Alter Esselin, Yiddish carpenter-poet

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Meet Alter Esselin, award-winning Yiddish "carpenter-poet," through the stories of his son, playwright Joe Esselin.

Alter Esselin was born Orkeh Serebrenik on April 23, 1889 in Tchernigov, Russia.  After his father, a cattle dealer, died suddenly, little ten-year-old Orkeh was sent out to work.  Several traumatic apprenticeships later, he was sent off in 1904 as a trained carpenter.  After immigrating to the United States, he worked as a journeyman; he traveled from city to city, stopping when he had saved enough money to spend a few days reading.  It was after he discovered the writings of Yiddish poet Moyshe Leyb Halpern that he began to write.