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

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.”

Read more at Forward

More about: Chaim Grade, Translation, Yiddish literature


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy