You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share

Yiddish Literature

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.

Ze'enah U-Re'enah

Ze’enah u-Re’enah, Yiddish pronunciation: tsenerene. A rendering in Yiddish of the Pentateuch, the Megillot (Five Scrolls of the Bible) and the Haftarot(portions from Prophets read in synagogue after the Sabbath reading from the Torah).

Yiddish: Women's Poetry

Women’s poetry in Yiddish first made its presence felt within the wider context of modern Yiddish culture at the end of the second decade of the twentieth century.

Pages

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Yiddish Literature." (Viewed on September 22, 2014) <http://jwa.org/tags/yiddish-literature>.

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Sign Up for JWA eNews

 

Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs