR has been successful in recruiting skilled reviewers but many potential book-critics prefer to write for hard-cover media – an attitude that is slowly changing. TMR has a backlog of books waiting to be reviewed. Hopefully, the list will grow progressively shorter. *** Reference work: Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. No event in the area of Yiddish studies in the past decade merits greater celebration than the 2008 publication of the monumental two-volume Yivo Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe, doggedly and brilliantly edited by Gershon David Hundert. Students of Yiddish, lay and professional both, will consult this authoritative work with profit and fargenign ('pleasure') for years to come. This reference work should have a permanent place on our bookshelf, just as our mailbox should regularly receive a Yiddish periodical. ***More: This, of course, though much, is not enough. We must not desert the few Yiddish book-publishing companies still in business, try to use public or university libraries to borrow Yiddish books and encourage them to build Yiddish collections, patronize Yiddish booksellers and, especially, institutions such as the National Yiddish Book Center. "Yidish darf men lernen" and we can learn by reading and listening (to native speakers [Vu nemt men zey?], CD's, to Di velt fun yidish []).*** Feedback:  It would be helpful if readers gave more feedback to the editor.  

Date: 18 May 2008
From: Zelda Kahana-Newman 
Subject: Kadya Molodowsky: Clearing the Mist

Kadya Molodowsky: Clearing the Mist

Kadya Molodowsky is probably one of the most prominent Yiddish writers of the twentieth century1. The outlines of her biography are more or less known, but much more remains clouded.  This is an account of some of the things Noga Rubin and I have uncovered and a promise of things to come.

Like many Yiddish writers of her time, Molodowsky wrote an autobiographical  memoir that was serialized in a journal. The first installment of this memoir, entitled Fun mayn elterzeydes yerushe  ('From My Great-Grandfather’s Inheritance'), appeared in 1965 in Svive ('Milieu'), the journal she herself edited2 at the time.  The installments appeared erratically till 19743, shortly before she was forced to retire.  This memoir is a chronological account of her life, starting from her childhood in the shtetl of Ber(e)ze, through her education, to her young adulthood, her marriage, and her emigration to the United States.  It is rich in detail and full of poetic playfulness when it deals with her life in Europe, but dry and dull on her life in the USA -- the sections on her life there read like a laundry list.  “I traveled to X, where I stayed with Y and met with Z” is the paradigm that repeats itself again and again in these chapters.

As it happens, about 25 years earlier, in 1942, Molodowsky wrote a fictive biography called “Fun Lublin biz Nyu-York: der togbukh fun Rifke Zilberg” ('From Lublin to New York, the Diary of Rifke Zilberg').4 This “diary” begins when the heroine, Rifke Zilberg emigrates from Lublin, Poland to New York. (Molodowsky’s own home-town Ber(e)ze [in Yiddish], or Kartuskaya Beryoze [in Russian] was in what Jews called Lite ['Lithuania'] and is now Belarus.)  Molodowsky’s account trails off into dull fact-reporting with her heroine's emigration.  We are inclined to see this “diary” as in some sense Molodowsky’s own story, because in the 1940s Molodowsky wrote a series of columns in the Yiddish daily Forverts5  under the pseudonym of Rivke Zylberg.  Why did Molodowsky choose this pseudonym?  We don’t know.

What do we know about the columns that Molodowsky wrote under the Rifke Zilberg pseudonym?  Do they identify this “fictive” Rivke?  A natural place to look for the answer to this question is the Forverts archives.  Unfortunately, the Forverts has not digitized back issues or correspondence.  However, the researcher is not without recourse.  YIVO's Molodowsky archive has hand-written pieces that Molodowsky wrote for the Forverts under this pseudonym, along with personal and family correspondence and a host of other papers.6

The Forverts archivist, Chana Pollack, was able to tell us that “Rivke”’ articles in the Forverts were about Jewish women.  Examination of the archive articles, however, tells a slightly different story.  A series of folders7  in the YIVO archive contain papers that have the name “Rivke Zylberg” in the upper right-hand corner.  These are mini-biographies of women, many of them Jewish, but by no means all.  Among these mini-biographies we find an article on Betty McDonald, a now-forgotten author of a best-selling novel of the 1940s.8 Biographies of non-Jewish writers who used pseudonyms, George Elliot and George Sand,9 are also there, together with biographies of Greta Garbo10 and Harriet Beecher Stowe.11 These articles may never have been published.  We will not know whether the Forverts published them until the newspaper has been indexed (hopefully, even digitized).  What is important for us is that Molodowsky was moved to write about women. She wrote about Bruria, the learned wife of R. Meir of Talmudic fame, about the wife of Theodore Herzl and about Amalia Freud, but essentially what interested her was the life of women, not just the lives of Jewish women.  Apparently then, Rivke Zylbeg was the “womanly” part of Molodowsky’s personality, not simply the Jewish-womanly part, as we might have supposed.

A parallel reading of Molodowsky’s memoir and her fictive biography shows us that the issue of clothes pre-occupied her.  In her memoir, she tells us that her  sister was appalled at the sight of her mended, hardscrabble clothes12, while in the fictive diary Rivke’s aunt tells her that she cannot possibly walk around in the “rags” (in Yiddish shmates) she has landed with13 .  The rags that characterized her life in Europe appear once more in her poem “Yerushe”14, in which she admits that in Europe her shoes were borrowed and her clothes tattered.15  The theme of clothes appears once again in an article in the YIVO archive entitled “Eygene lates un fremde zayd” ('One’s Own Tatters and the Silk of Others').16 This article is about the importance of pride in one’s native language and in one’s culture. 

   This theme could have been addressed without a reference to clothes; after all, the question at hand is a matter of spirit and not of body.  And yet the metaphor Molodowsky chose was one of clothes: those which are truly one’s own as opposed to those which are borrowed and not one’s own.  For Molodowsky, then, clothes were both a genuine concern and a metaphor.  They concerned her insofar as she had to adapt in the US to a culture that forced her to put far greater stress on outward appearance than she had in Europe.  And they served as a metaphor for the mere outer garments of a rich culture that had yet to gain the respect it deserved.

Although the YIVO archives illuminate some aspects of Molodowsky’s life, they leave other areas entirely in the dark.  Like many others of her generation who lived to witness the end of Jewish civilization in Europe as she knew it, Molodowsky was swept away with euphoria at the establishment of a Jewish state in which Jews would not remain passive as others murdered them with impunity.  She left for Israel in 1949, shortly after the establishment of the state of Israel.  But she returned to the US in 1952, after a short three-year stay.  While she was in Israel, she edited a Yiddish journal, Heym ('Home'), dedicated  to the Jewish women of Israel.  No one has seriously examined the issues of Heym to see if they cast  light on Molodowsky’s emigration and subsequent return to the US.  Nor has anyone thought to examine the issues of Heym to see if they tell us anything about Molodowsky’s development as a poet and/or a writer of prose.  Noga Rubin and I hope to get to these issues of Heym in the National Library in Jerusalem this coming summer.

Why did Molodowsky leave Israel?  Was she unhappy with her work?  Or did the events that unfolded in Israel at the time disappoint her?  At present, we have contradictory opinions on the matter. Noga and I hope to interview the remaining survivors of Molodowsky’s circle in Israel to attempt to answer this question.

(Zelda Kahana-Newman, Lehman College, CUNY)

1 Note that Molodowsky is one of the few women writers to get her photo put into Dovid Katz’s Words on Fire (New York, 2004).  See p. 341.

2 The first installment appeared in number 15, April 1965, àãø á úùë"ä , pp. 38-45.

3 The last installment appeared in number 41, April 1974, ðéñï úùì"ã , pp. 50-54.

4 This story, published in New York, was aired on WEVD, the Yiddish radio station of New York city, also in installments.

5 I became aware of this identity when I went to an exhibit about the Forverts in the Museum of the City of New York about a year and a half ago.

6 This entire collection is given the number 703 in the YIVO archives.  The personal correspondence alone contains 55 folders, most of which are poorly organized and not at all in chronological order.

7 These are folders #67, #68 and #69 of the Molodowsky archive.

8 See folder #67.

9 For both these biographies see folder #69.

10 See folder #68.

11 See folder #69.

12 This can be found in her memoir, chapter 52, 1967, p. 56.

13 This can be found in the “diary”, p. 5.

14 See In land fun mayn gebeyn (‘In the Land of My Bones’)  (Chicago, 1937), her poem “Yerushe”, p. 9.

15 The words there are “in antleyene shikh” (‘in borrowed shoes’) and “mit a late farlatet” (‘patched with a patch’).

16 This can be found in the YIVO archives, folder no. 65.

Date: 18 May 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Table of Contents of Khulyot, Volume 11

Volume 11, Spring 2008
Table of Contents

Shmuel Werses
---Yiddish Language and Literature in Bialik's Worldview

Nikham Ross
---Scholarly Personality in Perets' "Between Two Mountains"

