Page 49 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 20

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43
L
ip t z in
— T
h e
Y
id d i sh
L
yric
The crest of the Yiddish lyric in America as well as in Eastern
Europe and in other centers was reached about the time of the
Russian Revolution of 1917. Thereafter the lyric attained further
refinement but was increasingly less influential as a force in
Jewish cultural life in America because it was unable to attract
new talents among post-immigrant youth. In Europe its ef-
florescence during the nineteen-twenties and thirties was cut
short by the annihilation of the Yiddish-speaking masses during
the Nazi years and the execution of the foremost Yiddish poets
in Russia.
The golden glow of the European Yiddish lyric was reflected
in the literary movement of
Young Vilna,
whose ripest talents
were Chaim Grade (1910-
) and Abraham Sutzkever (1913-
). The former found refuge and an appreciative audience
on American soil while the latter, as editor of Israel’s most
influential monthly
Die Goldene Keyt,
stimulated creative writ-
ing in Yiddish in the new state. His superb poem
Siberia
has
recently been translated into English by Jacob Sonntag, with a
letter on the poem and drawings by Marc Chagall.
European Yiddish literature during the Second World War,
generally referred to as Khurban-literature, produced memorable
lyrics by Mordecai Gebirtig (1877-1942), Hirsh Glick (1922-1944),
I. Katzenelenson (1886-1944), Israel Stern (1894-1942), Z. Segalo-
vitch (1884-1949), and talented young poets whose lives un-
fortunately ended in extermination camps.
Of lyricists who managed to escape to Siberia and ultimately
found their way to a new creative career in the United States,
Joseph Rubinstein in 1961 and Israel Emiot in 1962 won the
awards of the Jewish Book Council of America for their distin-
guished lyrics. They were the last of a long line of poets who
in the mid-twentieth century decades attempted to make New
York the center of Yiddish literary striving. In this metropolitan
milieu Aaron Zeitlin, Mordecai Strigler, Eliezer Greenberg,
Berish Weinstein, Leon Feinberg, Aleph Katz, Kadia Molo-
dowsky, Itzik Manger joined other poets in a valiant struggle to
create Yiddish works of artistic eminence and lasting Jewish
values. Together with talented novelists, publicists, and scholars,
they made headway in temporarily arresting the decline of Yid-
dish among Jews of immigrant background and in stimulating
renewed interest among native Jewish intellectuals. Their efforts
resulted in the establishment during the past decade of half a
dozen chairs in Yiddish language and literature at American
universities and in the publication in 1962 of new texts and
phonographic records for the study of Yiddish.
It is not yet clear whether this temporary revival was caused
by a last flickering of romantic nostalgia for the Jewish world