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The Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk

(5639-5699, 1879-1939)

by Yeshayahu TRUNK, New York

Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk, a son of Rabbi Moshe Pinchas and a grandson of the well-known Rabbi Israel-Yehoshua (Rabbi Shie'le Kutner), was born in Adar 5639[1] in Kutno, when his great grandfather was the Rabbi of Kutno. Raised in the atmosphere of a cult for his grandfather, and under his spiritual supervision, he early on showed abilities. When R' Yehoshua died (on 25 Tammuz 5653[2]), he was already a year after Bar Mitzvah. Kutner scholars wanted to see in him a future successor of his famous grandfather (in his older years he was similar in appearance to R' Yehoshie'le). At the age of 18, he became the son-in-law of R' Shmuel Bornsztajn[3], the son of Sochaczewer Rabbi R' Avrahamele, whose eldest daughter Frimet became his wife. There, in Sochaczew's courtyard where the Torah genius R' Avrahamele laid his seal and under his supervision and guidance, the Kutner prodigy reached a high level of Torah study.

 

 

Regarding this Sochaczewer period of his life, he writes in the introduction to the book Yevin Daat by R' Israel Yehoshua (Piotrków, 1932): “And there, I took care to purify and refine the end of the book… and also the words of the book Avnei Nezer of Honored Holiness the Admor cho“z[4] Gaon of Israel and Saint from Sochaczew ztz”l, with whom I had the privilege of studying Torah and who considered me as one of his sons, may his virtue be with us…”. In Sochaczew, he sat on the Torah and on the work for about seven years.

In 1905, the Jewish community in Lubraniec (a town not far from Włocławek) invited him to occupy the rabbinical chair there.

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He did not stay for a long time in this somewhat forgotten Kujawer place.

In 1907, when the post of rabbi in Ciechanow was vacated, following the death of the rabbi there, the Ciechanow community invited him to the post. He lived in Ciechanow for more than five years, until 1912 and became very popular with the Jewish population. In the “Book of Remembrance of the Ciechanow Jewish Community” (Tel Aviv, 1962) we read in the memoirs of a local resident, Sh. Rotsztajn, the following characteristics of the then Ciechanow Rabbi:

“With his knowledge of the Torah, scholarship, wisdom and love for people, he made many friends. His house was open to everyone. Especially to young men who wanted to learn. During his tenure in Ciechanow, Rabbi Trunk did many good deeds for the local community. Through his initiative, the new synagogue was built (the old school was burnt down before), and he made sure that around the cemetery should be built a cement wall… In the year 1912, when his father died in Kutno, Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Trunk was called by the Kutno community to be his successor. The Ciechanow Jewish community found it difficult to separate from their dear rabbi, but they realized that this was how it should be: Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk must take the place of his great ancestors.” (pp. 39-40).

After the death of his father, Rabbi Moshe Pinchas, a delegation from the Kutner community came to Ciechanow to offer him the Kutner rabbinate. The leaders of the Ciechanow, with a heavy heart, had agreed to distance themselves from their young and beloved rabbi. They realized from the start that every attempt at resistance was vain. Forces had decided, against which they were powerless: a family tradition and the name of R' Yehoshie'le, whose successful grandson was the most suitable successor to the vacant rabbinical chair.

When World War I broke out, Rabbi Trunk found himself in Germany and was interned in a civilian prison camp as a Russian citizen. Thanks to the efforts of the rabbi in Kissingen, he was released from the camp and allowed to return to Poland. During the Sukkot period, he arrived in Łódź, where he spent time with his family until the German occupation of congressional Poland stabilized. Before Pesach, he returned to Kutno, where he was rabbi until his death in Warsaw, on the evening of Saturday, March 11, 1939. Here, too, he gained popularity among the Jewish and even Christian population, but because of his political activities in the “Mizrachi”, he provoked opposition from the local “Agudah[5].

He was popular and beloved by the masses, who cared about her material and spiritual condition, and by the Jewish city's intelligentsia. He was a thoroughly democratic nature (at Simchat Torah, on Kiddush, he used to invite all worshipers who were in the synagogue without exception, making no distinction between “Eastern Wall” Jews[6] and ordinary Jews, much closer to the door). He possessed a deep sense of humor, was a shrewd narrator of Chassidic stories that have survived in his phenomenal memory.

As Kutner rabbi, he paid much attention to the improvement of the state of the community. Thanks to his initiative, a thorough overhaul of the school was completed in 1932, which was already greatly needed (the school was built in 1799). A better order has been established in all community institutions, such as the construction of a new slaughterhouse, the modernization of the interior of the mikveh, and the raising of the level of the Talmud-Torah, etc. He also gave much energy to the activities of the local charity fund and collaborated with the economic office of the American “Joint” in finding new jobs for the impoverished and persecuted Jewish population.

He devoted much of his time to Jewish education, and was the Jewish representative on Kutner district's Board of Education, where he repeatedly sought to defend the interests of Jewish education against the attacks of the antisemitic Polish government. He paid special attention to the teaching of religion in the general schools for Jewish children and more than once taught classes in the classrooms.

In 1937, the community council celebrated the 25th anniversary of Rabbi Trunk's rabbinate, with a special large assembly in the community building. A special article was published in the Włocławeker Yiddish weekly about this event.

Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk was a colorful figure in the rabbinical world. He united the basic elements of the traditional Polish rabbinate with a deeper understanding of the new processes in Jewish social life, in which he took an active part. In 1918, he joined the religious wing of the Zionist movement, “Mizrachi”, where he soon rose to the top of the group of Mizrachi rabbis, together with Rabbi Y. L. Kowalski of Włocławek, Rabbi. Y. L. Złotnik of Gąbin, Rabbi Shmuel HaLevi Brod of Lipno and others. Rabbi Trunk participated as a delegate of the Polish “Mizrachi” in the Amsterdam Conference, which held its deliberations in the last days of Tevet 5680[7]. He was also a member of the Mizrachi delegation at the Zionist London Conference (Tammuz, 5680)[8]. At the Second Conference of Polish Mizrachi in Warsaw (You are right, he read a detailed paper on the community, which, with its proficiency and deepening of the question, aroused great and general interest and recognition)[9] (printed in “Mizrachi”, No. 7(159) of 1922).

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He also read a lecture on the community at the third conference of “Mizrachi” in Warsaw (Tevet, 5682)[10].

Rabbi Trunk was also elected as a delegate from “Mizrachi” to the 13th Zionist Congress in Carlsbad in 1923 (“Mizrachi”, July 26, 1923, p. 9). But he, who had already pointed out that he wanted to retire from political activity, did not go to the Congress.

 


The house of Rabbi Trunk

 

His deep interest in the activity and organization of the communities was also reflected in the fact that he was the initiator of a meeting of communities of the Kutner and Wloclawek districts, in which there were rabbis and community leaders of the aforementioned regions. At this meeting, a community representative of the participating communities was formed — a revival of the old Vaad HaGalil in ancient Poland[11].

Rabbi Trunk also took an active part in the conference of Mizrachi rabbis (9-10 July 1923) and was a member of the presidium, as well as in the rabbinical meeting in Poland, which opened in Warsaw. On the 10th of Tevet, with the participation of more than 200 rabbis, as noted in the minutes of the conference, he proposed electing a commission for Eretz Israel because of opposition from the association that dominated the conference and, in order to avoid party friction between the supporters of the Agudah and Mizrachi, the proposal was rejected.

At the same time, he published in the central organ of the party, “Mizrachi”, a large number of articles on current topics of Mizrachi ideology, polemical articles with the Agudah, and in general of Jewish social life in Poland at the time (see below in the bibliography).

In the summer of 1921, Rabbi Trunk was invited by the Kutner Former Residents Society of New York to a lengthy visit with his townspeople. Thanks to this visit, the connection between the American townspeople and their hometown has been strengthened, which has, among other things, found expression in the better organized and increased assistance for the needs of the Jewish population in the town.

Probably at the end of 1923, Rabbi Trunk withdrew from political activity and devoted himself wholeheartedly to two tasks: publishing the remaining writings of his grandfather Rabbi Israel Yehoshua, and managing the affairs of the community.

In the years 1927 and 1932, two books were published: “Yeshuot Malko, Kiryat Arba” (Piotrków, 1927) and “Yevin Daat” (Piotrków, 1932).

To these books of his great-grandfather, he added a number of pamphlets. At the end of the book “Yeshuot Malko”, he published a short biography of R' Yehoshie'le titled “History of the Righteous׆ and “Me'at Tzri, Commentaries on the Rambam”. Again, in the book “Yevin Daat” he added a number of pamphlets and Responsas titled “Chasidei Avot”, Letters on Pilpul Friends and pamphlets on Divrei Torah”, including “Kuntres Gerem HaMaalot”, about using an automatic oven on Shabbat and “Kuntres Hakarat Panim”, which deals with a case of suicide of a Kutner Jew, near the train station (the Jew threw himself under the train). These pamphlets, together with the answers, hold together 125 two-column pages. In the year 1936, they appeared, in the same H. Folman printing house in Piotrków, in his “Sefer Mikre Meforash b'Orei Mikraot Sheb'Torah Al Daat Halacha v'Aggadah” (148 pages).

His activity in order to enhance the state of the community has already been mentioned above.

In recent years, Mr. Trunk has been very sympathetic to the Poalei Agudat Israel Movement and has taken a keen interest in the activities of the Kutno branch, supporting them morally (he used to hold a course for them from time to time), as well as materially. He also showed a warm interest in the work of the Institute for Jewish Research (YIVO) in Vilnius, supported the annual grants of the community's administration to the institute and sympathized with the activities of the local collector's group.

 

Bibliography of Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk, Essays and Works

1. Pamphlets and books

Pamphlet “Toldot shel Tzadikim”, from book Yeshuot Malko, Kiryat Arba. Piotrków, 1927, pp. 154-156.
Pamphlet “Me'at Tzri, Commentaries on the Rambam”, idem pp. 1-15.
Pamphlet “Chasidei Avot, Michtavim Pilpul Chaverim, Kontrasim in Divrei Torah”, in book Yevin Da'at, Piotrków, 1932, among them:
Pamphlets “Gerem HaMaalot” and “Hakarat Panim”, 125 two-column pages.
Sefer Mikre Meforash b'Orei Mikraot Sheb'Torah Al Daat Halacha v'Aggadah”, Piotrków 1936, 148 pages.
2. Shaarei Torah, Rabbinical Monthly, founded by the Gaon M. Yitzhak HaKohen Feigenbaum
Booklet 1 (year 14), Tishri-Kislev 5684, mark 5, pp. 7-8.
Booklet 2 (year 15), Iyyar 5685, mark 8, pp. 20-22.
Booklet 3 (year 15), Sivan 5685, mark 3, pp. 3-4.
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Booklet 2 (year 17), 1 Adar 5687, mark 4, pp. 6-9.
Booklet 1-2 (year 18), Tishri-Marcheshvan 5688, mark 13, pp. 25-27.
Booklet 4-5 (year 18), Tevet-Shevat 5688, mark 2, pp. 3-4.
Booklet 1 (year 19), contributed 5689, mark 5, pp. 1-10
3 Articles in “HaMizrachi”, 1919-1923
1919
No. 2, pp. 2-3: “The Mizrachi and the Orthodox Agudah”.
No. 5, p. 9: “Frank Answer” (a response to the Ciechanower Rabbi Braunrat on his note in “The Yiddish Word” about the vocal call of a group of rabbis to give sermons in synagogues on anti-Bolshevism; at the time of the Bolshevik invasion of Poland).
No. 6, pp. 1-2: “Religious rights and national rights”.
No. 19-21, pp. 17-20: “On the Hebrew community”.
No. 25, pp. 7-6: “Kichshu v'Gam Simu b'Kleihem[12] (about the action of assimilationists at the Paris Peace Conference).
No. 29, pp. 2-4: “Sgula Datmchi” (on the antisemitic stance of the Polish Socialist Party (PPS) in connection with the Sejm debate on agrarian reform,
No. 27, pp. 3-4: “Insult of Torah” (about the depressing situation of the ritual slaughterers in the communities),
No. 46, p. 5: “Answer to the Rabbis” (in connection with the article “Insult of Torah”).
No. 52, p. 42: “Epidemic of Strikes in Schools”.
1920
No. 68/15, pp. 2-3: “Mizrachi and nationalism”.
No. 73/20, p. 7: “The Time Has Come” (about building Eretz Israel in the spirit of Torah).
No. 74/21, pp. 4-5: “Some things to our brothers called 'Shlomei Emunei Israel'”.
No. 94/41, pp. 2-3: “Evil and Mad” (about the dispute of Dr. Abraham Glicksman in “HaTsfirah” with the enlightened rabbis).
No. 96/43, pp. 2-3: “The Mizrachi and its Students” (in connection with the opening of the Mizrachi school-institution “Tachkemoni”).
No. 99/46, pp. 2-3: “Responsibility of Command” (dispute with the Congress of the “Agudah” in Freshburg),
1921
Nom. 105/2, pp. 1-2: “Aspirations and Deeds” (about strengthening the national character of the community),
No. 106/3, pp. 1-2: “The Roles of the Mizrachi in America”.
No. 109/5, last page: “Gravestone for the Precious Soul” (obituary after the death of Gostyner Rabbi R' David Silman on Tevet 5681),
No. 112/10, pp. 3-4: “Rabbinical Association”.
No. 115/12, pp. 2-3: “Is it possible for nationalism to fill the place of religion?”
No. 120/19, pp. 1-2: “Patience of Wisdom or Weakness of Spirit” (about the danger of assimilation by Jewish Communism).
No. 127/24, pp. 3-4, “The Mizrachi and its demands from the Congress. Content and Method.”
No. 141/44, pp. 1-2: “Our Way”.
1922
No. 159/7, pp. 4-6: “On the Hebrew Community”, lecture by Rabbi Yitzhak Yehuda Trunk,
No. 162/10, pp. 1-2: “Kol HaMosif Gore[13] (critique at the Rabbinical Conference).
No. 15-16/167-168, pp. 2-3: “Concessions and Compromises of the Agudah” (polemic with the “Agudat Shlomei Emunei Israel”).

 

Mr. Yitzhak Majranc received the first honorary membership of the Jewish community of Kutno, on the suggestion of Rabbi Trunk ztz”l

 

No. 171/20, pp. 2--3: “The Dogma of the Angry” (critical attitude to the intensifying party struggle between the “Agudah” and the Zionists. He holds both parties responsible, not excluding “Mizrachi”, for excessive fanaticism. He calls for mutual compromises and national unity).

This was Rabbi Trunk's latest article in “Mizrachi” and signals his severance from party struggles in the Jewish street).

Translator's footnotes:

  1. February-March 1879. Other date mentioned: 13 December 1878. Return
  2. July 9th, 1893. Return
  3. second Sochaczewer Rebbe (16 October 1855, Kock – 10 January 1926, Otwock). Return
  4. Hebrew abbreviation, “chotan zaken”, the grandfather of his wife. Return
  5. the political party supported by Orthodoxes. Mizrachi by the religious Zionists. Return
  6. meaning prominent citizens: Torah scholars, community leaders, rich merchants… Return
  7. January 1920. Return
  8. July 1920, the conference where Chaim Weizmann was elected to the Presidency of the World Zionist Organization. Return
  9. On the Hebrew Community (Lecture at the Second Conference of the “Mizrachi” in Poland, 1919), 14th of Iyar 1919, Nos. 19-21, pp. 17-20 (At the end of the paper, the editor (Yitzhak Nissenbaum) hy“d) added: “This lecture was often interrupted by stormy applause and in the end, fiery ovations were made for the lecturer. The impression was so great that the offer was made without arguing at all about this lecture, only to give permission to speak to those who wish to fill it.” Return
  10. December 1921 — January 1922. Return
  11. District Council. Return
  12. Yehoshua 7:11, “… they lied and they also put them with their own possessions.” Return
  13. Hebrew (from Talmud), (lit. “All who adds detract”) — “anyone who exaggerates (“adds”) detracts what is said.” Return

 

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Shalom ASZ

S. N. (Shmuel NIGER)

(From Encyclopaedia Hebraica – General, Jewish and Israeli Vol. 7, Jerusalem – Tel-Aviv, 1954).

Translated by Sara Mages

Shalom Asz (born in 1880, Kutno, Poland) was a Yiddish writer; author of novels, plays and essays. His father, Moshe, son to a family of ritual slaughterers, was a cattle dealer and innkeeper. His mother was related to one of the Rabbis of Łęczyca[1]. According to Asz, he inherited from his mother a heart that knows no rest and immersed in dreams, while from his father he inherited faith and security. Asz's first education was in the cheder and later in a yeshiva. When he left Beit HaMidrash (and he was 17 years old), he came across a German translation of Tehillim in Hebrew letters and from it he tried to learn German. Later, he studied the German alphabet and began reading the German classics, and because of it he was suspected of heresy in his home. Other than that, a spirit of restlessness entered him and he could no longer sit in one place. And so, he stumbled upon a village, to the house of relatives. There, he taught the Torah to their sons and at the same time he observed the lives of the Polish peasants. It was, according to him, “the elementary school of his life.” His “high school” was in the city of Włocławek where he made a living from writing letters - a craft “that opened to him the hidden corners of life.”

Under the influence of Hebrew, Russian, Polish and German written works, Asz began to try his hand at composing literature – at first in Hebrew. In 1899 he showed his writings to Y. L. Perec in Warsaw, and according to his suggestion Asz began to write in Yiddish. In 1900, his first writing named “Moshe'le” was published in Der Yid[2]. At the same time, his drawings and short stories were published in HaDor[3] and HaTsfira[4], and in 1902-1903 his published stories and short dramas in Hebrew in HaShiloach[5] and Luach Achiasaf[6]. In those years, a collection of his drawings was first published in a book form in Hebrew – “Stories” (Tushiya Publishing House), and in Yiddish – In A Shlekhter Tsayt “In Terrible Times” (Progress Publishers). The sadness of his childhood years is reflected in his first writings, and it is possible that they also have some of the literary influence of Avrom Reyzen and Hersh Dovid Nomberg, that Asz socialized with them from the day he came to Warsaw and “lived with them in dark and damp holes and came in contact with human distress.” A change took place in his life when he met the Polish Jewish writer, M. M. Shapira, whose daughter Matilda he later married. The needs of his life multiplied and with it, his literary achievements expanded.

In 1904, Asz published in the Der Fraynd[7], chapter by chapter, his story Dos Shtetl (in Heb. “The Town,” 1913), and this story, which appeared the following year in a book form, opened a new chapter not only in Asz's work. A new, more cheerful tone has been felt since than in the Yiddish literature. The place of the poverty of the “bad times” is inherited by the innocent idyll of the “town,” which is full of the spirit of family. Similar to Perec's “Folk Tales,” to the humorous stories of Shalom Aleichem, and “Shlomo's Life,” Mendele's last story, the new turning point, which applied to almost all the literature of the Jewish people at the turn of the twentieth century, is also noticeable in Asz's “The Town”: romantic admiration for the way of life of the people, instead of the negative attitude of the educated, faith instead of despair, and humor instead of satire.

In the same year (1904), Asz wrote his first play “Left and came back” (published in HaShiloach. It was published in Yiddish in book form as “Mitn Shtrom” (“With the Current” in Perec's “Yiddish Library”). After “The Town” it was his second step on the road to fame. Two of the plays that he later wrote: the Meshiekhs Tsaytn – A kholem fun

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mayn folk (“Messianic times” – “A Dream of My People,” 1906) and “Got fun Nekome” (“God of Vengeance”, 1907), were presented in Russian, Polish, German and other languages. Asz's name was then published in the centers of world literature in St. Petersburg, Berlin and Munich. In the following years he wrote the plays “Sabbatai Zevi” (1908, in Heb. 1928), “Yikhus” (“Pedigree”, 1909), “Der Landsman” (“Townsman”, 1910), “Der Bund fun di Shvakhe” (“The Ties of the Weak”, 1912), “Yiftakhs Tokhter” (“Yiftach's Daughter”, 1913), “Far Undzer Gloybn” (“For Our Beliefs”, 1914), “Dos Heylike Meydl” (“The Holy Girl”, 1916), “Der Toyter Mensch” (“The Dead Man”, 1920), “Yosef” (1924), “Koyln” (“Coals,” 1928) and more three-act and one-act plays.

In his dramatic works, whose themes and motifs are individual, psychological or national and social, his strong ambition to break through the town's boundaries and enrich his literary work in terms of content and form is felt as one. This ambition is also felt in his new stories. The first of his novels “Mary” (1912), and its sequel “Der Veg tsu Zikh” (“The Route to Oneself”, 1913), deals with the life and problems of the Jews in many cities and countries. By its scope, “Mary” is a novel of the Diaspora, but it lacks architectural unity.

Asz began writing novels after making several major travels, starting in Europe and later in Eretz Israel (1908). The fruit of his travel to Eretz Israel was “In Eretz Israel” (Warsaw, 1911), and the fruit of the travel to America – plays and stories from Jewish life in America. In 1908 he participated, with Perec and other Yiddish authors in the “Czernowitz Yiddish Language Conference,” and there he lectured on the gathering the treasures of ancient Israeli literature in Yiddish (he himself translated the “Book of Ruth” into Yiddish).

In the same years he wrote the long story “R' Shlomo Nagid” (1913, in Heb. 1917), in which he returned to deal in the matter of the town, but now he treated it after he had matured his talent. In the new story Asz meant to say something and not just sing. This story became an artistic scale for him and, in the stories that he wrote after it, Asz asked to return and reach this peak. However, this aspiration was not soon fulfilled. The social novel “Motke the Thief” (1917, in Heb. 1929) – the first part is very touching, but the rest is nothing but the kind of a story found in the life of the “underworld.” “Onkl Mozes” (1918), although it is not full of life like “Motke the Thief,” it surpasses it on the part of its unity and the wholeness of its parts. Once again, it occupies a place here at the head of the Polish town, but in American style, and is no longer a matter of patriarchal idyll, but is more like a comedic drama. More than that was his success in, “Kiddush HaShem[8] (1920, in Heb. 1927), a story from the days of the decrees of 1648 and 1649[9] – one of the first historical stories in modern Yiddish literature. In the manner of Asz in other stories as well, he presented here the holy Shabbat against the gray mundane of Jewish life, against foreign slavery – domestic freedom. The semi-melodramatic work, “Di Kishefmakherin fun Kastilyen” (“The Witch of Castile,” 1921, in Heb. 1928), is a continuation of “Kiddush HaShem” according to its spirit, even if not according to its content.

Asz immigrated to America at the beginning of the First World, but returned to Poland a few years after the war and later settled in France. In 1938 he settled in the United States and became an American citizen.

In 1920, on the occasion of Asz's fortieth birthday, a committee was formed in New York (headed by Dr. Y. L. Magnes), which published in 1921 the collection of his writings in twelve volumes, with an introduction by S. Niger. In 1930, his fiftieth birthday was celebrated, and in 1932 he was honored by the Polish Republic with the medal of “The Order of Polonia Restituta.”[10] At the same time, he was appointed honorary president of the Yiddish Pen Club (a job he retired from in 1936), and was a delegate to several congresses of the Literary International. In 1937, the “Jewish Institute for Religious Studies” in New York awarded him the title of “Honorary Doctor of Hebrew literature.” For many years he was a member of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Asz took the material for his stories and novels from the general Jewish life of the countries in which he lived. “Di Muter” (“The Mother”, 1923, in Heb. 1929) is a two-part novel, one Jewish Polish and one American. This novel is rich in descriptions of the environment and characters of individuals, but imperfectionless. “Toyt Urteyl” (“Death Sentence”, 1927, in Heb. 1930) – a longer story of general American life – is clean of this flaw, and that is the case in his story “Khaym Lederers Tsurikkumen” (“The Return of Chaim Lederer”1927, in Heb. 1930). Similar to the main character of “Death Sentence,” Chaim Lederer belongs to a group of personalities that is very typical to Asz: each of them, as the author himself, misses an ideal, seeks faith, The sort of souls full of longing and seeking these ways, is also Zachary Mirkin, the main hero of the trilogy “Farn Mabul” (“Before the Flood”: St Petersburg 1927; Warsaw 1930; Moscow 1932) – a monumental work that in some respects should be seen as a sequel to Asz's first novel (“Mary”) and its sequel (“The Way to Oneself”), but its structure is vastly improved from that of these novels and the scope is much larger. In the first part St Petersburg, the former capital of Russia, is described as the center of Jewish intelligence in Russia in the period leading up to the revolution. In the second part, Warsaw is described as the former center of the life of the Jewish people, and of the major movements in the life of the Jewish people, as a Zionist movement and as a socialist movement in Poland; in the third part – Moscow – events and leaders of the Communist Revolution are described. Artistically, the finest of the three parts of the trilogy is the middle part, where Asz unfolds a sheet of life with deep roots, that he was well acquainted with it and the turbulent currents of life of revolutionary Moscow.

After the novel of the great social generation, “Before the Flood,” Asz sought, so to speak, to relax in a quiet book - a story of a personal hidden life “Gots Gefangene” (“der Goyrl fun a Froy”) (“God's Prisoners” [“The Destiny of a Woman”], 1933), A year later he wrote “Der Tehilim-Yid” (1934, in Heb. “The Psalms' Jew”, 1935-6) – a book in which Asz repeatedly folds the main motifs of almost all of his writings, and especially the motif of faith in faith. In 1937, he published “Baym Opgrunt” (“At the Abyss”), a novel from the days of inflation in Germany after the First World War, which Asz saw as inflation of all values, and of spiritual values in general. “Gezang fun Tol” (“Song of the Valley”), which was published in 1938, is a poetic depiction of the lives of the pioneers in Eretz Israel, in the place Asz visited in 1936.

The first part of his second trilogy, which deals with the creators of Christianity (“The Man from Nazareth” - the Yiddish source was published only in 1943, while its English translation in 1939; “The Messenger” has not yet been published in Yiddish and was only published in English 1943; “Miriam” – in English in 1949), is psychologically a sequel to “The Psalms' Jew,” and in terms of the subject – of some of his first stories. “The Man from Nazareth” was received enthusiastically in the English press, but not so in the Yiddish press. Not only that “Forverts,” which served until then a permanent hostel for Asz, refused to publish the novel, and also came out openly against the author claiming that he was “preaching Christianity,” “leading to conversion from Judaism,” etc. Most of the Jewish press followed the editorial board of “Forverts,” and since then a partition has been established between Asz and the Yiddish literature, and to some extent he was also banished from the Jewish society[11]. In everything he has written over the last ten to twelve years they began to search for and find “religious preaching” and all kinds of “impurity.” So it was with his novel of Jewish life in America “East River” (1946), in his stories about Hitler's

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decrees “Der Brenendiker Dorn” (“The Burning Bush” 1946), and even in the novel “Moshe” (1951).

Even in these works, as in all his works that preceded them, before us is a storyteller, who writes first-rate plays and novels, excels in an idealistic outlook on life, in a romantic imagination and a lyrical mood and in a realistic style. The national and social environment of his heroes is no less important to him than their private “self”. Their moral thoughts, and religious pursuits, are no less in his eyes than the rest of the lines of their character. Typical to Asz, as a creator, flared tempers, aggression and incessant migration to new areas. Therefore, there is no wonder in the matter, that Asz, who began the literary action as the town's poet, was destined to take the Yiddish literature out of the immediate vicinity of the town. As an artist of thought, as a writer of a religious ethos, he sought to destroy the partition between the truth of beauty and the beauty of truth. His roots are deeply rooted in the heritage of his people, and especially in the values of “faith and security,” not only that the gates of world literature were not locked before him, he was helped to enter them. His writings have been translated into all the languages of culture. In Hebrew, in addition to what is mentioned in the body of the assessment, were published: Collected Writings of Shalom Asz, Odessa 1912; “Kiddush HaShem”, Tel-Aviv 1927; “Warsaw”, idem 1934; “Moscow”, there 1934-1935; “St Petersburg”, there 1934; “Baal HaTehilim”, there 1935; “Moshe,” Jerusalem 1953; “The Man from Nazareth,” Jerusalem 1953.

Sh. Asz, autobiography (Forverts, 28.5.1922); Z. Reisen Lexicon 1, 1926; S. Niger “Dertseylers un Romanistn[12] 1, 1946, pp. 320-530; the aforementioned, “Algemeine Encyclopedie[13], v, pp. 5-12; Bal-Makhshoves[14], “Geḳlibene ṿerḳ[15], 1953; Yochanan Twersky, Yiddish writers in America, Achisefer 1943, pp. 264-271.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Malka Frajda Asz née Widawska (October 1, 1850, Łęczyca – 1938, Kutno), second wife of Mosze Asz. See article on p. 255 of this book. Return
  2. Yiddish, “The Jew.” Return
  3. HaDor (lit. 'The Generation') – Hebrew-language literary journal published in Cracow Poland in 1901-1904. Return
  4. HaTsfira (lit. 'The Epoch') – a Hebrew-language newspaper published in Poland. Return
  5. HaShiloach – Hebrew language literary journal. Return
  6. Luach Achiasaf – Hebrew language almanac. Return
  7. Der Fraynd (“The Friend"), the first Yiddish daily newspaper in Czarist Russia. Return
  8. Hebrew: “Martyrdom.”. Return
  9. years of the massacres, in Ukraine, of about 100,000 Jews. Return
  10. The Order of the Rebirth of Poland. Return
  11. see article on p. 472 of this book. Return
  12. Yiddish, “Narrators and Novelists.” Return
  13. Yiddish, General Encyclopedia in Yiddish. Return
  14. Yiddish, “Man of Thought” – pseudonym of Isidor [Israel] Eliashev. Return
  15. Yiddish, “Geḳlibene ṿerḳ” – “Collected Works." Return

 

 


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Shalom ASZ

by Yitzhak CHARLASZ

(From the Lexicon of Modern Yiddish Literature, First Volume, published by the World Congress of Yiddish Culture [united with “TSIKO”], New York. 1956, pp. 183-192).

Born in Kutno, Poland, according to his birth certificate on January 1, 1880[1]. According to his mother's reckoning – four days before Passover. His father, Mr. Moshe ‘Gąbiner’[2], came from a family of ritual slaughterers and was somewhat of a Torah scholar and a philanthropist. He traded in sheep and also ran a guesthouse. His mother, Malka, née Widawska, his father's second wife and much younger than him[3], came from an erudite family in Łęczyca. At home, Shalom grew up “between two worlds”: on one side, his full brothers – tall, healthy boys who traded with butchers and Gentiles and loved their eventful life (they later moved to the United States and settled there). From the other side, several step-brothers who prayed in chassidic shtiebels and walked around dressed in silk capotes. Ten children were raised at home. His parents hoped that Szalom, their youngest child, would become a rabbi, so they kept him separated from his brothers and sent him to the best teachers, from whom “the richest children of the city” were taught (among them as well was the later portrayer of Asz's childhood: Dr. Abraham Gliksman). After the cheder, he went on to the Beit Midrash where he studied by himself. At age 15-16, he began to read “non-religious books”. Gliksman recounts that at their home, which was the “only enlightened Jewish home in the town,” they were reading Hebrew Haskalah[4] books together. Asz and his colleagues also discovered the German classics, and as they learned a little German from Mendelssohn's German translation of Psalms which was published in Hebrew letters, they read the works of Schiller, Goethe, and Heine. Asz already knew full pieces by Heine. Rumors were spreading in the town that Shalom was a heretic, and he ran away from home. He was then seventeen years old. “Until that time,” explained Asz about himself, “I was a devout Jew. Later I became convinced that the simple Jew, the common man, was on a higher ethical level compared to the well-educated Chassid.” Asz went to relatives' home in a village, studied there with the children, and meanwhile watched the lives of Polish peasants. Asz said “this was my elementary school of life.” He spent the next two years in Włocławek where he threw himself into various occupations, until he “discovered a stable way to earn a living: writing letters for those who could not write by themselves.” He managed to write love letters and that gave him an “opportunity to look into the most hidden corners of life.” This was his “high school” – as he himself put it. In those years, Asz was reading Tolstoy, Hauptmann[5], and in particular Bolesław Prus[6] (”in the original”) whose story, “Kamizelka[7], made on Asz “an unforgettable impression”. He already knew of Y. L. Perec from the latter's work, “HaUgav[8], the small collection of Hebrew poems that he knew by heart.

Asz himself already had started writing, at first in Hebrew. By chance however, he came across Perec's “Shtreimel” and “Bontshe Shvayg[9]. Asz wrote in his memoirs about Perec “I read them through and was very impressed,” (Tsukunft, New York, May 1915). In the first months of 1900, Asz sailed on a ship over the Vistula River to see Perec in Warsaw, to show him his own writings. Perec recommended Asz to write in Yiddish. By the way, when he was in Perec's home, he became acquainted with H. D. Nomberg[10] and Abraham Reisen[11]. A few months later, Asz once again came to Warsaw from Włocławek and read to Perec his first two stories in Yiddish. On Perec's recommendation, Dr. Yosef Lurie[12], the editor of “Der Yid[13], published in issue 48, 1900, Asz's first story, “Moshele”. Asz settled in Warsaw and published short stories, pictures and sketches in the periodic press: “Der Yid” and “Di Yudishe Folks Zeitung[14], and in Hebrew translation in “HaDoar” and “HaTsfira[15].

Beginning 1903, Asz's first collection of stories was published in print under the title “In A Shlekhter Tsayt[16] (Warsaw, 79 pp.). Before this, Asz published two booklets in Hebrew. The Yiddish collection was very warmly received by Baal-Makhshoves[17]. Sadness and gloom filled the stories of Asz's first anthology. At the time, Asz married Mathilde[18] or Madge Szpira, a daughter of a prominent Hebrew teacher and Hebrew-Polish writer. She had a great influence on Asz contributed greatly to the further development of his talent. In 1904, Asz serially published in Fraynd (St. Petersburg) his

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first major work, “Dos Shtetl[19] (in book form, Minsk 1905). With a modern, romantic perspective toward earlier Jewish life, Dos Shtetl marked out and defined Asz's place in Yiddish literature. In that same year of 1904, Asz began his career as a playwright. He composed his first “theatrical piece in two acts” titled Tsurik Gekumen[20]. It was first published in Hebrew translation Yatzah u'Chazar in HaShiloach, 1904, and then in the original Yiddish in Perec's Yidishe Biblyotek, number 3 and 4, also in 1904 (in book form it appeared in Warsaw in 1909 under the title Mitn shtrom[21]). In the summer of 1904, Asz met Polish writers in Zakopane. One of them, Stanisław Witkiewicz, translated Asz's drama into Polish and in December 1904 it was performed in a Polish theater in Cracow. Asz's second play was Meshiekhs Tsaytn[22], a tragedy in three acts (in a later edition, with the subtitle: “A kholem fun mayn folk[23], and in a next edition: “A tsaytshtik in dray aktn[24], Vilna, 1906, second edition, Vilna, 1907). Meshiekhs Tsaytn was almost simultaneously translated into Polish, Russian, and German, and on February 12, 1906, with the Russian title “On the Path to Zion”, it was performed in St. Petersburg with the actress Komissarzhevskaya[25] in the role of Justine, and on July 15, 1906 on the Polish stage in Warsaw. At the same time, Asz wrote short stories and sketches which were published in the form of notebooks by “Kultur” publishing house in Minsk and which in part were published in Der Nayer Veg[26], the organ of the Zionist Socialists in Vilna where was also published for the first time the one-act drama, Um Vinter[27], 1906. In 1905, Asz also wrote notes on the 1905 Revolution in Warsaw, with the title “Momentn”, published in 1908 by St Petersburg's “Progres”, Warsaw, 38 pp.

In 1907, Asz's drama Got fun nekome[28] was published in St Petersburg's publisher “Tsukunft”. It was performed in various theaters around the world. This drama caused a great deal of controversy in the Yiddish press. In 1908, Asz read aloud before writers in Berlin his play Shapse Tzvi[29] (published in Monthly Literary Writings, #3) – an effort to portray the struggle between earthly lust and heavenly purity in the Shabbetai Zevi movement. The forms were too philosophical, and the drama was never performed on the stage. In the years 1907-1908 Asz also wrote two one-act plays entitled Amnon un Tamar and Der Zindiker[30]. In 1908 the St Petersburg's publisher “Shimin” in Warsaw published Yugnt, a collection of stories that he wrote over the years 1902-1907. Two of them – “Dos koyler gesl” (The Koło alley) and “Der Yung Mitn Kind[31] – have illuminated the second wave of Asz's artistic creation, his full-blooded realism, in opposition to the romanticism of Dos shtetl. The two currents were there mixed together, the raw nature of primitive man was wrapped in a romantic longing for higher worlds, something that was later repeated more than once in the work of Asz.

