Page 73 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 25

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T H E T R I B U N E O F T H E G O L U S *
h i s
e v e n i n g
is a moving fulfillment for me—the culmination
of a half century of devotion to a name. I could not have
imagined, when I first met Sholom Aleichem in the last year of
his life at a summer resort in New Jersey—Belmar-by-the־Sea—
name would be linked with his fifty years after his death,
and that English-speaking Jews—as most of you are—would be
assembled in such numbers to hear me speak of him.
I had only just begun to acquire a mastery of Yiddish, build-
ing on fragmentary memories of my childhood. I had only just
begun to get the feel of his work and of that of other Yiddish
writers; and when I told him that some day I would try to trans-
late him, or in other ways bring a knowledge of him to the
English-reading public, I meant it earnestly. But of that which
we mean at twenty what usually remains at seventy-one? It seems
that the vow I then made came from a deeper source than most
of my vows.
And what a fantastic change has come in my lifetime over
the public stature and image of Sholom Aleichem. He was, at
the time of his death, the most beloved of Yiddish writers, be-
loved not simply as a literary figure, but in a personal way by
hundreds of thousands who had never met him. He was the
great comforter of the exile—but not by admonition and exhorta-
tion. He comforted by laughter. Nor was his laughter the
or “black humor” of a suffering people. I t was a gay
laughter, the spontaneous laughter of one who loved those he
laughed with and at. And not empty laughter either, not buf-
foonery or farce. He laughed because he saw intimately, shrewdly,
affectionately, with infinite empathy, into the weaknesses and
comicalities, as well as the longings, frustrations and miseries of
his people. But until the time of his death, and indeed for some
decades after, he remained
Sholom Aleichem, a private, al­
* Extension of an address delivered at the memorial celebration on the
occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the passing of Sholom Aleichem, held
at the Y.M.&Y.W.H.A., New York, November 27, 1966.
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