Page 41 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 12

Basic HTML Version

BIALOSTOTZKY----AMERICAN YIDDISH LITERATURE
35
life of Jews in the South among Negroes, on an island outside of
New York, or in strange communities throughout various states
are treated by J. J . Schwartz, B. Glassman, Noah Goldberg, B.
Demblin, Haim P a t, Z. Sher, L. Treister, A. A. Ayalti and F.
Bimko.
But it was not only the economic struggle which found expres-
sion in Yiddish literature. Hardly less important was the spiritual
adjustment to America. Poetry especially emphasized the struggle
against the abandonment of Jewishness. We find this motif in the
Broadway poems of the tradition-rooted A. Liesin, in the verse
of the poet-dramatist H. Leivick, in the poems
Among Strangers
by M. L. Halperin,
Father's Shadow
by Jacob Glatstein, and
From
the Old Source
by Ephraim Auerbach, in the verse of Menachem
Boraisha, A. Leyeles, M. Schweid, A. M. Dilon, Kadya Molo-
dawsky, and in Melech Ravitch’s latest poem
The Coronation.
But
we also find this motive in David Pinski’s novels
Noah Eden
and
Arnold Levenberg
, in his one-act plays
The Woolen Idol
and
Money
,
in Peretz Hirschbein’s
Babylon
, and in the stories of J . Opatoshu.
East Side! The average American has only a faint idea of what
these two words signify. He associates East Side with poverty
and dirt, pushcart peddlers, salami and pickled herring. But one
who reads Yiddish prose, drama or verse, gets an entirely different
view. He sees vigorous folk life, deep ideological wrestling with
Americanism, nationalism, internationalism, problems of ethics,
aesthetics and human relations generally and, above all, a groping
toward universalism.
American Yiddish literature includes not only rebelliousness and
realism bu t also an emphasis on the dignity of the common man,
an insistence tha t human value should not be measured by material
success bu t rather by a person’s spiritual resources. In part, this
idea came from the socialistic tendencies then current bu t in
greater par t it derived from the ancient Jewish idea expressed in
the Psalms: “He raises the poor from the dust.”
This idea found expression in belles-lettres and in Yiddish
journalism between 1880 and 1920. Such journalists as Philip
Krantz, Morris Hillquit, S. Yanofsky, Abraham Cahan, Benjamin
Feigenbaum, Zivion, Yitzhak I. Hurwitz, H. Rogoff, M. Olgin,
R. Abramowitz and B. Charney-Vladeck identified themselves
with the themes and ideas of the Yiddish prose and poetry th a t
was created here in America.
American Yiddish literature had its s ta r t during the Eighties
with the first wave of East European Jewish immigration when a
Jewish working class came into existence. T h a t chapter of early
American Yiddish literature is usually referred to as the realistic