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

Contents of Vol. 12.015 [Sequential No. 206]
Date: 12 August 2008

1) This issue of The Mendele Review
2) "The Jerusalem Conference: A Century of Yiddish 1908-2008"
3) The tishebov of Yiddish Literature
4) Yerushalayimer Almanakh 28, ed. Dov-Ber Kerler
         a. Cover; b. Table of Contents
5) balebos and Solzhenitsyn
6) Zikhroynes fun a farshnitener teater heym (Part Two [Yiddish])
7) "Memories of a Lost Theater Home"  (Part Two –English translation).
8) Dovid Hofshteyn's "In rusishe felder" (Yiddish)
9) Dovid Hofshteyn's "In rusishe felder" (English translation)
10) "In rusishe felder" sung by Emil Gorovets

1) ---------------------------------------------------
Date: 12 August 2008
From: ed.
Subject: This issue of The Mendele Review

This issue of TMR renews our awareness of the awesome date AUGUST 12, 1952, which has justly been called "the tishebov of Yiddish literature." In an excellent essay [accessible by link] on the elimination of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, Joshua Rubenstein details the fate of many of our finest Soviet Yiddish authors. *** Professor Eli Lederhendler describes the Hebrew University's Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry, one of the sponsors of the forthcoming Jerusalem Conference. *** One of the richest volumes of contemporary Yiddish writing to appear since the demise of the prestigious Di goldene keyt, Yerushalayimer Almanakh 28 in its attractively designed 428 pages gives us the text of a lost Mikhoels play here translated into Yiddish, a full-length play by Miriam Hoffman, a searching report on Israel's Yidishshpiel troupe by Diego Rotman  -- to mention but a few of the items (see Table of Contents below) contributed by Yiddish writers of all ages from a dozen countries. Until further notice the volume can be ordered from Ruth Levin c/o Zur-Ott, Rekhov Yehuda ha-Makabi 5, P.O. Box 6220, Jerusalem  91061, Israel. Price in Israel: 70 shekels plus postage. Ruth Levin's Israel telephone number is 07-77672093. Zur-Ott's tel. no. is [972] 02-5389776.

Date: 12 August 2008     
From: Eli Lederhendler
Subject: "The Jerusalem Conference: A Century Of Yiddish 1908-2008"

The Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry was founded at the  Hebrew University in 1959. It is a major research center devoted to investigating the history, sociology, demography, culture, and political relations of the Jews during the 20th century. As such, it supports a graduate program for M.A. and Ph.D. students seeking to specialize in some aspect of the field of Contemporary Jewry, including Israel Studies, Diaspora Studies, and Holocaust Studies. The Institute is an integral part of the Faculty of Humanities, and its courses are taught in the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry. The Institute has taken upon itself to co-sponsor and help plan the conference on “A Century of Yiddish, 1908-2008”, because it understands that Yiddish, the major ethnic language of Jews in Europe and western Diaspora countries until the Holocaust, is a valuable prism through which the experience of the Jewish people and its culture must be studied and researched. The planned conference will shed new light on the functions of language, culture, heritage, and memory in the framing Jewish life since the early 20th century, up to the present day.

Date: 12 August 2008
From: ed.
Subject: The tishebov of Yiddish Literature

See Joshua Rubenstein's "The Night of the Murdered Poets"  [This Introduction to his Stalin's Secret Pogrom: the Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist  Committee appeared in the New Republic of 25 August 1997]. On the author, see

A complementary essay to that of Joshua Rubenstein is Joseph Sherman's "Seven-fold Betrayal": The Murder of Soviet Yiddish which first appeared in Midstream vol. 38/5 [July-August 2002] and was reprinted (with some changes) in TMR vol. 07.009.

Joseph Sherman is Corob Fellow in Yiddish Studies, University of Oxford. He translated into English Isaac Bashevis Singer’s novel, Shadows on the Hudson (New York, 1998), and Dovid Bergelson’s novella, Descent (New York, 1999). Together with G, Estraikh he is author of David Bergelson (1884-1952): From Modernism to Socialist Realism (Oxford: Legenda, 2007). His forthcoming publications include When All is Said and Done by David Bergelson (English translation of Nokh Alemen), New Yiddish Library Series, Yale University Press (forthcoming, Spring 2009) and he has edited From Pogrom to Purge: Soviet Yiddish Writing 1917-1947 (Nottinghan: Five Leaves Press, 2008) (forthcoming, Spring 2009).

