Sholem Aleichem

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Sholem Aleichem

Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich (Соломон Наумович Рабинович), better known under his pen name Sholem Aleichem (Yiddish and Hebrew: שלום עליכם, also spelled שאָלעם־אלייכעם in Soviet Yiddish, [ˈʃɔləm aˈlɛjxəm]; Russian and Ukrainian: Шо́лом-Але́йхем) (March 2 [O.S. February 18] 1859 – May 13, 1916), was a Yiddish author and playwright who lived in the Russian Empire and in the United States.

Quotes[edit]

  • In America there’s a custom: you moofe. That is, you pack up from one apartment to the next. From one street to the next. From one biznes to the next. Everybody has to moofe. If you don’t moofe of your own free will, then they make it so you have to.
  • Once a joke, twice a joke, but not a joke forever.
  • The sun gave light, but no warmth. Like a stepmother, as they say in Kasrilevke.

"My First Jewish Novel, Stempenyu" (1888)[edit]

translated from Yiddish by Daniel Kennedy

  • In one of your letters, you [Grandfather] said to me: “I would advise you not to write any novels, as your taste, your style is something else entirely, and above all, if there are novels to be found in the lives of our people, they are entirely different from those of other nations. One needs a firm grasp of this and must write accordingly.” Your words bore deep into my brain and I began to understand how different a Jewish love story needs to be from all other novels, because Jewish life in general, and the circumstances under which a Jew can love, are in no way similar to how they are for other nations.
  • That is precisely the problem with the youth of today: we never have any time, and we rush the entire work in one single breath, standing, as the saying goes, on one foot, without stopping to ponder each thought, each separate word, without working on it and filing it down, as you do.
  • We Jews are fond of listening to music and have a good grasp of melody—even our enemies would be the first to admit that—and yet on the other hand, we don’t often get the opportunity to hear it. What do we have to celebrate after all, for us to suddenly break into song and dance? Say what you will, though, we are still connoisseurs, experts in both singing and playing music, and in all manner of other things to boot.
  • The fiddle weeps, sinking to the lower strings
  • No doubt everyone has worries—a Jew does not need to go looking for trouble.
  • The heart itself, and particularly the Jewish heart, is a violin: you pluck the strings, teasing out various, generally sad and gloomy songs
  • He would grab his fiddle and with one pass of his bow, just one mind you, the fiddle would begin to speak. What do I mean by “speak”? I mean literally, with words, with a tongue like, excuse the comparison, a living human being. Talking, arguing, singing mournfully in the Jewish fashion with such a wild cry from deep inside, from the very soul.

Quotes about Sholem Aleichem[edit]

  • In the short run, the identity of victim does, indeed, pay off. Sholem Aleichem recognized this in his story "Lucky Me, I Am an Orphan." Anyone who is a victim and nothing but a victim-in the sense of "deserving" compensation and forgiveness for everything-usually milks this position for all it is worth, through the end of the generation that witnessed the tragedy. In the longer run, the perpetuation of the victim identity causes complete severance from reality, utter dependence on the past and the past alone, and distortions of all proportions and emphases to the point of warping the personality.
    • Shulamith Hareven "Identity: Victim" in The Vocabulary of Peace: Life, Culture, and Politics in the Middle East (1995)
  • 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 whose Tevye stories hit Broadway as Fiddler on the Roof, 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.
  • From Sholem Aleichem to Peretz and beyond, canonical Yiddish literature does not mince words when it comes to identifying the tormentors of Jews as Christians.
    • Goldie Morgentaler "Bontshe Shvayg in Lethbridge" (2010) included in How Yiddish Changed America and How America Changed Yiddish edited by Ilan Stavans and Josh Lambert
  • Modern Yiddish literature attained its maturity with the work of three classical masters: Mendele Moykher Sforim, Sholem Aleichem, and I.L. Peretz. These three authors were the literary forebears whom subsequent generations of Yiddish writers both emulated and rebelled against...the depiction of Jewish women is, with some exceptions, not among our literature's finest accomplishments. Throughout all of Yiddish literature, beginning with the classical writers, for instance Mendele and his portrayal of Beyle in Fishke the Cripple, or Sholem Aleichem's depiction of Tevye's daughters in Tevye the Milkman, or Rokhele in Stempenyu, or Bashevis's "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy" and Grade's The Agunah, there is an undercurrent of sympathy for the Jewish woman, as well as guilt about her double enslavement, both as woman and as Jew...Thus, some male Yiddish prose writers did faithfully and realistically describe the situation of women in the late-nineteenth century. They depicted their female characters with great tenderness and understanding. But as a general rule, they avoided looking deeper into the more complicated qualities that make up a woman's individuality. The male writer sympathized with the woman's plight; he idealized her, sang her praises, wondered at her, but he knew nothing about who she really was. He did not illuminate her from within.
    • Chava Rosenfarb "Feminism and Yiddish Literature: A Personal Approach" (1992) in "Confessions of a Yiddish Writer and Other Essays" edited and translated from the Yiddish by Goldie Morgentaler (2019)
  • The only famous Yiddish stories from Latin America I'm able to make people invoke are the handful of ones by the masters Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Asch, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. They are set in, or at least refer to, Argentina (and on occasion in an eternally rainy Brazil) and invariably deal with the Jewish prostitution ring-la trata de blancas.
    • Ilan Stavans Introduction to Yiddish South of the Border: An Anthology of Latin American Yiddish Writing edited by Alan Astro (2003)
  • his masterpiece, "Tevye the Dairyman"
    • Ilan Stavans Introduction to The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature (2005)

External links[edit]

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