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Yiddish Literature

Lyalya Kaufman

The daughter of the acclaimed writer Sholom Aleichem and the mother of celebrated novelist Bel Kaufman, Lyalya Kaufman was revered in her own right for her thousands of vignettes and short stories in Yiddish.

Miriam Karpilove

Miriam Karpilove’s wildly popular Yiddish stories explored the tensions and frustrations Jewish women faced at the turn of the century—the desire for secular education, the hunger to participate in a wider culture, and the hardships of immigration.

Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn

Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn’s popular Yiddish tales not only painted a vivid portrait of the lost shtetl of her youth, but also added a dimension male authors of the time had missed: a nuanced and complex picture of the lives of Jewish women.

Dina Abramowicz

After surviving the Holocaust, Dina Abramowicz reconstituted her rich cultural heritage as the formidable head librarian of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research.

Ruth R. Wisse

Ruth R. Wisse made major contributions to Yiddish literature as both a scholar and an editor.

Pearl Lang

I, too, was a Midwesterner transposed to New York, trying to find my own way in the rich and heady dance scene. I knew Pearl Lang had come from Chicago, where she was raised in a cultured but poor Yiddish-speaking family. Her breathtaking career as a Graham dancer meant she had toured the world. And she often performed with her own company, the Pearl Lang Dance Theater, at the famed 92nd Street Y’s theater, where I went for performances by modern dance legends and for Fred Berk’s Wednesday night Israeli folk dancing. But now I was going to Hunter to see Lang’s “Shirah,” which she created in 1960.

Who would Cynthia Ozick’s Edelshtein envy now?

Reading Adam Kirsch’s excellent piece in Tablet on Isaac Bashevis Singer reminded me of my all-time favorite short story, Cynthia Ozick’s “Envy, or Yiddish in America,” wherein the hilariously bitter Edelshtein is obsessed with Yankel Ostrover (a Singer-like figure), consumed by the fact that Ostrover has obtained mainstream adulation through having his Yiddish writing translated into English.  

Yiddish poetry: It's not just for men!

Most people believe that Yiddish literature and poetry was written solely by men. In reality, there were hundreds of female Yiddish writers and poets, all of whom had their own distinct biographies and writing styles.

Edith Kaplan Bregman was one of these women. She was born in a Russian shtetl in 1899 to a Hasidic family, immigrating to New York when she was 13. In America, she was exposed to literature that hadn’t been available in Europe, so she became a voracious reader. Bregman went on to write poetry in her native tongue, Yiddish. Her love of language led her to meet many Yiddish literary giants, like Avrom Reyzen, a poet who became her mentor. While she wrote poems throughout her early life, her works weren’t published until 1939, when a Yiddish newspaper had a poetry contest that she entered and won. Her victory gave her the confidence to publish more of her written work. Some of the themes that recur throughout her poems are a love of Judaism and God, life in Europe, and Holocaust remembrance. In addition to writing poetry, Bregman sang and played the mandolin and piano. Bregman’s last poem was published in 1997, a few years before her death at age 99.

National Humanities Medal awarded to Ruth Wisse

November 15, 2007

Pioneering Yiddish scholar Ruth Wisse was awarded the prestigious National Humanities Medal.

The Klezmatics' performance of Aliza Greenblatt's work, set to music by Woody Guthrie

December 20, 2003

"Holy Ground: The Jewish Songs of Woody Guthrie," a Klezmatics performance at the 92nd Street Y, featured songs inspired or written by Guthrie's mother-in-law, Aliza Greenblatt.

Pages

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Yiddish Literature." (Viewed on October 31, 2014) <http://jwa.org/tags/yiddish-literature>.

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