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Chaim Grade


Chaim Grade

Chaim Grade
1968 dust jacket photograph
Born (1910-04-04)April 4, 1910
Vilnius, Lithuania
Died 26 April 1982(1982-04-26) (aged 72)
Occupation Writer, Poet
Nationality American
Notable works

Chaim Grade (April 4, 1910, in Vilnius, Lithuania (at the time occupied by the Russian Empire) – April 26, 1982, Los Angeles, California, buried in Riverside Cemetery, Saddle Brook, NJ [1]) was one of the leading Yiddish writers of the twentieth century.

Grade was raised Orthodox-leaning, and he studied in yeshiva as a teenager, but ended up secular, in part from his poetic ambitions. Losing his family in the Holocaust, he resettled in New York, and increasingly took to fiction, writing in Yiddish. Initially he was reluctant to have his work translated.[1][2]

He was praised by Elie Wiesel as "one of the great—if not the greatest—of living Yiddish novelists."[3]


Chaim Grade, the son of Shlomo Mordecai Grade, a Hebrew teacher and maskil (advocate of the Haskalah, the European Jewish Enlightenment), received a secular as well as Jewish religious education. He learned for several years with Reb Avrohom Yeshaya Karelitz, the Chazon Ish (1878–1953), one of observant Judaism's great Torah scholars. In 1932, Grade began publishing stories and poems in Yiddish, and in the early 1930s was among the founding members of the "Young Vilna" experimental group of artists and writers. He developed a reputation as one of the city's most articulate literary interpreters.

Toward the German invasion of Vilnius in World War II, Grade fled eastward and sought refuge in the Soviet Union. In the Holocaust he lost his wife Frumme-Liebe (daughter of the Rabbi of Glebokie) and his mother Vella Grade Rosenthal (daughter of Rabbi Rafael Blumenthal). When the war ended, he lived briefly in Poland and France before relocating to the United States in 1948.

Grade's second wife Inna (née Hecker) died in New York on May 2, 2010. She had translated a number of his books into English.


Grade's postwar poetry is primarily concerned with Jewish survival in the wake of the Holocaust.

Grade's most highly acclaimed novels, The Agunah (1961, tr. 1974) and The Yeshiva (2 vol., 1967–68, tr. 1976–7), deal with the philosophical and ethical dilemmas of Jewish life in prewar Lithuania, particularly dwelling on the Novardok Mussar movement. These two works were translated from the original Yiddish into English by Curt Leviant.

Grade's short story, "My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner," describes the chance meeting of a Holocaust survivor with an old friend from the mussar Yeshiva. The narrator has lost his faith, while the friend has continued to lead a pious and devoted religious life. The former friends debate the place of religion in the postmodern world. The story has been made into a film, The Quarrel and a play.[4]

While less famous than Isaac Bashevis Singer or Sholem Aleichem, Chaim Grade is considered among the foremost stylists in Yiddish. His work is now hard to find in English.

Literary estate

His papers were very numerous and consumed much space of the apartment he shared with his wife Inna in the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative in the Northwest Bronx. The public administrator of his papers, Bonnie Gould, made requests to several institutions, including Harvard University and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research to assist in cataloging Grade's papers.[5] As of August 31, 2010, the papers have been transferred to YIVO offices, for sorting.[6]

In 2013 the Public Administrator of Bronx County awarded the YIVO Institute and the National Library of Israel rights to the estate. In accordance with the terms of the agreement, the assets of the estate will be permanently housed at YIVO in New York City. Materials will be shared and made available to the National Library of Israel once its new building opens in Jerusalem in 2017. YIVO and the National Library of Israel have agreed to digitize the entire archive and make it accessible online.[7]