Asz wisited Eretz Israel for the first time in 1908, and described his impressions in a series of travelogues. Under the influence of this visit, he also wrote his biblical historical scenes (published in book form in 1911, Vilnius, with the title Eretz-Israel, and in Warsaw as In Eretz Israel). In 1908, Asz participated in the Czernowitz Yiddish Language Conference and in his lecture, he proposed that the treasures of ancient Hebrew literature should be translated into Yiddish. He himself translated the “Book of Ruth” into Yiddish (published in Dos Naye Lebn[32], New York, 1910). Early in 1909, Asz completed his drama play Yikhus[33] depicting the demise of an old Jewish aristocratic house falling through a misalliance into the hands of parvenus. At the end of 1909, Asz visited United States for the first time, wrote there and had performed on stage (without particular success) his first comedy on Jewish life in the New World, Der Landsman (Warsaw, 1911). Returning to Poland, Asz published over the years 1910-1914 a number of shorter and longer works, some of which became milestones in Asz's own works as well as in Yiddish literature in general. Among the smaller novel from those years was Erd[34], a tale of Polish peasant life (Warsaw, 1910). In 1911 the same publishing house published the longer story Amerike (in later editions, it was Keyn Amerike or Yosele), a moving portrayal of the sad fate of a Jewish immigrant child on the way to the United States and in the new, foreign world. In 1912, he published in the St. Petersburg's Di Yidishe Velt the two-act play Der Bund fun di Shvakhe[35] about Polish artist life (performed in German at the Chamber-Theatre in Berlin). In 1913, Kletskin Publishers (Vilna) published Rabbi Shlomo Nagid[36], “a poem of Jewish life,” one of Asz's most achieved work, through which he clearly delineated the boundaries of his philosophical horizons. In the same year aoppeared (in Vilnius) Meshelekh fun Khumash[37], the dramas Di Yorshim[38] and Yiftakhs Tokhter[39], the poem Khurban Yerushlaim[40] (published in Di Yidishe Velt 1-2, Vilna, 1913), and also his first novel Mary, which together with its second part entitled Der Veg tsu Zikh[41] (published in Di Yidishe Velt, Vilnius, 1914), constituted an unsuccessful effort to create a diaspora novel – i.e., to give a broad socio-cultural picture of Jewish life in different cities and countries – in the cities of the former Pale[42], in the centers of semi-assimilated Jewishness, St. Petersburg and Berlin, as well as in the new Eretz Israel's yishuv.

In those years, Asz lived in a number of different countries in Europe, then settled as a resident in Paris but, with the outbreak of WWI he moved to New York, where he wrote the drama Far Undzer Gloybn[43] and a series of new novels (published by chapters in Forverts) and short stories. In 1916, he published in book form (Forverts Publishing House) Motke Ganav[44], a social novel, in the first two parts of which Asz depicts Motke's childhood and youth, were highly artistic, while the last part seems like artificially added on and reminding more of literary crime stories. In 1918, Onkl Mozes was published, Asz's first novel of American Jewish life. In those early American years, Asz also published: Der Yidisher Soldat[45] and other war stories (1918); Khurban Poyln, Amerikaner Dertseylungen[46] – among them, Leybl in der Heym, Leybl in Amerike[47] and Di Kinder fun Abraham[48], as well as Di Rayze keyn Kalifornye[49]; the story Yunge Yorn[50] (in book form together with other stories, New York, 1918), the

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dramatic works: Dos Heylike Meydl oder a Shnirl Perl[51] (1916); Ver Iz der Foter?[52] (1918) and the historical novel: Kiddush HaShem[53] (1919), which was a new artistic achievement. Asz wrote this novel under the influence of the pogroms in Ukraine of 1918-1919 and the historical background of the decrees of 1648-1649[54]. A story of a great national pathos, written with a deep insight into Jewish history, it became a classic work in Yiddish literature, a magnificent and appreciated source for Jewish schools.

During the time of WWI, Asz took was involved in relief works for the victims of the war and on missions to the American Jewish Committee (spring 1919) visiting Western and Eastern Europe. In 1921, he came to Poland where he was received with great honor and respect by the entire Jewish intelligentsia. His drama “Motke the Thief” was then the “hit” of Jewish theater. It was given hundreds of performances on the Jewish stage of Warsaw and other cities. In 1924, Asz settled down for a long time in Warsaw, where he often appeared for speeches concerning his unique Jewish cultural constructions, and demonstrating, on the one hand, his sympathies for Eretz Israel and Hebrew, and – on the other hand – led a fight against extreme Hebraism in the name of Yiddish culture and the Jewish school. In 1926, after Piłsudski's coup, there was an uproar against Asz, after he published (in Haynt, Warsaw, October 22, 1926) an “Open Letter to Marshal Piłsudski.” In his letter, he praised and commended the “noble knight” whose sword “liberated the Polish soul.”

In the 1920s, Asz published the dramas: Der Toyter Mentsh[55] (1920), Maranen[56] (1922), Yosef (1924), Reverend Doktor Silber (1927), Koyln[57] (1928) and three social novels of American Jewish life: Di Muter[58] (1925, 407 pp.), rich in individual artistic depictions, particularly of Jewish bohemian life in New York, mastered but not completely; Toyt-Urteyl[59] aka “Electric Chair” (Warsaw, 1926, 182 pp.), a longer story of general American life and Khayim Lederers Tsurikkumen[60] (Warsaw, 1927, 180 pp.), a social psychological novel about a former radical woker who became rich and, feeling his spiritual emptiness, returns to the environment of his comrades. In 1926 he published Di Kishefmakherin fun Kastilyen[61] (Warsaw, 144 pp.) – a second historical novel depicting Jewish martyrdom and Mayn Rayze Iber Shpanye[62] (ibidem, 442 pp.). In 1929, he published Peterburg in Warsaw (442 pp.). This is the first book in the trilogy Farn Mabul[63] the second book, Varshe (Warsaw, 442 pp.) was published by the same publisher in 1930 and the third book, Moskve (Moscow, 516 pp.) in 1931. In the trilogy, Asz was trying to describe the life of Jewish big bourgeoisie and Russified intelligentsia in St. Petersburg from before 1914; (2) to give a complete picture of all classes of Jewish society in Warsaw and Łódź during the stormiest two decades of the twentieth century and (3) a cross section of the Bolshevik Revolution (1917-1920) in St. Petersburg, Moscow, and other cities in Russia. The internal connection of the three novel is weak, the main character, the young Zachary Mirkin, is unclear and unsteady. In the first book and especially in the third, one can feel strongly the foreign influences and therefore Varshe is so full of many-sided depictions of ways of life and as well with the liveliness of the individual characters. After the trilogy, Farn Mabul, came Gots Gefangene, der Goyrl fun a Froy[64], a psychological novel, was published in Warsaw in 1933 (261 pp.). In 1934, Der Tehilim-Yid[65] (Warsaw, 611 pp.) was published, a kind of summing up of motifs which were scattered over Asz's previous works. Belief is the essence of the novel, a higher belief, standing above form or ritual and embracing all kind of beliefs.

In 1937, he published Baym Opgrunt[66] (Warsaw), a novel from the eve of Hitler's time in Germany and in 1938, Dos Gezang fun Tol[67] (ibidem, 215 pp.), a poetic depiction of the lives of the pioneers in Eretz Israel. In 1930, people in Warsaw celebrated Asz's double jubilee – his 50th birthday and 30th year of literary creation. In 1933, there was another uproar over Asz's name in relation to his acceptance of a medal from the Piłsudski government. Asz lived in France and Poland in the 1930s and also traveled to various other European countries.

In 1935, he paid a visit to New York. Then, he returned to Paris and in 1938, he left again Europe and settled in the United States.

In the late 1930s and the 1940s, Asz wrote his Christ novels and theological-philosophical essays and articles. In Buenos Aires and New York, in 1939, his novel Der Man fun Natseres appeared in English translation (original version was first published in New York only in 1943, in two volumes). This was a work of great scope. With a vast body of life depicted in three cultural settings – pagan, Roman-Hellenic, and Jewish – it had no equal in Yiddish literature. It stands out also with its mastery of portraying individual characters, in addition to the main character who was too “heavenly” abstract to have flesh and blood. In too many places – and this is the book's major artistic flaw – Asz faithfully followed the New Testament. Nevertheless (and perhaps for this reason), the English version was enthusiastically received by the serious English press. In a large part of the Jewish press Asz and his book were very sharply attacked, mainly from a religious and national point of view. Asz responded with a string of articles and press interviews in the Yiddish and English press and indirectly with the pamphlet “What I Believe” (New York, 1941). The controversy grew, with some even suspecting Asz of “dissidence” and national treason. The novel was not published in the Forverts, to which Asz had regularly collaborated for decades. The doors of the other Yiddish dailies were also closed to him. Only a small number of Yiddish, Hebrew, and English-Yiddish newspapers did not show solidarity with those who boycotted the writer. Some representatives of the Yiddish critique rated Der Man fun Natseres, from a purely literary standpoint, as one of the highest,

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“if not the highest”, artistic achievement in recent Yiddish literature.

In 1943, Putnam published the English translation of the second book of Asz's Christ novels: “The Apostle”, which was not yet published in the original Yiddish. This novel describes the personality and the surrounding life of the apostle Paul (Saul of Tarsus). With regard to background descriptions and characterizations, “The Apostle” is less complex and therefore fuller and more compact than Der Man fun Natseres, but even here the author's artistic qualities suffered from the insufficiently critical following of the interpretation of the gospels. This hindered the freedom of the artist's imagination in forming the main character of the novel. In 1949, “Mary”, the English translation of the third book of the series was published (with the same publisher, Putnam), artistically much weaker and, from the point of view of Christian symbols, much sharper than the previous two books. The struggle against Asz, which had ceased for a while, was then renewed and with greater energy.

In the interval (1943) he became a regular contributor to Morgn-Frayhayt[68], something that both sides[69] declared they were not responsible for. Asz's connection to this extreme left wing political publication did not last long. During the two or three years of their “friendship” by necessity, this left-wing publisher published Asz's stories, Hitlers Geburt[70] (64 pp.) and A Yidish Kind in Shnas 5695[71] which later entered in Asz's anthology of ghetto stories entitled Der Brenendiker Dorn[72] (New York, 1946, 285 pp.), a collection which included Yitgadal veYitkadash, Kristus in Geto, A Kind Firt dem Veg[73], and other works. In 1948, IKUF[74] published two volumes of Asz's selected works: 1) Dos Shtetl, Reb Shlomo Nagid, and Der Farborgener Bokher[75] and 2) Dos Gezang fun Tol and other works. In 1946, the novel “East River” was published (Laub Publishing., 514 pp.) in which, with a host of masterful social depictions of early Jewish life in New York's East Side, Asz brought to life his realistic lifestyle idea that two faiths (Judaism and Christianity) could live together under the same roof, not just under the same heavens – an idea that Asz had sought to correct since Dos Shtetl, where prayers from the synagogue and from the church unite in the air and ascend to one God, as well as in a whole series of youth stories (Mentshn un Geter, A Karnaval-Nakht[76]), through Der Tehilim-Yid, until the Christ trilogy. In his last years, Asz published three new works: Moshe (New York, 1951, 491 pp.), a biblical novel; Grosman un Zun (New York, 1954, 366 pp) in English translation “A Passage in the Night”; “The Prophet” Putnam Publishing, 1955, 344 pp. (initially in English).

Asz was a restless man, who never in his life settled at a given place for long. In his last years to, he extensively travelled across the United States, Europe and the state of Israel, where there was a major public reception for him in Tel Aviv; in 1954. The articles, for and against Asz, which were frequently published in the Israeli press, gave the impression that only a part of the Jewish intelligentsia made peace with him.

All editions of Asz's works in Yiddish up to 1925 have been enumerated by Z. Reisen in Leksikon, vol. 1, pp. 183-185. There is also a list of translations of Asz's works into Hebrew, Russian, Polish, and German – also until 1925. Z. Zilbercwajg's Leksikon fun Yidishn Teater[77], vol. 1, pp. 105-111, contains a comprehensive list of Asz's dramas and comedies and their translations into foreign languages, as well as of their performances on the Yiddish and foreign-language stages until 1930. From that time, almost all of Asz's works have been translated into English, and new translations and new editions of earlier translations into Hebrew, Russian, Polish, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Danish, Hungarian, Romanian and other languages.

The literature on Asz is very rich and, for the most part, scattered over different magazines and languages. A partial bibliography covering what people have written about Asz can be found in Zalman Reisen's Leksikon, vol. 1, pp. 173-186, and in Z. Zilbercwajg's Leksikon fun Yidishn Teater, vol. 1, pp. 110-111; Sholem Asz on himself, Der Veker, New York, October 4, 1930 (reprinted from Naye Folkstsaytung, Warsaw, no. 206, 1930); Literarishe Bleter, Warsaw, December 19, 1930, Asz's Jubilee-issue; M. Zilberfarb, Sholem Ash, der Politisher, Gezelshaftlekher Tuer[78], Tsukunft, New York, June 1921; Yidishe Kultur, New York, January 1955 (on Asz's 75th birthday); Kh. Liberman, Sholem Ash un Kristntum[79], New York, 1950; Dr. A. Mukdoni, Sholem Ash Iz Avek fun Yidish, Tsukunft, New York, March 1950, (about Asz's Grosman un Zun in English translation); N. Mayzil, Sholem Ashs Ershte Kritiker[80], Yidishe Kultur, New York, March-April 1948; Sh. Niger, Dertseylers un Romanistn[81], part 2, New York, 1946, pp. 320-531; Moshe Oved, Vizyonen un Eydelshteyner[82], London, 1931, pp. 75-80, 203-215; Leo Finkelsztein, Loshn Yidish un Yidisher Kiem[83], Mexico, 1954, pp. 172-201; Av. Kahan, Sholem Ashs Nayer Veg[84], New York, 1941, 96 pp.; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Aszs Verk in der Yidish-Veltlekher Shul[85], Fraye Arbeter Shtime, New York, August 12, 1950; Hilel Rogof, Der Gayst fun Forverts, New York, 1954, pp. 73-75; M. Rawicz, in Fraye Arbeter Shtime, 1941 (no. 35), 1944 (no. 10-14), 1945 (no. 46), 1947 (no. 33), 1950 (no. 8-10); Y. Rapoport, in Tsukunft, New York, April 1954; Yitzhak Elhanan Roncz, Amerike in der Yidisher Literatur[86], New York, 1945; Avraham Reisen, Epizodn fun Mayn Lebn[87], part 1, Vilnius, 1929, part 2, Vilnius, 1929, part 3 Vilnius, 1935; Dr. Y. Szacki, about the novel Moshe, in Der Veker, New York, August 1952; Talusz, in Yidishe Shrayber, Miami Beach, 1953.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. according to Wikipedia and Britannica November 1st, according to Kutno Book of Residents October 1stReturn
  2. May 1st 1825, Gąbin – August 8th, 1905, Kutno. Return
  3. October 1st, 1850, Łęczyca – 1938, Kutno. Return
  4. Hebrew, “Enlightenment”. Return
  5. Gerhart Hauptmann, Nobel Prize for Literature in 1912. Return
  6. pen name of Aleksander Głowacki (August 20, 1847, Hrubieszów, Poland – May 19, 1912, Warsaw). Polish novelist and journalist. Return
  7. Polish, “The Waistcoat”. Return
  8. Hebrew: “The Pipe Organ”. Return
  9. Yiddish “Bontshe the Silent”. Return
  10. Hersh David Nomberg (14 April 1876 – 21 November 1927), Yiddish writer, journalist and essayist. Return
  11. (April 8, 1876 – April 2, 1953) Yiddish writer, poet and editor. Elder brother of Zalman Reisen. Return
  12. (1871–1937), Zionist leader and Hebrew educator. Return
  13. Yiddish, “The Jew”. Return
  14. Yiddish, “The Jewish People's Newspaper”. Return
  15. Hebrew: “The Mail” and “The Siren”. Return
  16. Yiddish, “In a Terrible Time” Return
  17. pen name of Israel Isidor Elyashev (1873-1924). Neurologist and first Yiddish literary critic. Return
  18. Blima Matla Szpira, in Kutno's Book of Residents. Return
  19. Yiddish, “The Town”. Return
  20. Yiddish “Returned” Return
  21. Yiddish, “With the Current” Return
  22. Yiddish, “Messianic times”. Return
  23. Yiddish, “A Dream of My People”. Return
  24. Yiddish: “A Piece in Three Acts”. Return
  25. Vera Fyodorovna Komissarzhevskaya (8 November 1864 – 23 February 1910). Return
  26. Yiddish, “The New Way”. Return
  27. Yiddish: “During Winter”. Return
  28. Yiddish, “God of Vengeance”. Return
  29. “ Shabbetai Zevi”. Return
  30. Yiddish, “The Sinner”. Return
  31. Yiddish, “Youngster with Child”. Return
  32. Yiddish, “The New Life”. Return
  33. Hebrew, “Pedigree”. Return
  34. Yiddish, “Earth”. Return
  35. Yiddish; “The Ties of the Weak”. Return
  36. Hebrew, “The Wealthy Rabbi Shlomo”. Return
  37. Yiddish, “Stories from the Pentateuch”. Return
  38. Hebrew: “The Heirs”. Return
  39. Yiddish, “Yiftach's Daughter”. Return
  40. Hebrew, “The Destruction of Jerusalem”. Return
  41. Yiddish, “The Route to Oneself”. Return
  42. Pale of Settlements, the parts of Russian Empire where the Jews were authorized to live. Return
  43. Yiddish, “For Our Beliefs”. Return
  44. Yiddish, “Motke the Thief”. Return
  45. Yiddish, “The Jewish Soldier”. Return
  46. Yiddish, “The Holocaust in Poland, American Stories”. Return
  47. Yiddish, “Leybl at home, Leybl in America”. Return
  48. Yiddish, “The Children of Abraham”. Return
  49. Yiddish, “The Trip to California”. Return
  50. Yiddish, “Young Years”. Return
  51. Yiddish, “The Holy Girl or a String of Pearls”. Return
  52. Yiddish, “Where Is the Father?”. Return
  53. Hebrew, “Martyrdom”. Return
  54. linked to Chmielnicki's massacres in Ukraine. Return
  55. Yiddish, “The Dead Man”. Return
  56. Yiddish, “Marranos”. Return
  57. Yiddish, “Coals”. Return
  58. Yiddish, “The mother”. Return
  59. Yiddish, “Death Sentence” Return
  60. Yiddish, “The Return of Chaim Lederer”. Return
  61. Yiddish, “The Witch of Castile”. Return
  62. Yiddish, “My Trip Through Spain”. Return
  63. Yiddish, “Before the Flood”. Return
  64. Yiddish, “God's Prisoners, the Destiny of a Woman”. Return
  65. Yiddish, “The Psalms' Jew”. Return
  66. Yiddish, “At the Abyss”. Return
  67. Yiddish, “Song of the Valley”. Return
  68. Yiddish, “Morning Freedom”, extreme-left publication. Return
  69. meaning supporters and critics of Asz. Return
  70. Yiddish, “Hitler's Birth”. Return
  71. Yiddish, “A Jewish Child in the Year 1944/1945”. Return
  72. Yiddish, “The Burning Bush”. Return
  73. Yiddish, “A Child Leads the Way”. Return
  74. Yiddish, “Yiddishe KUltur Farband”, “Jewish Cultural Association”. Return
  75. Yiddish, “The Borrowed Boy”. Return
  76. Yiddish, “Men and God”, “A Carnival Night”. Return
  77. Yiddish, “Handbook of Yiddish theater”. Return
  78. Yiddish, “Shalom Asz, the Political, Communal Leader”. Return
  79. Yiddish, “Shalom Asz and Christianity”. Return
  80. Yiddish, “Shalom Asz's First Critic”. Return
  81. Yiddish, “Narrators and Novelists”. Return
  82. Yiddish, “Visions and Gems”. Return
  83. Yiddish, “The Yiddish Language and Jewish Survival”. Return
  84. Yiddish, “ Shalom Asz's New Pathway”. Return
  85. Yiddish, “Asz's Work in the Secular Jewish School”. Return
  86. Yiddish, “America in Yiddish literature”. Return
  87. Yiddish, “Episodes from my life”. Return


Literary Eternity and Shalom Asz

by Melech RAWICZ

Translated from the Yiddish by Murray Citron

57 years – from the year 1900, when he first appeared in literature, to the year 1957, when his earthly form was extinguished – there towered in Yiddish literature, and also in the literature of Jews in several world languages, and to a considerable extent in world literature, the majestic figure of a writer of the greatest stature – and his name was Shalom Asz. His seventh yahrtzeit is approaching – at age 77 he left the world – and it is appropriate to measure against that tower still a higher tower – the tower of eternity, of literary eternity. To address and to ponder deeply. Ponder with tenderness, without any side distractions or biases on the theme: Shalom Asz and literary eternity.

