About the Great Jewish Books Club

Read, discuss, argue about, and fall in love with Great Jewish Books.

The Yiddish Book Center’s 2023 Great Jewish Books Club will feature four books with a focus on Yiddish literature in translation, as well as other seminal works of modern Jewish literature. There is no fee to join and enrollment is open throughout the year.

Participants can purchase as many of the books as they wish; the four selections are listed below. Each selection is available through the Center’s on-site and online store. Many or all of the selections are available in both print and ebook editions.

We will release resource and discussion guides to enrich the reading experience, including podcast interviews and virtual public programs with authors, scholars, translators, and cultural commentators. We are also excited to offer small group discussion opportunities for each book!

Sign up below to join the 2023 Great Jewish Books Club. 


Learn more about the 2023 Book Club selections

Have I Got a Story for You: More Than a Century of Fiction from the Forward, edited by Ezra Glinter 

Book jack for Have I Got a Story for You by Ezra Glinter

The Forward, founded in 1897, is the most renowned Yiddish newspaper in the world, and has published some of the most acclaimed Yiddish fiction writers of all time. Ezra Glinter combed through the archives to find the best stories published during the newspaper’s 120-year history, digging up such varied works as wartime novellas, avant-garde fiction, and satirical sketches about immigrant life in New York. Glinter’s introductions to the thematic sections and short biographies of the contributors provide insight into the concerns of not only the writers but also their avid readers. The collection has been rendered into English by today’s best Yiddish translators, who capture the sound of the authors and the subtleties of nuance and context. 

The Glatstein Chronicles, by Jacob Glatstein, edited by Ruth Wisse, translated by Maier Deshell and Norbert Guterman

Three men in suits and hats look at camera against grey background

This seminal American work from the Yiddish literary canon, in a restored English edition, offers the luminous narrative of the author’s journey home to his Polish birthplace. In 1934, with World War II on the horizon, Jacob Glatstein (1896–1971) traveled from his home in America to his native Poland to visit his dying mother. One of the foremost Yiddish poets of the day, he used his journey as the basis for two autobiographical novellas, together known as The Glatstein Chronicles, in which he intertwines childhood memories with observations of growing anti-Semitism in Europe. 

Girl with Two Landscapes: The Wartime Diary of Lena Jedwab, 1941–1945, translated by Solon Beinfeld 

Blue book cover of young girl

In June 1941, sixteen-year-old Lena Jedwab left Bialystok for summer camp in Russia, just when Germany invaded the Soviet Union. Stranded in a children’s home in Russia due to the war, Lena agonized over the unknown fate of her family and her precarious future. Lucky to be alive, nourished, and in school yet consumed with anger at the war and the confusion of adolescence, Lena began to keep a diary. She chronicled her personal experiences of loneliness, pain, and fear, as well as her desire for love and recognition and her vivid descriptions of the world around her. Lena wrote her diary in Yiddish, not only because it was her mother tongue but also as a conscious effort to maintain her Jewish identity. Her writing shows an exceptional literary talent, full of subtlety and sensitivity, and by using that talent, she has left us a moving testimony to one of history’s darkest times. 

The Forgotten Singer: The Exiled Sister of I.J. and Isaac Bashevis Singer by Maurice Carr 

The Forgotten Singer: The Exiled Sister of I.J. and Isaac Bashevis Singer

The Forgotten Singer: The Exiled Sister of I. J. and Isaac Bashevis Singer is made up of 46 evocative snapshots that portray what life was like for Esther Singer Kreitman, an important writer living in the shadow of her famous brothers. It’s also a meditation on the mother-son relationship, a failed marriage, and life as a Jew in the interwar period. Carr’s writing is urgent, irreverent, timely, and unaffected, proving it’s never too late to celebrate an unsung hero of the written word.