Page 91 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 45

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GOLDSMITH / LEVICK S QUEST
8 3
Leivick won international acclaim when his drama,
The Golem,
was produced on stages around the world and when, in Hebrew
translation, it became part of the standard repertoire of the
Habimah Theatre in Palestine. In this work, Leivick successfully
clothed a realistic analysis of contemporary events (the Russian
revolution of 1917) in the garments of medieval Jewish legend —
a formula to which he returned in several later dramas. His
Rags,
a play about Jewish immigrant life in America, was also a major
success when it was produced by Maurice Schwartz in the Yiddish
Art Theater in New York.
In the 1920s and early 1930s, Leivick’s position in the world of
Yiddish letters brought him invitations to address audiences the
world over. His trips to Poland, the Soviet Union, Palestine and
South America were highlights in the cultural history of their
Jewish communities.
While highly criticial of the Soviet regime, Leivick was sympa­
thetic to the objectives of Communism and contributed to Yid­
dish Communist newspapers and magazines in the United States.
He sundered his ties with the Communists, however, when they
supported the Arab cause during the Palestine riots of 1929. Fol­
lowing the signing of the Stalin-Hitler pact of 1939, he repudi­
ated his ties with all Yiddish organizations and publications in any
way sympathetic to the left. He helped establish new Yiddish cul­
tural publications such as
Yidish, Vokh
and
Zamlbikher,
and organi­
zations such as the Yiddish Literary Society and the Congress for
Jewish Culture. From 1930 on, he became a regular contributor
to
Der Tog,
a pro-Zionist daily in which he published both articles
and poems.
With the rise of Nazism, many of the nightmares and prophe­
cies of horror contained in Leivick’s writings seemed to be com­
ing true. Yiddish readers could not help but regard him as a
modern-day Jeremiah who had foretold the destruction and was
now bewailing it. During the Holocaust, he became the seismo­
graph of world Jewry and his reactions to what was taking place
were expressed in hundreds of articles and poems. The verse in /
Was Not in Treblinka
(1945) and the plays
Miracle in the Ghetto
(1944),
The Rabbi ofRothenberg
(1945) and
The Wedding in Fernwald
(1947) are among the most moving literary works to emerge from
those terrible years. Leivick’s experiences during a tour of the
displaced persons camps after the war are contained in his book,
With the Surviving Remnant
(1947).