Kadia Molodowsky

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Kadia Molodowsky (Yiddish: קאַדיע מאָלאָדאָװסקי; also: Kadya Molodowsky; May 10, 1894, in Bereza Kartuska, now Byaroza, Belarus – March 23, 1975, in Philadelphia, USA) was a Polish-American poet and writer in the Yiddish language, and a teacher of Yiddish and Hebrew. She published six collections of poetry during her lifetime, and was a widely recognized figure in Yiddish poetry during the twentieth century.


  • She eats with obedient earnestness down to the very last crumb, as if she were finishing praying.
    • "The Lost Shabes", translated from Yiddish by Irena Klepfisz, The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology (1989)
  • no one's good luck lasts forever.
    • "The Baker and the Beggar," translated from Yiddish
  • A person would not be able to live in this world if not for the bit of goodness that he has seen with his own eyes-this is what Tulye Shor said to me.
    • "The Fourth Mitzvah," translated from Yiddish by Kathryn Hellerstein, anthologized in Beautiful as the Moon, Radiant as the Stars edited by Sandra Bark (2003)
  • "When a person lies in a fever, he keeps nothing hidden. When a person's head is burning, his tongue loosens."
    • "The Fourth Mitzvah," translated from Yiddish by Kathryn Hellerstein
  • There were always guests at Bashke's table: merchants conducting business with her husband, emissaries soliciting for a yeshive, visiting rabbis, preachers, paupers and random travellers. Bashke greeted every stranger with respect. In the city her house was renowned; Jews called it Jerusalem."
    • "A House with Seven Windows" translated from Yiddish by Ethel Raicus

A House with Seven Windows[edit]

Short stories translated from the Yiddish by Leah Schoolnik

Preface to the Original Yiddish Edition[edit]

  • I wrote the stories included in this book in the last fifteen years. From a world that vanished most dreadfully, and that lives on in our memories, images of piety, virtue, and Jewish morals awaken. There people stood with feet on poor soil, but with their souls in a higher world of good works and good deeds. These very images live in me, and they emerge in a large number of the stories in this book. A Jew was never concerned with the appearance of the walls of his house. He would never call an interior decorator when he needed to whitewash these walls for Passover. He merely hung a picture of the Vilna Gaon on the wall, and that was embellishment enough. He wasn't concerned about what kind of bookcases he had, as long as they contained the Talmud. It didn't matter to him if the windows of his house weren't in the latest style, because he still knew where the eastern wall was. When he gave to charity, he certainly didn't look in the newspapers to see if his name was there, and if the letters were big enough. In our time, people have moved from an inner, spiritual world to a life of externals, to things that flaunt themselves in one's face, that have more glitter than warmth, more talk than thought; more outward show than introspection. And as a Jew advanced from an inner to an outer station, as usual, in that advance, he lost those possessions he had, and had to go back, look for, and find them. These losses and gains are both tragic and comic. A good number of the stories in the book are dedicated to this significant phenomenon in our lives. Perhaps that was why I wanted to call the book A House with Seven Windows: light and shadows enter into each window.

A House on the Hill (1962)[edit]

Translated from the Yiddish by Kathryn Hellerstein, anthologized in Have I Got a Story for You: More Than a Century of Fiction from The Forward edited by Ezra Glinter (2016)

  • This was the happiest laughter that was ever heard on the hill.
  • "One rich man is drawn to another."
  • After the meal ended, the little flames of the Sabbath candles began to leap and then to go out, and the darkness threw sadness across the table.
  • The sorrow of all the poor people of the hill fell upon Feyge-Tsipe and spread across the whole house.
  • The young man wiped the fingers of his hand with his handkerchief, as if he wanted to wipe away the shame
  • "...in a city, when the tongues start wagging, God protect us from what can happen."
  • "Yeah, yeah," the gentile said. "A bad dream will bring life to an end."