A few years after Shalom Asz's death, the well-known Hebrew-Yiddish prose-writer, Y.D. Berkowicz[1],

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in the course of an interview, expressed himself as follows about Shalom Asz: As long as he lived his romances, novels and plays lived with him; when he died, his works died with him.

Clearly, by no means can the right be questioned of such a literary authority as Berkowicz to express freely and openly his opinion about such a figure in literature as Shalom Asz. Sharp as the opinion is, by all means its daring must be respected.

But between respecting a right to an opinion and accepting it as past question is a long journey. In such a long journey it may happen that one arrives in the antipodes, in a completely opposite opinion, that as long as Shalom Asz lived, his works lived with him in the present, but now that he is gone into eternity, his works are there with him – truly in the eternity of Yiddish literature and also – in a higher degree – in world literature. Naturally, the quantity of the work of a writer of a specific people is always greater in the eternity of his own folk-literature than in world literature

Let us first of all raise a question: What makes a writer eternal?

He is eternal in that he is eternally interesting, has always something to say, is always human.

The great writer, who remains eternal in the literature of his people, must to a significant extent take up the problems of his people's roots. He must not be isolated. Not a light assignment for any writer foreign to the people written about; for the writer of the world Jewish people, it's a really, really, a heavy challenge.

Now let us measure on Shalom Asz all the obligatory qualities of a writer who stays in literary eternity.

 

Language

It must be admitted that Shalom Asz is not especially careful with language. His vocabulary is naturally folkish, rich in color and rich in sound. From the standpoint of grammar, however, his language is uncertain, irregular, loose. This is true. But Shalom Asz created his own style, a romantic, poetic Shalom Asz-style. Language can be corrected, improved, polished, sharpened. Style cannot be made by others' hands. So, it is debatable what matters to Shalom Asz's literary eternity.

Therefore however – in relation to the other conditions of eternity – Shalom Asz is a mighty giant.

He created a gallery of characters – sometimes based on history and sometimes on contemporary life. Beginning with Moshe Rabeinu and finishing with Reb Yechiel and Itsche Meir[2] the Warsaw martyr in the days of the third catastrophe[3]. If we had a normal literature, someone might undertake to create a lexicon of Shalom-Asz-characters in the forty volumes if his stories, novels and dramas. Yes, he was a mighty giant in that region.

And just as he – Shalom Asz – energetically lived through all that he wrote, so also the attentive reader lives through it. He is drawn into the march of events – he suffers and is happy, he is uplifted and he learns. He is fascinated. He is drawn in. And the experience with his works is an indication that the fascination will not weaken with the passing of the years.

Many Jewish writers have, with and in their works, immortalized the Jewish shtetl-civilization, which has played such a great role in the history of the Jewish people. Shalom Asz was the first to crown just that civilization with beauty. In his love – for like no other Jewish writer he was able to love – he saw the shtetl in such a light as no one before him.

Shalom Asz belongs to Jewish literary eternity and Jewish literary eternity belongs to him. He is, he is, he is – three times we say, with conviction – the fourth pillar to the three – Mendele[4], Perec[5], Shalom Aleichem[6] – that uphold the dome over the holy of holies of Yiddish literature.

It is worthwhile to discuss the question, and even to debate it, and even sharply, pro and con. By all accounts we do not have many like Shalom Asz in Yiddish literature.

Translator's footnotes:

  1. Yitzhak Dov Berkowitz (16 October 1885, Slutsk, Russia – 29 March 1967, Tel Aviv). Return
  2. see article “Yitgadal v'Yitkadash”, on page 322. Return
  3. probably a reference to the two destructions of the Temples and the Holocaust. Return
  4. Shalom Jankev Abramovich, aka Mendele Mocher Sforim [Hebrew, “Mendele the bookseller”] (2 January 1836, Kapyl – 8 December 1917, Odessa). Return
  5. Isaac Leib Perec, (18 May 1852, Zamość –3 April 1915, Warsaw). Return
  6. Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich (2 March 1859, Pereiaslav, Russie – 13 May 1916, New York) Return


Shalom Asz in His Twilight Years

by Mordechai CHALAMISH, Tel Aviv

Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Mages

The first meeting of a Jewish child with Asz in Poland, before the Holocaust, was already when he attended school, especially in the lower grades. It seems, that even before the youth matured and knew how to understand his powerful psychological and social plays — “Kiddush HaShem,” “God of Vengeance,” “Motke the Thief” (especially in the performance of the Vilna troupe and the popular talented actor, Aizyk Samberg, who was probably created to play the roles of Yechezkel Gombiner, Shlomo Nagid, Uncle Moses, Zachary Mirkin and Yechiel Baal HaTehilim). From the huge list of heroes of Asz's works, “The Village Righteous” captured the heart of the Jewish child in Poland and engraved in his memory for the rest of his life. At the height of Yom Kippur, inside the crowd of the holy congregation of Jews praying in the synagogue, he put two fingers in his mouth and with a sharp and excited whistle convinces the Heavenly Court to remove the evil decree from the Jews.

Already in this short story, from the period of his first work, he revealed the sharp claws of the young lion, who over the years will not only occupy his place near the Eastern Wall in our literature with its two languages, but will also be at the center of a turbulent and very bitter controversy that raged around his dynamic and daring personality for nearly half a century. And if you find to say, that village youth, deprived of education and acceptable manners — but with a big and innocent heart overflowing with an abundance of Jewish and human emotion — is the symbol of the figure of Shalom Asz, the giant Jewish creator, more than once his appearance in matters of literature and Judaism was a kind of a sharp and strong whistle on opinions that have always been accepted… So it was in the scandal of Chirikov-Arabzhin[1] in the first decade of the century, when Asz's comedy, Yikhus, in its Russian translation, provoked several anti-Semites in the Russian literary and artistic circles to come out strongly against “the Jews' intervention in matters pertaining only to Russians.” So it was in the scandal that Asz provoked when he expressed, in those days, his opinion against the custom of circumcision among the Jews, and so it was at the end of his life, when he published

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his trilogy about the creators of Christianity, and outraged many among the critics, who pretended to be the righteous guardians of the walls of tradition, and shouted loudly that Shalom Asz is “is acting against the Jewish people,” Heaven forbid!, “preaching for conversion from Judaism,” and “plotting to destroy the foundations of our national existence.” No less and no more!

And interestingly, that within the camp of his rivals and slanderers, Bundists[2] and Zionists, religious and non-religious Jews joined together, and the factor that united them into one association was… their hatred of Asz. There were also those among them, who claimed that Asz does not understand the origins of Judaism, is not proficient in them well enough, and does not know how to teach heaps of rules, as is customary, but rather interprets the Scriptures by way of his intuition. There were also those who went so far and asked to disqualify Asz as an artist with a personal Gothic-philosophical building and artistic perfection from his essence. Those found that Asz was nothing but a simple writer for the masses, who had never in his work attained such perfection that could satisfy the opinion of those with refined taste.

However, the great critic of Yiddish literature, the late Shmuel Niger, has rightly said, that those who fight against Shalom Asz's heresy forget that, in the eyes of the true ultra-orthodox, every beautiful literature is “improper,” and it is impossible to learn from it whether it has “missionary tendencies” or not. And in any case, he accused all of Asz's critics and opponents of not even trying to analyze his great works in a pure literary-artistic analysis. They abundantly submitted him to cursing, slander, banishment, ostracism and excommunication, almost in a malicious way… as if we were in the Middle Ages and our whole lives revolved solely on the axis of religion and the theological differences between Judaism and Christianity. And they concealed the fact that Shalom Asz has, more than any other creator in our two literatures, opened wide the gates of world literature to our literary works, and thanks to the translations of his works into many languages, millions of readers, on all five continents, became acquainted for the first time with the Jewish subject, and came to know that modern Jewish literature does not have to be ashamed of any other.

And as to the claims of the “scholars,” it might have been appropriate to bring one or two sentences from Asz's words in his “Man from Nazareth.” He describes there the main protagonist, “Pan Viadomsky,” to say: if, for example, a scholar erred in the name of a general, a wise judge, or a Roman philosopher, if he specified an inaccurate date or distorted the name of a certain tribune — in short, when someone had sinned by inaccuracy regarding this or that detail related to a great or small hero of ancient time — an error correction (by Viadomsky) would have appeared immediately in the newspaper. In most cases, the editor had to rewrite the letter, or even throw it in the bin, because of its wrong and weird style…

Therefore, with his exceptional knowledge of all the treasures of Jewish wisdom and its history, Asz's greatness was not necessarily in his erudition, but in his genial intuition, in his creative imagination that knew no bounds in time, scope and depth, in the fervor of his great love for his people and man in general, and the most important thing the unprecedented creative power in our literature, a power which enabled it to encompass all the layers of life of our people in its diasporas and in his country, at this time and in all the important periods of its history.

