Sholom aleichem

This article is about the writer. For the greeting, see Shalom aleichem. For the Jewish hymn, see Shalom Aleichem (liturgy). For the crater on Mercury, see Sholem Aleichem (crater).
Sholem Rabinovich
Born March 2 [O.S. February 18] 1859
Pereyaslav, Russian Empire (now Ukraine)
Died May 13, 1916(1916-05-13) (aged 57)
New York City, United States
Pen name Sholem Aleichem (Yiddish: שלום־עליכם)
Occupation Writer
Genres Novels, short stories, plays
Literary movement Yiddish revival


Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich, better known under his pen name Sholem Aleichem (Hebrew and Yiddish: שלום־עליכם; Russian and Ukrainian: Шолом-Алейхем) (March 2 [O.S. February 18] 1859 – May 13, 1916) was a leading Yiddish author and playwright from Ukraine. The musical Fiddler on the Roof, based on his stories about Tevye the Dairyman, was the first commercially successful English-language stage production about Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

Biography

Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich (Salomon Nochem Vevik) was born in 1859 into a Hasidic family in Pereyaslav and grew up in the nearby shtetl (small town with a large Jewish population) of Voronko, in the Poltava Governorate of the Russian Empire (now in the Kiev Oblast of central Ukraine).[1] His father, Menachem-Nukhem Rabinovich, was a rich merchant at that time.[2] However, a failed business affair plunged the family into poverty and Sholem subsequently grew up in reduced circumstances.[2] When he was 13 years old, the family moved back to Pereiaslav, where his mother, Chaye-Esther, died in a cholera epidemic.[3]

Sholem's first venture into writing was an alphabetic glossary of the epithets used by his stepmother. At the age of fifteen, inspired by Robinson Crusoe, he composed a Jewish version of the novel. He adopted the pseudonym Sholem Aleichem, a Yiddish variant of the Hebrew expression shalom aleichem, meaning "peace be with you" and typically used as a greeting.

In 1876, after graduating from school in Pereyaslav, he spent three years tutoring a wealthy landowner's daughter, Olga (Golde) (1865 – 1942).[4] On May 12, 1883, they married, against the wishes of her father. They had six children. Their son, Norman Raeben, became a painter and an influential art teacher and their daughter Lyalya (Lili) Kaufman, became a Hebrew writer. Lyalya's daughter Bel Kaufman, also a writer, was the author of Up the Down Staircase, which was also made into a successful film.

In 1905, as pogroms swept through southern Russia, Sholem resettled to New York City. His family set up house in Geneva, Switzerland, but when he saw he could not afford to maintain two households, he joined them in Geneva. Despite his great popularity, he was forced to take up an exhausting schedule of lecturing to make ends meet. In 1914, the family moved to the Lower East Side, Manhattan. His son Misha, ill with tuberculosis, was inadmissible under United States immigration laws. He remained in Switzerland with his sister Emma and died in 1915.[5]

Literary career

At first, Sholem Aleichem wrote in Russian and Hebrew. From 1883 on, he produced over forty volumes in Yiddish, thereby becoming a central figure in Yiddish literature by 1890. Most writing for Russian Jews at the time was in Hebrew, the liturgical language used largely by learned Jews. Yiddish, however, was the vernacular language of nearly all literate East European Jews. It was often derogatorily called "jargon", but Sholem Aleichem used this term in an entirely non-pejorative sense.

Apart from his own literary output, Sholem Aleichem used his personal fortune to encourage other Yiddish writers. In 1888–89, he put out two issues of an almanac, Di Yidishe Folksbibliotek ("The Yiddish Popular Library") which gave important exposure to young Yiddish writers. In 1890, Sholem Aleichem lost his entire fortune in a stock speculation, and could not afford to print the almanac's third issue, which had been edited but was subsequently never printed. Over the next few years, while continuing to write in Yiddish, he also wrote in Russian for an Odessa newspaper and for Voskhod, the leading Russian Jewish publication of the time, as well as in Hebrew for Ha-melitz, and for an anthology edited by YH Ravnitzky. It was during this period that Sholem Aleichem first contracted tuberculosis.


In August 1904, Sholem Aleichem edited Hilf: a Zaml-Bukh fir Literatur un Kunst ("Help: An Anthology for Literature and Art"; Warsaw, 1904) and himself translated three stories submitted by Tolstoy (Esarhaddon, King of Assyria; Work, Death and Sickness; Three Questions) as well as contributions by other prominent Russian writers, including Chekhov, in aid of the victims of the Kishinev pogrom.

