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Yiddish

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.

The Lives They Lived: Jewish women to remember in 2011

“[Debbie Friedman] emphasized the value of every voice and the power of song to help us express ourselves and become our best selves. As she wrote for JWA's online exhibit Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution: 'The more our voices are heard in song, the more we become our lyrics, our prayers, and our convictions.' The woman who wrote the song that asks God to 'help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing' herself modeled for us what that looks like.”—Judith Rosenbaum.
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Adrienne Cooper, 1946 - 2011

I first met Adrienne on erev Nitl, Christmas Eve, 1987, and saw her for the last time on khamishi shel khanike, the night of December 24 of the calendar year just ended. Jeffrey Shandler has written in an obituary that he published last week that “Adrienne taught us all to sing.” I was one of her less successful experiments. I don’t sing, I could speak Yiddish long before I met her.

Remembering Adrienne Cooper, mother of the Klezmer/Yiddish revival

Adrienne Cooper passed away on Sunday evening at the age of 65 after a long fight with cancer.

Yiddish signs tell women to "move to the side"

If we are to judge what is Jewish by what Jews do (or don't do), we might conclude this week that Jews apparently welcome the New Year with apples, honey, and signs about where women should stand.

Gerry Faier, 1908 - 2011

An agitator, rabble-rouser, and working-class Jewish lesbian, Gerry Faier found company and camaraderie among fellow labor organizers, the burgeoning gay and lesbian communities of Woodstock and Greenwich Village, and activists across many generations.

Labor History Landmark: No. 1 The Forward Building

The Top 11 Labor History Landmarks in New York City is a blog series on Jewesses with Attitude created in honor of Women's History Month and the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Waist Factory fire. Learn more about the series here, or check out JWA's online walking tour.

Marcia Soloski Levin, 1921 - 2010

Marcia Soloski Levin shared the story of many women who left their families to enter the working world in the 1940s. This included settling in a large city, earning a living, taking care of herself, marrying, and having a family.

Eta Chait Wrobel, 1916 - 2008

Eta Wrobel, who lived in Fort Lee, NJ, for more than a decade toward the end of her life, was the commander of a partisan group in Lukow, Poland, wife to Henry, mother of four (Hal, Shain, Anna, and Liza), and grandmother of 11. She died on Memorial Day 2008, soon after her twin great-grandchildren were born. Her life was filled with the love of giving and of fighting for truth, justice, and the Jewish people. "We fought to survive," she would say. "We fought so that some of us would get out of there and make new families, to spit in the Nazi’s eyes. Our babies are our revenge."

Pearl Lang, 1922 - 2009

I was fortunate to see Pearl Lang dance in her signature piece, “Shirah” (or “Song”), in the late 1960s at Hunter College, which was known then as the place to go for modern dance performances. A famous dance series, “Angry Artists Against Viet Nam,” presented at Hunter in ’67, included Twyla Tharp, Eleo Pomare and others. Lang had her own evening, steering clear of politics.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Yiddish." (Viewed on December 11, 2017) <https://jwa.org/topics/yiddish>.

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