Page 81 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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PENINNAH SCHRAM
Current Collections of Jewish
Folktales
as
a
s t o r y t e l l in g
people, the Jews have always loved and told
stories. T h e rabbis understood the importance o f a story. This
can be seen from the repo r t in the Talmud about a certain rabbi
who would begin his lesson with a humorous tale (Shabbat 30b).
When the rabbis sought to teach, they often used the imagi­
native medium o f a story, adapting the tale to the lesson, or
perhaps tailoring the lesson to fit the tale they needed to relate.
Jewish stories have been transm itted from generation to gen­
eration th rough both the oral and written traditions. A story
is an effective way to teach religion, traditions, values and cus­
toms, a creative way to introduce characters and places and an
imaginative way to instill hope. Stories teach us how to live and,
above all, show us what legacies to transm it to ou r fu tu re gen­
erations.
Stories, especially folktales, have been told in the oral tradition
for centuries. Many were eventually written down, collected and
published, primarily because o f the efforts o f rabbis and schol­
ars, and more recently o f folklorists, ethnographers , and an ­
thologists. However many stories, especially in the Middle East,
were never written down and were thus lost to us. Recently,
there has been a resurgence o f interest in the stories o f the
Jewish people and concerted efforts have been made by the
folklorists o f the Israel Folktale Archives (IFA) to collect and
preserve the orally told stories, especially o f the Middle Eastern
immigrants to Israel, and most recently o f the Ethiopians. Work
has also begun to collect not only oral histories but also the
folk stories o f the newly arrived Soviet Jews.
During the past th ree decades, more collections o f Jewish sto­
ries have been published than for many years before. Where
did the collectors/editors find these stories? The au thors o f these
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