Date:12 August 2008
From: ed.
Subject:  Yerushalayimer Almanakh 28, ed. Dov-Ber Kerler.

                  a. Cover; b. Table of Contents  (left click on image to enlarge)






Date: 12 August 2008
From: ed.
Subject: balebos and

Was balabos / St.Y. balebos solely an Odessan expression for 'master, boss'?   In Wikipedia [under Solzhenitsyn] see:   Years_Together.22_and_the_accusations_of_Antisemitism

In February 1945, while serving in East Prussia, he was arrested for writing a derogatory comment in a letter to a friend, N. D. Utkevich, about the conduct of the war by Josef Stalin, whom he called "the whiskered one,"[10] "Khozyain" ("the master") and "Balabos", (Odessa Yiddish for "the master").[11]

Date:12 August 2008
From: ed.
Subject: Zikhroynes fun a farshnitener teater heym (Part Two [Yiddish])

[Part Two commences with second paragraph below.]
(left click on image to enlarge)






[Part Two concludes with end of second paragraph below.]


Date:12 August 2008
From: Shimen Yofe (Shimon Joffe)
Subject: "Memories of a Lost Theater Home" by  Avrom Karpinovitsh [Abraham Karpinowitz]

(Part Two –English Translation)

The war came to an end, and actors from all over Russia began to come together in Vilna. They came dressed in soldiers' boots, in army coats without buttons, smelling of freight trains and moldy bread. Among the first to appear on the streets were the actors Yitskhok Nozhik, his wife, Shtraytman and Maksimov. In those days, the actress Frani Vinter dressed as a hasid sang two songs in the intermissions in the Shtremer Cinema.

The free kitchen was already closed by then. Doctor Yankev Vigodski,  a Vilna community leader,  declared that  a man like my father shouldn't be allowed to leave community activities and that the community must keep him. But my father would not accept a post with the community organization. As soon as an actors' union was formed, he became its secretary. It was Yitskhok Nozhik (who later became the director of the Israeli Ha-Matate ['The Broom'] Theater), that brought my father into the actors' union.

My father followed his heart; my mother cried and cursed her bitter fate. She had watched my father only a month before at a meeting of the finest city gentlemen. He wore a shiny black hat and a snow-white cravat and now mixes with a gang of rifraf -- my mother didn't like actors. She even disliked her own son -in-law, Leybl Vayner, just because he, the son of a well-to-do fur-hat maker, didn't follow in his father's footsteps. He only wanted to act in theater. She saw her children's visits to the theater  as  punishment from heaven; she was not meant to have a quiet life.


Foreign armies fought their last battles for possession of the city. My father didn’t waste time and hired a hall to put on Sholem Aleichem’s Stempenyu. He designed the decor himself. My father was a great admirer of Sholem-Aleichem. In 1914, a short while before the outbreak of the First World War, my father organized an evening in honour of Sholem-Aleichem. The street leading to the hall where the event was to take place was flooded with people. The evening was a tremendous success. My father could not stop marveling over and over again how wonderful Sholem-Aleichem’s stage presence was as a reader of his own stories. We kept in our home like a reliquary a postcard sent to my father by Sholem-Aleichem. I am certain that when my father was on his way to his doom,  Sholem-Aleichem’s postcard was safely tucked in his inner pocket.

1918 came and there was no established government in Vilna. Citizens feared to step outside of their homes at night. The actors prophesied that not even a dog would show up for the performance my father was planning, but he stood by his guns – a beginning had to be made. And a beginning was made. People came and the hall filled. My father did not confront or otherwise embarrass the foretellers of doom, but simply stroked his beard and, in a low voice, muttered as if to himself: "Jews have to attend the theater, they love it...”

My father took over the Eden Cinema and converted it into a theater. Nozhik put on Reyzele, the Rabbi’s Daughter with Yokheved Zilberg as Reyzele. After that came another premiere, The YeshivaBokher ('The Seminary Student'). The actor Zubak spoke in front of an open Holy Ark to his dead father, and experts claimed that Shakespeare's Hamlet was not more moving. Motl Hilsberg, a fine-looking young man, played the lead role in Bar Kochba. He stood half-naked on the hills of the Holy Land and tore off the chains of foreign oppression. The chains were paper, and the sword was wood, but Hilsberg’s acting was genuine. The audience believed every word without looking at the cardboard  hills -- and  kept coming  to  the theater.

