Page 175 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 11 (1952-1952)

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Z. LI BIN, PIONEER OF YIDDISH LITERATURE
IN AMERICA
(On the Occasion of his 80th Birthday)
B y
B. I.
B
ialo stotzky
*
Z
LIBIN, who will be eighty years old on November 15th,
• 1952, is one of the pioneers of Yiddish literature in America.
His first story appeared in 1892; his first play in 1894. I t was
during the period of the first Jewish mass-immigration to this
country, which commenced in 1882 and reached an unprece-
dented scale toward the end of the century.
Millions of ordinary Jews who had fled Russian Czarism, with
its grinding poverty, its ghetto confinement and persecution, here
found political and cultural freedom and full equality. But at
the same time they tasted a different sort of slavery. They were
thrown into the airless and unhygienic sweatshops of New York’s
East Side, where they were forced to work sixteen and eighteen
hours a day. On the one hand there was American freedom, but
on the other there was the slavery of the sweatshop. And besides,
their hearts were filled with nostalgia and loneliness. The life of
America was new and strange to them. What they lacked here
was neighborly intimacy and a true Jewish environment. Thus
their longing for the Old World they had left behind became
acute.
The sadness, the pain and the protest against sweatshop slavery
among those Jewish immigrants was given expression in the
poems of David Edelstadt, Morris Winchevsky, Morris Rosen-
feld, and in part, too, of Joseph Bovshover, who was strongly
influenced by Walt Whitman’s call for true democracy. Each one
of them in his own manner wrote poems of toil and suffering,
which were, however, inspired with the dream of a better and
freer world.
The poetry of that Jewish working-class era on the East Side
had already attained a considerable strength. But its Yiddish
prose was still weak. Across the seas the great Yiddish writers
— Mendele Mocher Seforim, Sholem Aleichem and I. L. Peretz —
* Translated by Philip Rubin,
169