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Focus On Menahem Mendel Beilis

On July 21, 1911, Menahem Mendel Beilis, a Russian army veteran, father of five, and superintendent of the Zaitsev brick factory in Kiev, was arrested for the murder of Andriy Yushchinskyi, a thirteen-year-old boy who had disappeared the previous March and whose mutilated body was later found in the vicinity of the Zaitsev factory. For the next two years, while Beilis sat in jail, a blood libel against the Jewish community was waged in the Russian press accusing Beilis and other Jews of practicing the ritual murder of Christian children. At the same time, Beilis’s case became a cause célèbre in Russia and around the world, bringing attention to the persistence of antisemitism in the Russian Empire. In 1913, after a trial lasting just over a month, Beilis was acquitted of all charges. Following the trial Beilis became an international celebrity, though he chose to avoid the limelight, emigrating from Russia to Ottoman-ruled Palestine and later to the United States, where he died in Saratoga Springs, New York, on July 7, 1934.

אויסגעקליבן Handpicked Claire Breger-Belsky

Person with short hair and glasses smiling, black and white.

Each month, the Yiddish Book Center asks a member of our staff or a friend to select favorite stories, books, interviews, or articles from our online collections. This month, we’re excited to share with you picks by Claire Breger-Belskythe 2023–24 translation and bibliography fellow at the Yiddish Book Center.

“Cribside: A Dramatization of Life in Politics,” Yente Serdatsky, translated by Jessica Kirzane

This short dramatization by Yente Serdatsky balances interpersonal relationships with sharp societal critiques. It’s a fascinating, insightful, and sad scene, and I find myself focusing on something different every time I read it: the language, the translation, the political dimension, the gender politics, the relationships between the characters, or the shape of the action. And as someone with a background in theater, I’m always excited to see more Yiddish drama—especially by women—appear in English translation.

Der alter fun Lompaduni, by Yuri Suhl, illustrated by William Gropper

This slim collection of five children’s stories by Yuri Suhl, illustrated by William Gropper, has been one of my favorite books in our collection since I first saw it. Published in Wrocław, Poland, in 1948, the text of each story is printed in a different color, and bold, vibrant illustrations stretch across its pages. (My personal favorites: the starry sky spread across pages 4 and 5 and the personified letters of the alef-beys, brought to life on pages 52–54.)

Celia Dropkin’s Paintings

Recently, I’ve been reading about Yiddish artist Ray Faust, whose work is exhibited here at the Center. Though Faust is primarily known for her visual art, I’ve been particularly interested in her writing and how it connects to her painting. This article about Celia Dropkin’s paintings is in some ways the inverse case: I hadn’t known that Dropkin, best known as a poet, was also a painter. I love this glimpse into the breadth of Dropkin’s creative work beyond her writing—and, of course, the chance to see paintings themselves, and to imagine them in relation to the poems they accompanied.

Literary evening with Rokhl Korn

When I was an intermediate Steiner student, I worked with the Frances Brandt recordings for my internship project and realized how incredible a resource they are. I love going to poetry readings, and it’s wonderful that through these recordings I have the chance to listen to Yiddish poets and writers reading their own work, to hear how they understood the cadences of their writing. This particular recording—a night in honor of the publication of Rokhl Korn’s 1977 poetry collection Farbitene vor (A Changing Reality)—is one of a handful featuring Rokhl Korn reading her lovely, striking poetry, and it’s been segmented into titled tracks by poem, so you can track down what she’s reading and follow along.

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