The Arty Semite

First Jewish Collection for a 'Small Press Legend'

By Susie Davidson

  • Print
  • Share Share

Uprooted at age 9, abandoned into poverty, targeted by anti-Semitism, exposed to the horrors of World War II and finally confined to a wheelchair, Ed Galing’s life has been beset by ongoing difficulties. Yet he has never lacked dedication, perseverance, or imagination, in art or in life. In eloquently written work that defies his hardscrabble Lower East Side and South Philadelphia origins, Galing has chronicled his remarkable journey in poetry, cartooning, storytelling and journalism.

At 94, the harmonica-playing poet laureate of Hatboro, Pennsylvania has an ultimate wish. Although he has received numerous literary awards (including two Pushcart nominations), citations from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate, and has written over 70 chapbooks, he has long dreamed of seeing his Jewish poetry in a published collection. That wish was granted in February with “Pushcarts and Peddlers” from Poetica Publishing Company, an offshoot of the Judaica-themed Poetica Magazine.

It was a high school English teacher named Dr. Ginsberg who pushed Galing to read the classics and write poetry and articles for the school newspaper. He had plenty of material to draw upon. Galing’s first nine years were spent in a squalid Lower East Side tenement building among the bustle of pushcarts, peddlers and immigrants. This borderline existence quickly descended into abject poverty when his father’s first wife, long-considered dead in the “old country,” turned up together with Galing’s aunt.

Galing and his mother were soon left by themselves in South Philadelphia. “My mother never remarried, and was on welfare all her life,” he explained by phone from his longtime home in Hatboro, north of the city.

When Galing was 20, he met his wife, Esther, at a dance at the Jewish Neighborhood House. They married four months later, in 1938, and lived in a housing project in Warminster, Penn. prior to their home in Hatboro. After 68 years of marriage, Esther died in 2006 at age 88.

During the Second World War Galing worked in weapons manufacturing before joining the Army near the end of the conflict. “I was at Dachau,” he said. “I saw the ovens.” The Stars and Stripes published his story “The Lucky G.I.,” a tale of an American boy and a German girl. “It didn’t end happily, because he had to go home — he was a married man with kids,” he said, though insisting that it was fiction: “It never happened to me!” He joined the Naval Reserves as a Yeoman Second Class, and then worked in the credit department at an auto dealership in Langhorn, Penn. for almost 20 years.

All the while, he was writing and submitting manuscripts from the electric typewriter he still uses today. “They knew me at the post office,” he said. To date, about 400 of Galing’s poems have been published.

Galing’s productivity made putting together “Pushcarts and Peddlers” daunting. “He has many versions of similar poems, published under different titles,” said his publisher, Michal Mahgerefteh. “For example, he wrote a poem about Jack’s Deli in seven versions under seven titles.” The collection is divided into four sections: “Being Jewish,” “Lower East Side,” “Yiddish Language,” and “Senior Center.” Ibbetson Street Press publisher Doug Holder, who published Galing’s chapbook “Prayers on a Tenement Rooftop,” called him a “small press legend” and a “poet of the greatest generation.”

“As Ed grows older, more pain creeps into his writing: Watching friends and loved ones die, technology spinning past him, nursing homes and senior centers advancing, even seeing his sons become old men,” added publisher and editor Leah Angstman. “He writes me letters in which he recalls these pains, but also there is that undeniable spirit of chutzpah that defines him.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Susie Davidson, Pushcarts and Peddlers, Poetry, Poetica Magazine, Michal Mahgerefteh, Leah Angstman, Ibbetson Street Press, Ed Galing, Dachau

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.