Weekly Reader: Happy Birthday Ida Maze

July 10, 2022

Ida Maze is not a household name among Yiddish writers, but perhaps she should be. Born in 1893 in a small village in Belarus, Maze emigrated with her family at the age of 12, settling in Montreal where she spent the rest of her life. Though largely self-educated, she became a fixture of the city’s Yiddish literary scene, publishing her poetry widely, holding regular salons in her home, and even making her mark on the wider Canadian literary community. Though Maze’s work has only been sparsely translated, this year saw the publication of her novel Dineh, translated by Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, which is being featured as one of the selections in the Yiddish Book Center’s Great Jewish Books Club. July 9 is also her birthday—so what better occasion to celebrate one of the more overlooked writers of the past century? Here are a few Maze-related gems from our archives.

Ezra Glinter

The "Den Mother" of Montreal

Ida Maze The Den Mother of Yiddish Montreal STILL_1_0.png

“Ida Maze: The ‘Den Mother’ of Yiddish Montreal” is the premiere film of the Wexler Oral History Project’s “Beyond the Books” film series, showcasing Yiddish literary figures and their descendants. The film interweaves an interview with Maze’s son, Irving Massey, a literary scholar who has written extensively about his mother’s poetry and even translated a body of her work, with archival audio recordings of an event held in honor of Ida Maze at the Jewish Public Library of Montreal in 1956. Together, Irving’s eloquent memories of his mother and the praising voices of her colleagues make for a compelling reprise of her life, poetry, and legacy.

Watch “The ‘Den Mother’ of Yiddish Montreal”

Dineh, Not Translated

2 scanned pages from Yiddish book Dineh

There are plenty of places where you can pick up a copy of Maze’s novel in translation (including our own bookstore), but not as many where you can find the original, in Yiddish. But thanks to our Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library you can now read the entire thing online at your leisure.

Read Dineh in Yiddish

Posthumous Celebration

Website page: Frances Brandt Online Yiddish Audio Library recording

Maze died in 1962, with her novel appearing only posthumously, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t released to fanfare. Beloved as she was in her Montreal community, that community rallied to celebrate her final achievement. This program, recorded at Montreal’s Jewish Public Library in 1970, features the city’s leading Yiddish writers, including Melekh Ravitch and Rokhl Korn.

Listen to a program celebrating Ida Maze