A generation of theater-goers grew up. Later, a troupe appeared in the City Hall which could have graced any stage in the world -- Zigmund Turkov, Yonas Turkov, Ida Kaminski, Moyshe Lipman, Ayzik Samberg. They played night after night, now to a knowledgeable audience that knew exactly what it sought in the theater.

My mother accustomed herself to the colorful bedlam, and would dress for a premiere in her black silk dress and Astrakhan coat. True, she looked at everything with sharp, clear eyes as she did before, but she no longer dismissed Father's enthusiasm at a successful performance. Once she even had a soul-lifting experience. Reb Khayim Gordon, a Vilna religious leader, for the first time in his life came to a performance.  The Dybbuk was then being played, as I mentioned earlier. The Gordons were our neighbours. They too lived in the Vilna Synagogue courtyard in the center of town on Daytshe Gass ('German Street' No. 12). When my father had a spare moment, he would drop in on Reb Gordon to have company with whom to study a passage of Gemara. The time he spent in the Rameyles Yeshiva left deep marks on his soul. He talked Reb Gordon into attending a performance of The Dybbuk. My father kept his guest in a side room until the hall darkened. After the curtain was raised, Reb Gordon silently entered, and sat down in a chair specially prepared for him behind the last row. A moment before the intermission, my father led the secret visitor back into his hideaway. For weeks afterwards, Reb Gordon never once mentioned his visit to the theater. Once, however, during an incidental meeting in the synagogue yard he exclaimed, ”Reb Moyshe, you know that I’ll never again visit the theater, but I must say, the fact that you managed, to have the shekhine ('Divine Presence') hover over the Mirapolier Tsadik...and have the shekhine rest for a brief moment over the stage, well now, more power to you."

My mother undoubtedly thought that if my father could persuade Reb Khayim Gordon to visit the theater to see Avrom Morevski act the  role of the Mirapolier Tsadik, then theater business wasn’t all that simple. There must surely be something in it that cannot be understood rationally. So she started on a new tack, complaining that my father spent too many hours after the show in Velfke’s Restaurant on Yidishe Gass with the actors. There, lovers of the Yiddish language ate roasted stuffed kishke and chopped liver. In one corner sat the droshke ('cab') drivers, owners of horse and cab, waiting to carry passengers all over town, and touts, who spent the day pulling customers into the ready-made clothing shops. In another corner sat actors and writers as well as theater patrons who would extend a helping hand after a bad season, or who would simply order drinks all round when things went well. Shapely women, lovers of all sorts of artists added luster to the table. Itzik Manger declaimed  words of Torah  over a glass of Slivovits. Shimen Koyen [Shimon Cohen], the critic of the Vilner Tog (Vilna Day) poured  fire and brimstone on trashy plays. Avrom Morevski, who had a weakness for food, tore pieces off a duck  and shouted hoarsely! "Velfke, I’m hungry!"

They immediately brought him a frying pan full of potato pancakes garnished with cracklings.

Behind the restaurant there was a small fenced-in courtyard where my father and actors would gather on a warm summer evening. On the other side of the fence there was a linden tree whose branches reached out over the courtyard and delighted the restaurant clientele with its honey smell. There the actors ate cold beets garnished with white cheese, the cheapest item on Velfke’s menu. My father stroked his beard and used the  tree as a metaphor of a  flourishing Yiddish theater. In 1944, when the Germans retreated from the city, the crown of the tree lay buried under a  mound of grass. Of Velfke’s arbor all that remained was a piece of broken wall.  [To be continued]

8) ------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: 12 August 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Subject: Dovid Hofshteyn's "In rusishe felder" (Yiddish)

Date: 12 August 2008
From: Robert Goldenberg
Dovid Hofshteyn's "In rusishe felder" (English translation)

[reprinted from A Treasury of Yiddish Poetry, ed. Irving Howe and Eliezer Greenberg (New York: Holt, Rinehart, Winston, 1969, pp. 173-4. [See, too, the translation by Robert Friend in The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse, ed. Irving Howe, Ruth R. Wisse, and Khone Shmeruk, Penguin Books, 1987, p. 260. Note mention of this song in Sherman’s essay above.]

Date: 12 August 2008
From: Eleanor Mlotek
Subject: "In rusishe felder" sung by Emil Gorovets


Click on the gramophone to hear the song





[Performance source: The Greater Recording Company, Manhattan, 1977].


End of The Mendele Review  Issue 12.015
Editor, Leonard Prager
Editorial Associate, Robert Goldenberg

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