Quotes about Kadia Molodowsky[edit]

  • In modern Yiddish writing, the moral, spiritual, and emotional capital of generations of Jewish women was utilized by male and female writers alike... Female prose writers, such as Fradl Shtok, Esther Kreitman, Rokhl Korn, Kadia Molodowsky, and Khava Rosenfarb, also deepened the awareness and understanding of the feminine contribution to Jewish civilization... In the realm of poetry, four female writers deserve special mention: Miriam Ulinover, Kadia Molodowsky, Rokhl Korn, and Rajzel Zychlinsky...Kadia Molodowsky's life in Yiddish literature took her from Poland to the Soviet Union, and from the United States to Israel and back. She made lasting contributions to the short story, the novel, the essay, and children's literature. In the United States,she also founded and edited the literary journal Svive. Her most important and original work, however, was in poetry. She was simultaneously the voice of traditional Jewish motherhood and of the struggling modern Jewish woman confronting ideas, emotions, disappointments, and hopes. Her philosophical poems, Holocaust poems, poems about Jerusalem, and children's poems are particularly noteworthy.
    • Emanuel Goldsmith Introduction to Songs to a Moonstruck Lady (2005)
  • the eminent poet Kadya Molodowsky
    • Dara Horn Introduction to Have I Got a Story for You: More Than a Century of Fiction from the Forward edited by Ezra Glinter (2016)
  • What is rarely known except by scholars is the range and variety of the pre-Holocaust Ashkenazi communities of Europe: traditional, socialist, communist; Orthodox and secular; capitalist and worker; Yiddish-speaking and/or fluent in the vernacular of wherever they lived: Russian, Polish, French, Czech, German. ... There is a whole literature, not just Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer, or Sholem Aleykhem, but also brilliant narrative writers and experimental poets such as Chaim Grade, Kadia Molodowsky, Anna Margolin, Mani Leyb, Itsik Manger, and a host of others.
  • As her reputation grew, she came to be called the "First Lady of Yiddish Poetry." Her volumes included Dzike gas (1933), Freydke (1935) and Likht fun dornboym (1965). Extremely versatile, she wrote children's literature, plays and fiction, much of which reflected her concern with 20th-century Jewish history. The play Nokhn got fun midbor (Toward the God of the desert, 1949) and the novel Baym toyer (At the gate, 1967) gave voice to her growing commitment to Zionism. Other fiction included the novel Fun Lublin biz New York (From Lublin to New York, 1942) and the collection A shtub mit zibn fenster (The house with seven windows, 1957). The latter shows Kadia's awareness of the tensions in American Jewish life. "The Lost Shabes," for example, reflects her observations of assimilation and the abandonment of Yiddish. "Oys" (Gone) describes how the Holocaust profoundly affected American Jews' sense of identity. Other stories-"Di kvin" (The Queen)-depict the materialism of American Jews. Her tendency was to romanticize European Jews who, she claims in the preface, didn't need interior decorators for their walls, just wanted to know which wall to face when praying. Still, her depiction of ordinary people is remarkable. Her characters never become bigger than life; rather they remain exactly who they are-ordinary and unaware of the large historical currents in which they are caught and which they shape.
    • Irena Klepfisz in The Tribe of Dina: A Jewish Women's Anthology (1989)
  • I turn to Kadia Molodowsky, predominantly known for her poetry, but whose stories minutely depict assimilation in America as she witnessed it in the 1940s and 1950s. All these Jewish women—Julia, Nadia, Patti, Gina, Fradel, Kadia—are my ancestors. They are mayne bobes, mumes, shvester, my grandmothers, aunts, sisters. Mir darfn zikh bakenen. We need to become acquainted.
    • Irena Klepfisz "Secular Jewish Identity: Yidishkayt in America" in Dreams of an Insomniac: Jewish Feminist Essays, Speeches and Diatribes (1990)
  • In her often-quoted poem "Froyen lider" (Women poems), Kadia Molodowsky wrote of Jewish women who appear in her dreams: "Es veln di froyen fun undzer mishpokhe/bay nakht in khaloymes mir kumen un zogn..." ("The women in our family will come to me in my/dreams at night and say...") Written in 1920, the words are stark and unambiguous: "undzer mishpokhe"—our family—the Jewish people, clear and simple, easily identified by the language they spoke-the Yiddish speakers of Europe, of the world. Kadia was rooted in her world and its history. Her writing echoes with the richness of the Yiddish culture which she loved, but which she was also conscious erased women and women's lives. As she herself says in this poem, she was a page torn from a book whose first line is illegible. Still, when Kadia dreamed, she knew and remembered who and what she dreamed of.
    • Irena Klepfisz "Khaloymes/Dreams in Progress: Culture, Politics, and Jewish Identity" in Dreams of an Insomniac: Jewish Feminist Essays, Speeches and Diatribes (1990)
  • Molodovsky, who knew the Jewish sources and spent many years teaching in Jewish schools, turned poetry into a conduit through which the biblical matriarchs could express their fellow feeling for every kind of sorrow

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