  • "Mein Krieg mit Hersh Rasseyner" ("My Quarrel With Hersh Rasseyner") 1951. Translated in A Treasury of Yiddish Stories. Irving Howe and Eliezer Greenberg, eds. New York: Viking Press, 1954.
  • Der Shulhoyf 1958. Includes
    • Reb Nokhemel der Malve.
    • Shrifrele.
    • Der Brunem Translated, The Well, Philadelphia: JPS, 1967.
  • Di Agune 1961. Translated, The Agunah, New York: Twayne Publishers, 1974. ISBN 0-672-51954-2
  • Tzemach Atlas [a name] (2 volumes) 1967-68. Translated, The Yeshiva, 'Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1976-77. ISBN 0-672-52344-2
  • Di kloyz un di gas (Synagogue and Street) 1974. Translated, Rabbis and Wives, New York: Knopf, 1982. ISBN 0-8052-0840-2 (Republished as The Sacred and The Profane).
  • Der shtumer minyen (The Silent Minyan) 1976. Short stories. Untranslated.
  • Der Mames Shabasim, 1955. Translated, My Mother's Sabbath Days, New York: Knopf, 1986. ISBN 0-394-50980-3. Portion republished in The Seven Little Lanes. New York: Bergen Belsen Memorial Press, 1972, which contains the texts “On strange soil,” “The seven lanes of the Vilna ghetto,” and the story “My quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner.”
Serialized stories published in Yiddish newspapers
  • Froyn fun Ghetto (Women of the Ghetto) c. 1960's. Published in Forverts.
  • Beys HaRav (The Rabbi's House) c. 1960's-70's. Published in Der Tog and Forverts.
  • Fun Unter Der Erd (From Under the Earth) c. 1980-82. Uncompleted serialized novel published in Forverts.
  • Yo (Yes). 1935.
  • Musernikes (Musarists). 1939.
  • Doyres (Generations). 1945. Contains poems in Yo and Musarnikes.
  • On the Ruins. 1947.
  • Pleytim (Refugees). 1947.
  • Farvoksene vegn (Overgrown Paths). 1947.
  • Der mames tsavoe (My Mother’s Will). 1949.
  • Shayn fun farloshene shtern (The Glow of Extinguished Stars). 1950. Translated in "The Golden Peacock: A Worldwide Treasury of Yiddish Poetry", Ed. Joseph Leftwich, 1961.
  • Poem about the Soviet Yiddish Writers. 1962. Published in "An Anthology of Modern Yiddish Literature", Ed. Joseph Leftwich, 1974.
  • Der mentsh fun fayer (The Man of Fire). 1962. Translated in "An Anthology of Modern Yiddish Poetry", Ed. Ruth Whitman, 1966.
  • Parchment Earth. 1968.
  • Af mayn veg tsu dir (On My Way to You). 1969.


  1. ^ Shepard, Richard F. "Chaim Grade, Yiddish Novelist and Poet on the Holocaust, Dies." New York Times July 1, 1982.
  2. ^ Grade found most translators did not understand Orthodoxy and Orthodox use of Yiddish. Leviant, Curt (2011). "Translating and Remembering Chaim Grade". Jewish Review of Books. 
  3. ^ Review of The Agunah. The New York Times Book Review. September 1, 1974. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Beekman, Daniel (August 15, 2010). "Writing of legendary Yiddish author Chaim Grade could become trash in hands of Bronx bureaucrats". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 4, 2012. 
  6. ^ Joseph Berger, "Researchers Start Job of Sorting Out Yiddish Writer’s Papers," "New York Times," August 31, 2010
  7. ^ YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. The YIVO Institute and the National Library of Israel Jointly Acquire the Estate of the Late Yiddish Writer, Chaim Grade. 12 Feb. 2013. Web.

Further reading

  • Colby, Vineta (ed). World Authors, 1975-1980
  • Kerbel, Sorrel (ed). Jewish Writers of the Twentieth Century [2]

External links

  • Chaim Grade among The Writers and Painters Group "Jung Vilna"
  • by Chaim Grade at Poetry in HellThat is Me
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