In July 1908, during a reading tour in Russia, Sholem Aleichem collapsed on a train going through Baranowicze. He was diagnosed with a relapse of acute hemorrhagic tuberculosis and spent two months convalescing in the town's hospital. He later described the incident as "meeting his majesty, the Angel of Death, face to face", and claimed it as the catalyst for writing his autobiography, Funem yarid [From the Fair].[1] He thus missed the First Conference for the Yiddish Language, held in 1908 in Czernovitz; his colleague and fellow Yiddish activist Nathan Birnbaum went in his place.[6] Sholem Aleichem spent the next four years living as a semi-invalid. During this period the family was largely supported by donations from friends and admirers.

Critical reception

Sholem Aleichem's narratives were notable for the naturalness of his characters' speech and the accuracy of his descriptions of shtetl life. Early critics focused on the cheerfulness of the characters, interpreted as a way of coping with adversity. Later critics saw a tragic side in his writing.[7]

Sholem Aleichem was often referred to as the "Jewish Mark Twain" because of the two authors' similar writing styles and use of pen names. Both authors wrote for both adults and children, and lectured extensively in Europe and the United States. When Twain heard the writer called "the Jewish Mark Twain", he replied "please tell him that I am the American Sholem Aleichem."[8]

Beliefs and activism

Sholem Aleichem was an impassioned advocate of Yiddish as a national Jewish language, one which should be accorded the same status and respect as other modern European languages. He did not stop with what came to be called "Yiddishism", but devoted himself to the cause of Zionism as well. Many of his writings[9] present the Zionist case. In 1888, he became a member of Hovevei Zion. In 1907, he served as an American delegate to the Eighth Zionist Congress held in The Hague.

Sholem Aleichem had a mortal fear of the number 13. His manuscripts never have a page 13; he numbered the thirteenth pages of his manuscripts as 12a.[10] Though it has been written that even his headstone carries the date of his death as "May 12a, 1916",[11] his headstone reads the dates of his birth and death in Hebrew, the 26th of Adar and the 10th of Iyar, respectively.

Death


Sholem Aleichem died in New York on 13 May 1916 from tuberculosis and diabetes,[12] aged 57, while working on his last novel, Motl, Peysi the Cantor's Son, and was buried at Old Mount Carmel cemetery in Queens.[13] At the time, his funeral was one of the largest in New York City history, with an estimated 100,000 mourners.[14][15] The next day, his will was printed in the New York Times and was read into the Congressional Record of the United States.

Commemoration and legacy

Sholem Aleichem's will contained detailed instructions to family and friends with regard to burial arrangements and marking his yahrtzeit. He told his friends and family to gather, "read my will, and also select one of my stories, one of the very merry ones, and recite it in whatever language is most intelligible to you." "Let my name be recalled with laughter," he added, "or not at all." The celebrations continue to the present-day, and, in recent years, have been held at at the Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park South in New York City, where they are open to the public.[16]

In 1997, a monument dedicated to Sholem Aleichem was erected in Kiev; another was erected in 2001 in Moscow.

The main street of Birobidzhan is named after Sholem Aleichem;[17] streets were named after him also in other cities in the Soviet Union, among them Kiev, Odessa, Vinnytsya, Lviv, Zhytomyr and Mykolaiv. In 1996, a stretch of East 33rd Street in New York City between Park and Madison Avenue was renamed "Sholem Aleichem Place". Many streets in Israel are named after him.

Postage stamps of Sholem Aleichem were issued by Israel (Scott #154, 1959); the Soviet Union (Scott #2164, 1959); Romania (Scott #1268, 1959); and Ukraine (Scott #758, 2009).

An impact crater on the planet Mercury also bears his name.[18]

On March 2, 2009 (150 years after his birth) the National Bank of Ukraine issued an anniversary coin celebrating Aleichem with his face depicted on it.[19]

In Melbourne, Australia a small Yiddish school is named after him.[20] Several Jewish schools in Argentina were also named after him.

In the Bronx, New York, a housing complex called The Shalom Aleichem Houses was built by Yiddish speaking immigrants in the 1920s, and was recently restored by new owners to its original grandeur.

