From Blazing Saddles.
“Yiddish has not yet said its last word. It contains treasures that have not been revealed to the eyes of the world. It was the tongue of martyrs and saints, of dreamers and Cabalists - rich in humor and in memories that mankind may never forget. In a figurative way, Yiddish is the wise and humble language of us all, the idiom of frightened and hopeful Humanity.” - Isaac Singer
Sholom Aleichman (pen name for Akasholem Rabinowitz, born 1859 in the Ukraine 1859, died in New York City in 1916) is the most loved, best known Yiddish Language writer. Fluent in Russian and Hebrew he choice to write in Yiddish, then the language of the “commen man”. The movie Fiddler on The Roof was based on his characters. He was a hugely prolific author, with easily over 250 short stories, numerous novels and plays as well as journalism. Famously when he met Mark Twain he said “People call me the Jewish Mark Twain”, to which Twain replied “And they call me the American Sholom Aleichman”.
I have been able to find about fifteen of his stories online either as texts or Podcasts. The works in Yiddish are now in The Public Domain but most of the translations are under Copyright protection. I will this month post on his “The Search”. (1899 is my guess for date of publication, if you have first publication data, please leave a comment.).
“The Search”, podcast time about twenty minutes and perfectly read by Jerry Stiller, is set in a small shtetl in Eastern Europe. A stranger has stopped in the synagogue to pray on a holy day. He sets his bag down as he prays and when he goes to retrieve it 1800 Rubles are missing! He goes nuts, yelling and screaming. It was not his money but that of his boss, he will be ruined. The Rabbi says we will ask everyone here to empty their pockets. Everyone complies but the spoiled son in law of the richest man in town. The Rabbi tells him he must allow, he doesn’t want the synagogue to get known as a house of thieves. Refusing all the while, saying it is an insult to him, and claiming the visitor is lying about having the money to try to make a claim on the synagogue he is forcibly searched. It turns out he was hiding a pocket full of throughly chewed chicken bones and some dried plums. To find out what happens with the money, listen to the podcast.
Probably the rest of the book blog world already knew this, but about two months ago I discovered what a literary treasure trove there is on YouTube.
On Yiddish culture alone on YouTube there are lots of great stories and lectures by experts. Yiddish Short Stories can be read without a knowledge of the history of Yiddish culture but the more you know the more you will get from them. I will link some of the lectures in future posts.