How a Pulpit Rabbi Became the Translator of One of the 20th Century’s Great Yiddish Writers

June 27 2019

Speaking on a public phone about synagogue business in 1979, Rabbi Harold Rabinowitz threw a Yiddish sentence into the conversation. As a result, he was approached by an old man who needed a speech translated from Yiddish to English in a hurry. Rabinowitz complied. The next day he received a call from the same man, who turned out to be Chaim Grade—one of the greatest Yiddish novelists of the post-World War II era. Thus began Rabinowitz’s career as Grade’s English translator. Barbara Finkelstein recounts his experiences with both the writer and his notoriously difficult wife, Inna Hecker Grade:

Rabinowitz’s most challenging interaction with the Grades came when Hecker put up a Christmas tree to honor her Christian father’s heritage. One day after the tree was up and trimmed, Hecker complimented Rabinowitz, attired in his habitual shirt, tie, and jacket, for dressing nicely on the day a reporter from the Yiddish Daily Forward was coming to interview her husband.

As if on cue, the front-door buzzer rang. Rabinowitz shot out of the Grades’ second-floor apartment and ran down the stairs. He got to street level in time to intercept the reporter. “I’m sorry,” he said he told her, “but Mr. Grade is not feeling well.” Rabinowitz maintains that Hecker intentionally scheduled the interview at Christmastime. “The wife of one of the world’s greatest Yiddish writers had an outright hostility to the Yiddish-speaking world,” he said. . . .

“Chaim Grade’s career would have been finished if the reporter wrote that Chaim, a former student of Avraham Yeshayah Karelitz—a prominent talmudic authority—had a Christmas tree in his apartment,” Rabinowitz said. “All well and good that Inna insisted on a tree, but it was career suicide for Chaim if his core readership knew about it.” Rabinowitz argues that Hecker had a perverse desire to undermine her husband’s reputation in the Yiddish-speaking world. “There’s no question about it,” he said. “She knew what she was doing.”

Yet Rabinowitz has only one word for the bond between Grade and Hecker. “Love,” he said. “It sounds crazy, but they were very loving to each other. I’ve often admired them.”

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Read more at Forward

More about: Chaim Grade, Translation, Yiddish literature

 

The Significance of Mahmoud Abbas’s Holocaust Denial

Aug. 19 2022

On Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, during an official visit to Berlin, gave a joint press conference with the German chancellor Olaf Scholz, where he was asked by a journalist if he would apologize for the murder of Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics. (The relationship between the group that carried out the massacre and Abbas’s Fatah party remains murky.) Abbas instead responded by ranting about the “50 Holocausts” perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians. Stephen Pollard comments:

Scholz’s response to that? He shook Abbas’s hand and ended the press conference.

Reading yet another column pointing out that Scholz is a dunderhead isn’t, I grant you, the most useful of ways to spend an August afternoon, so let’s leave the German chancellor there, save to say that he eventually issued a statement hours later, after an eruption of fury from his fellow countrymen, saying that “I am disgusted by the outrageous remarks made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. For us Germans in particular, any trivialization of the singularity of the Holocaust is intolerable and unacceptable. I condemn any attempt to deny the crimes of the Holocaust.” Which only goes to show that late is actually no better than never.

The real issue, in Pollard’s view, is the West’s willful blindness about Abbas, who wrote a doctoral thesis at a Soviet university blaming “Zionists” for the Holocaust and claiming that a mere million Jews were killed by the Nazis—notions he has reiterated publicly as recently as 2013.

On Wednesday, [Abbas] “clarified” his remarks in Berlin, saying that “the Holocaust is the most heinous crime in modern human history.” Credulous fools have again ignored what Abbas actually means by that.

It’s time we stopped projecting what we want Abbas to be and focused on what he actually is, using his own words. In a speech in 2018 he informed us that Israel is a “colonialist project that had nothing to do with Judaism”—to such an extent that European Jews chose to stay in their homes and be murdered rather than live in Palestine. Do I have to point out the moral degeneracy of such a proposition? It would seem so, given the persistent refusal of so many to take Abbas for what he actually is.

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Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Anti-Semitism, Germany, Holocaust denial, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority