Between Fantasy and Reality: The Writings of Der Nister - program at the Yiddish Book Center, May 3–5, 2019
A Focus On Isaac Bashevis Singer
The latest special issue of Pakn Treger—“Isaac Bashevis Singer: Relaunching Our Greatest Storyteller”—includes a range of features, including the discovery in Poland of printing plates that are the only remaining artifact of Singer’s earliest known work; a piece about Singer’s childhood obsession with a series of Yiddish detective novels; an interview with renowned photographer Bruce Davidson, who directed Singer in a little-known art film, Isaac Singer’s Nightmare and Mrs. Pupko’s Beard, based on a short story by the writer, who also stars in the film; as well as a compendium in which contemporary writers write about their favorite Singer story. We've selected a few pieces from the issue.
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Handpicked Leah Reis-Dennis
An alumna of the Yiddish Book Center's Steiner Summer Yiddish Program, Leah’s picks from our collections are as eclectic as her resume: after participating in the Steiner Program, Leah continued her study of Yiddish at Harvard and is now the producer of the PBS program Poetry in America. Yiddish remains part of her life, especially her music. Last year she won the Yiddish Idol competition in Mexico City.
I love perusing old etiquette manuals, and this Yiddish-language guide, published in New York in 1912, does not disappoint. Tashrak’s "Etiquette: A Guide to Proper Behavior, Politeness, and Good Manners for Men and Women, Assembled According to the Best Authorities" provides instructions on such important topics as table manners, pregnancy attire, makeup application, and dating etiquette. And of course it answers the perennial question: “What kind of woman can make a man happy?” Though 21st-century feminist readers might not love Tashrak’s answers, Etikete offers a fascinating window into an American Jewish community eager to assimilate without discarding all of its own traditions and social expectations.
In Heysn Vint: Lider fun Celia Dropkin “Di Tsirkus Dame”
Celia Dropkin’s poem “Di Tsirkus Dame” (“The Circus Lady”) was one of the first poems I ever read in Yiddish. I have a clear memory from my time as a Steiner Summer Student, falling in love with Kathryn Hellerstein’s English translation of this poem and feeling absolutely determined to decode it in its original Yiddish. I still marvel at Dropkin’s daring feats of athleticism and sexuality as she performs a dangerous verbal aerial striptease over sharp glimmering blades, before she shockingly concludes: “I want to fall.” If you’re a beginning Yiddish student like I was, this poem is direct, unapologetic, and digestible with a dictionary.
Di Megile fun Itzik Manger
Recorded at the Jewish Public Library in Montreal—this is a pure delight to listen to. Whether or not you’re a Yiddish speaker, the clear recording, the bright music, and the expressive voices transport the listener to an energetic and rollicking mid-century Yiddish stage.