The Arty Semite

Yiddish Stories Not Lost in Translation

By Paul Buhle

  • Print
  • Share Share

The Association of Jewish Libraries Guide to Yiddish Short Stories
By Bennett Muraskin
Ben Yehuda Press, 79 pages, $14.50

The title of this small but useful book might have been lengthened to include “in the English language,” but the point is taken. We are now in a veritable golden age of translation, though the “golden” is tarnished somewhat by the retreat of younger generations from reading, and the near-disappearance of the secular Yiddish writer. We are now looking back to an age when pens around the world worked furiously and productively. The Guide proves the point.

The scrupulous overview of the stories themselves, some 130 in number, cannot possibly be complete, considering how periodicals in the grand age of English-language magazines once published translated stories of all kinds. But author Bennet Muraskin covers considerable territory, and his one-sentence to one-paragraph glimpses convey what the reader needs to know. He is wonderfully painstaking in his brief recounting of publishing history, which includes references to scholarly archives. The last major section of the book provides capsule biographies of several dozen authors, and a working bibliography.

Muraskin, an adult education director of the Jewish Cultural School and Society in West Orange, and the union staff representative for state college professors in New Jersey, will be recognized by some Forward readers as a frequent contributor to publications such as Jewish Currents, Outlook and Humanistic Judaism. That is to say, he is an energetic continuator of a tradition that goes back at least to the Workmen’s Circle of the 1890s, and arguably the Bund in Europe at the same time.

It’s a tradition that has thinned in recent decades, without ever quite vanishing. Tireless educators, who in the past were often autodidact historians of their own milieu, have kept Yiddish schools and language classes going. Their tasks have not been thankless but are largely unpaid, and little recognized by the outside world. His place in this tradition alone would make Muraskin and his efforts worthy of attention. “The Guide to Yiddish Short Stories” is a worthy contribution to the Jewish future.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Paul Buhle, Books, Bennet Muraskin, Yiddish

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!
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?








You may also be interested in our English-language newsletters:













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

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.