Published works

English-language collections

  • The Best of Sholom Aleichem, edited by R. Wisse, I. Howe (originally published 1979), Walker and Co., 1991, ISBN 0-8027-2645-3.
  • Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories, translated by H. Halkin (originally published 1987), Schocken Books, 1996, ISBN 0-8052-1069-5.
  • Nineteen to the Dozen: Monologues and Bits and Bobs of Other Things, translated by Ted Gorelick, Syracuse Univ Press, 1998, ISBN 0-8156-0477-7.
  • A Treasury of Sholom Aleichem Children’s Stories, translated by Aliza Shevrin, Jason Aronson, 1996, ISBN 1-56821-926-1.
  • Inside Kasrilovka, Three Stories, translated by I. Goldstick, Schocken Books, 1948 (variously reprinted)
  • The Old Country, translated by Julius & Frances Butwin, J B H of Peconic, 1999, ISBN 1-929068-21-2.
  • Stories and Satires, translated by Curt Leviant, Sholom Aleichem Family Publications, 1999, ISBN 1-929068-20-4.
  • Selected Works of Sholem-Aleykhem, edited by Marvin Zuckerman & Marion Herbst (Volume II of "The Three Great Classic Writers of Modern Yiddish Literature"), Joseph Simon Pangloss Press, 1994, ISBN 0-934710-24-4.
  • Some Laughter, Some Tears, translated by Curt Leviant, Paperback Library, 1969, Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 68-25445.

Autobiography

  • Funem yarid, written 1914-1916, translated as The Great Fair by Tamara Kahana, Noonday Press, 1955; translated by Curt Leviant as From the Fair, Viking, 1986, ISBN 0-14-008830-X.

Novels

  • Stempenyu, originally published in his Folksbibliotek, adapted 1905 for the play Jewish Daughters.
  • Yossele Solovey (1889, published in his Folksbibliotek)
  • Tevye's Daughters, translated by F. Butwin (originally published 1949), Crown, 1959, ISBN 0-517-50710-2.
  • Mottel the Cantor's son. Originally written in Yiddish. English version: Henry Schuman, Inc. New York 1953
  • In The Storm
  • Wandering Stars
  • Marienbad, translated by Aliza Shevrin (1982, G.P. Putnam Sons, New York) from original Yiddish manuscript copyrighted by Olga Rabinowitz in 1917
  • The Bloody Hoax

Young adult literature

  • Menahem-Mendl, translated as The Adventures of Menahem-Mendl, translated by Tamara Kahana, Sholom Aleichem Family Publications, 1969, ISBN 1-929068-02-6.
  • Motl peysi dem khazns, translated as The Adventures of Mottel, the Cantor's Son (young adult literature), translated by Tamara Kahana, Sholom Aleichem Family Publications, 1999, ISBN 1-929068-00-X. Also appeared as Mottel the Cantor's son (Henry Schuman, Inc. New York 1953)
  • The Bewitched Tailor, Sholom Aleichem Family Publications, 1999, ISBN 1-929068-19-0.

Plays

  • The Doctor (1887), one-act comedy
  • Der get (The Divorce, 1888), one-act comedy
  • Di asifa (The Assembly, 1889), one-act comedy
  • Yaknez (1894), a satire on brokers and speculators
  • Tsezeyt un tseshpreyt (Scattered Far and Wide, 1903), comedy
  • Agentn (Agents, 1908), one-act comedy
  • Yidishe tekhter (Jewish Daughters, 1905) drama, adaptation of his early novel Stempenyu
  • Di goldgreber (The Golddiggers, 1907), comedy
  • Shver tsu zayn a yid (Hard to Be a Jew / If I Were You, 1914)
  • Dos groyse gevins (The Big Lottery / The Jackpot, 1916)
  • Tevye der milkhiker, (Tevye the Milkman, 1917, performed posthumously)


Miscellany

  • Jewish Children, translated by Hannah Berman, William Morrow & Co, 1987, ISBN 0-688-84120-1.
  • numerous stories in Russian, published in Voskhod (1891–1892)

References

Further reading

External links

  • Project Gutenberg
  • Elijah the Prophet by Sholem Aleichem, translated to English by Richard Silverstein
  • Jewish Children by Sholom Aleichem MP3 recording from LibriVox.org.
  • Find a Grave

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and USA.gov, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for USA.gov and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
 
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
 
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.