In any case, the controversy over Asz caused that the greatest creator of Jewish literature in our generation walked (or rather, wandered) for many years banished and ostracized within his people. Things got to the point where, apart for the exceptional, few were writers, teachers, editors and publishers (most of whom, as is well known, do not excel in excess of courage and moral stature) who feared, some of them out of cowardice and some out of jealousy and hatred, to publish something about his achievements, to teach his stories at school or to include them in chrestomathies and anthologies. The shtetl, for example, has been studied for decades in the satirical-sarcastic works of Mendele[3], or Shalom Aleichem who mocks it with mischievous laughter, while they completely hid the “Shtetl,” the poem- in-prose of Shalom Asz who, for the first time, sang the shtetl's song out of a romantic poetic point of view, radiant optimism and complete faith. Even Asz's 75th anniversary did not serve as a reason for reconciliation, neither with him nor with his works.

And indeed, there is no denying, that Asz also has some artistically weak works. But what does this fact prove? Is it possible that in the writings of an author, who has managed to create complete literature for nearly sixty years, from the short story and the sketch, suspenseful plays and thick novels of many volumes, there will be no particular works, or parts in any work, that suffer from weakness compared to others?

* * *

With the immigration of Asz to Israel, and his integration into the revival and building enterprise, he seemed to slap on the faces of all his critics-slanderers, who entrenched themselves in their ultra-nationalist viewpoints within the atmosphere of detachment from the central channel of our national life today, and from there they sent him their poisoned arrows. I then found it my duty to come to the house he built in Bat-Yam[4], and greet him with the blessing, Bruchim HaBa'im[5]. I went with awe and reverence and, in fact, I was afraid that I would not find Asz as I knew him before the war, but rather an old man, broken and bitter. I also pondered in my heart, that if the tragedy of the loss of the European Jewry is great in the heart of every Jew, probably Asz's tragedy is much greater. After all, Hitler and his troops not only destroyed his brother and his people, his origins from which he drew his vitality and found the thousands of heroes for his work — they also destroyed hundreds of thousands of readers of Asz's works, those who saw him as their poet, who perpetuated and glorified them in literature.

But that meeting with Asz, which was soon followed by more meetings, brought me a pleasant surprise in this respect as well. Indeed, the man was old, and the hardships of fate plowed deep grooves in his face. But, his radiant eyes, his fluent and alert conversation, his heart full of Jewish warmth, immediately removed all the barriers. The great creative talent probably enabled him to overcome and tower above all hardships, and even beyond petty accounts with his rivals. He simply ignored them and did not mention them in a word or a hint. On the other hand, he did not hesitate to say unreserved words of praise for the work of several writers, those who did not show him excessive friendship and even those who showed him explicit hostility.

Particularly memorable was the last meeting which lasted many hours. Then we saw Asz without the European and American fancy clothing, which clung to him throughout his long life, and he was revealed to our eyes almost as a young Beit Midrash man from Kutno, who speaks innocently about matters he is struggling with in the depths of his heart.

It was on one of the Saturdays at the end of December 1956. Outside, the merciful winter sun was still shining, but the fireplace was lit in the small and modestly furnished room in Asz's house in Bat Yam. We, four or five people, sat around the table for three meals. Shalom Asz, who usually spiced up his words with jokes, shone with inspiration that evening, with miraculous power of memory and his immense proficiency. The main topic of conversation was, what is the root of Judaism — Halacha or Aggadah[6]? Asz, of course, defended, with all his fervor, the legendary element. He expressed his distaste for the method of Rambam[7] and his students. Among the sages of the Spanish Jewry, he already preferred the Ramban[8], precisely because he had less talent than his rival, the Rambam. However, closer to his heart were the sages of Ashkenazi Jews — R' Gershom Me'Or Hagolah[9] and Rashi. And in the same time, Asz went in an analysis of the essence of the Essenes][10] sect in the days of the Second Temple and draw an analogy between them and R' Yehudah HeHasid[11], between mysticism in Judaism in general and in the Hasidic

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Movement in particular. He came to the conclusion, with all the decisiveness, that the sign of the uniqueness of Judaism among the nations of the world, is not actually in the Halacha, but in the Aggadah and in Jewish mystery. And he finally concluded: only the peoples, who believe in the dynamic Messianic idea, will be able to understand the spirit of our people, and not the Asian people who have the static ideal. It was not possible to arouse in him a shadow of a doubt in his belief…

Meanwhile, it was getting dark outside, and amidst the chunks of shadows, which scattered in all corners of the room, Asz walked back and forth, in all his height and adorned with a silvery forelock. In our eyes, his image grew at that moment and took the form of a huge tree, magnificent with deep roots — a symbol and highlight of a great and glorious period of the life of our people, a glorious relic of the sufferings experienced by the trunk of the mighty Polish Jewry, which was cut down at the height of its blossoming.

* * *

Suddenly, Asz remained stuck in his place, hung his dreamy gaze into space, as if he were looking for something in the invisible distance. A few moments of silence passed until the old man seemed to remember his guests, rubbed his palms and turned to his wife: let's sit by the table for a proper Melaveh Malkah[12] meal. Wine, fish, and meat were brought to the table, and during the meal the small talk flowed again, and in it, too, abundance of sparks of inspiration and delicate humor splattered from his mouth. He told us then about his meetings with Itzik Feffer[13] in Moscow and later in America. Among others he mentioned, that at a public meeting in Moscow, Feffer once shouted at him: “A koyl dir in kopf fun mein Browning! Shalom Asz, Sh!...” (“A bullet in your head from my Browning! Shalom Asz, Sh!…”) whereas, when Feffer visited America as an emissary of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, Asz replied him by reading his poem Ich Bin a Yid (“I am a Jew”). He told how once Mark Chagall refused to ride in the car that Asz was about to drive, because he feared he would capsize the car… and added more and more such amusing episodes.

However, the old artist reached the peak of his awakening at the end of the meal, when he lit a thick cigar and we all sat in the armchairs to hear him read the first chapter of his memoirs, “My Beginning,”[14] which, a few weeks later, was published in the last issue of the quarterly Di Goldene Keyt[15]. While reading in his characteristic Kutno Yiddish dialect, Asz's face radiated a spirit of humor and it was as if the burden of the years had suddenly been removed from his shoulders. At that moment he resembled a young faun, who does his magic tricks and amuses himself with lightness and cheerful laughter in the miraculous powers that lie within him. His eyes sparkled cheerfully and from time to time he burst out into loud laughter, as an echo to the laughter of the listeners. This is a masterpiece from the dawn of Asz's childhood, and it describes, among others, how a baby once stormed in front of the whole family, who had gathered for the Purim celebration at his father's house, on his mother's breast and demanded of her, in a loud cry, to breastfeed him even though he had been weaned a long time and his mother had already conceived a new child. The story, full of endearing humor, erotic sensuality and infinitely comic situations, is the last flicker of the mighty descriptive talent of Asz, as was never seen before in modern Jewish literature.

On the way back home, late at night, the poet Abraham Sutzkever said to me: this evening will remain etched in my memory to my last days. And I felt the same. We felt, that we would no longer enjoy many evenings like that with Asz. Not many days later, we were shocked by the news of the first hemorrhage that hit Asz's brain. Thanks to his immense spiritual powers he was still able to overcome the disease and live for a while. But in our last casual meetings, I had seen that the end was not far off.

And death actually got him in London…

Translator's footnotes:

  1. In 1907, the Russian novelist Evgeny Nikolayevich Chirikov's comments on a Shalom Asz play were seen as a protest against the appearance of Jews in Russian literature. Return
  2. Bundist (pl. Bundists) - member of the Bund movement. Return
  3. Mendele Mocher Sforim (lit. Mendele the book peddler), the pen name of Sholem Yankev Abramovich, a Jewish author and one of the founders of modern Yiddish and Hebrew literature. Return
  4. City south of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Shalom Asz's house was converted into a Shalom Asz Museum, after his death. Return
  5. Hebrew, “Welcome” (lit. “Blessed are those who come.”) Return
  6. Halacha or Aggadah – two of the primary components of rabbinic tradition… Return
  7. Moshe ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides and also referred to by the acronym Rambam, was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher. Return
  8. R' Moshe ben Nachman, commonly known as Nachmanides is also referred to by the acronym Ramban. Return
  9. Gershom ben Yehudah, best known as Rabbeinu Gershom Me'Or Hagolah (lit. “Our teacher Gershom the light of the exile”), was a famous Talmudist and Halachist. Return
  10. The Essenes was a mystic Jewish sect during the Second Temple period that flourished from the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century CE. Some scholars believe Jesus was influenced by them. Return
  11. Yehudah ben Samuel of Regensburg (1150 – 22 Feb. 1217), also called Yehudah HeHasid was a leader of Chassidei Ashkenaz. Return
  12. Melaveh Malkah (lit. “Accompany the Queen”), a festive meal held on Saturday night to escort the departing Shabbat Queen. Return
  13. Itzik Feffer was a Soviet Yiddish poet, executed on the Night of the Murdered Poets during Joseph Stalin's purges. Return
  14. in Yiddish, in the original text. Return
  15. Yiddish, “The Golden Chain.” Return

 

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