Avner Holtzman
---Bialik's Hidden Eulogy In Memory of M. Y. Berditshevski

David Roskies
---Bialik in the Ghettoes

Maya Duber Defen
---Joshua Perla's [Yehoyshue Perle's] Wartime Writings

Lea Ayalon
---On Shalom Asch's [Sholem Ash's] Novella "The Death Sentence"

Zelik Kalmanovitsh
---Dr. Khayim Zhitlovski's Yiddish

Elisha Porat
---Khanan Ayalti – A  Modern Ahasuerus (1910-1992)

Bilha Rubinstein
---Stories and Their Tellers in Isaac Bashevis-Singer's Works

Leah Garfinkel
---A Riddle of Two Worlds

Noga Rubin
---The Motif of Water Without End (from Kadya Molodowsky to Yaakov Shavit)

Noga Rubin and Zelda Kahana-Newman
---A New Purim Composition About Women

Ruth Dorot
---Mark Chagall's "Cattle Dealer" and Isaac Bashevis-Singer's "A zokn" ('An Old Man') Compared

Shalom Luria
---Reflections on Menakhem-Mendl's Character and Deeds

Dov Sadan
---The Critic Shmuel Niger and His Temple


Boris Kotlerman
---The Dybbuk Motif in Yiddish and Hebrew

Mordechai Zalkin and Nurit Orkhan
---"A Story of a Soldier," or Megilat Astrakhan, as Told by Yitskhak Ben Shmuel Yehuda Kastover

Noga Rubin
---The Motif of Water Without End (from Kadya Molodowsky to Yaakov Shavit)


Lea Ayalon
---"One of Three Million": A Neglected Sholem Asch [Yiddish: Sholem Ash] Manuscript


Shalom Luria. Griner umet ('Green Sadness') fun Aleksander Shpiglblat.

   "         "          Katoves on a zayt. Nekhtike lider 1993-2001. ('I kid you not! Poems of Yesteryears') fun Boris Karlov.

Leonard Prager.  Inventory of Yiddish Publications From the Netherlands c. 1650-1950 by Mirjam Gutschow. 

Children's Literature

Adina Bar-El
---Women Write Literary Works for Children in Yiddish

In Memorial

Dov Levin
---The Struggle for Jewish Cultural Institutions in Soviet Lithuania in the Post-Stalin Period (1956-1958)  [In Memory of Berl Cezarek / Tsezarek who died in Jerusalem on the tenth of November 1990.]

Books Received

Abstracts in Yiddish and English

Date: 18 May 2008
From: ed. 
Periodicals Received: Gilgulim 1 (Paris); Davka 4 (Jerusalem), Yidishe heftn 124 (Paris); Afn shvel 340-341 (New York);  Lebns-fragn 665-666 (Tel Aviv)

***A new journal from Paris edited by Gilles Rosier, Gilgulim, is typographically a pleasure to the eye and the verse (main substance of this issue) is a light reminder of the period a century ago when verse was the preeminent Yiddish genre. The lines from Yoysef Papyernikov on the back cover ["zol zayn /  az ikh boy in der luft mayne shleser"] suggest that the staff has no illusions as to issuing a new quality Yiddish literary periodical today. See Benny Mar's review "Sridat ha-hisradut," Tarbut ve-Sifrut, HaAretz 25.4.08, p. 3.


*** Davka, the new Israeli Hebrew-language publication about the world of Yiddish in its fourth number examines the Yiddish theatre. A nicely illustrated issue.

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*** The latest issue [no. 124] of the Parisian Yidishe heftn maintains its high graphic standards with focus on the artist Shmuel Bak.

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*** The new Afn shvel  [340-341] carries the issue title Khurbm un voglenish – partizaner, pleytim, d.p.'s, yisker-bikher, especially appropriate to this memorial season. It is liberally illustrated and carries a "Laytish mame-loshn" section in the spirit of the late Mordkhe Schaechter. Afn shvel ; gezelshaftlekh-literarisher zhurnal [Organ fun der yidish-lige Vinter-Friling 2008 [Winter/Spring] 340-341. See


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Organ fun der yidish-lige Vinter/Friling 2008, 340-341


*** Lebns-fragn, the veteran Israeli Bundist periodical continues to feature biting articles of political analysis.  Lebns-fragn, aroysgegebn durkh dem "Arbeter-ring" in Yisroel. Redaktor: Yitskhok Luden. 48 Kalisher St.,  Tel-Aviv 65165, Israel. Tel. [972] (0[3]) 5176764.

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End of The Mendele Review  Issue 12.011
Editor, Leonard Prager
Editorial Associate, Robert Goldenberg

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