How the Holocaust Brought a Great Yiddish Writer to Forsake Poetry for Epic Prose

Little known to the English-speaking world, Chava Rosenfarb (1923–2011) is generally considered in Yiddish literary circles to be one of the greatest post-World War II writers in that language. Born in Poland, Rosenfarb endured the war in the Łódź Ghetto, Auschwitz, and other concentration camps. Thereafter she settled in Canada, where she wrote most of her major works. Reviewing a collection of her nonfiction that recently appeared in English, Marc Caplan writes:

Rosenfarb . . . earned her stellar reputation for her epic novels, in the style of Tolstoy, and her novellas, mostly psychological tales, in the style of Chekhov. [But] she began her career as a poet, with the volume The Ballad of Yesterday’s Forest (1949).

In the first essay of the collection, Rosenfarb writes: “The brutal reality of the ghetto demanded the dry precision of unadorned words. Not that I wanted to ban the poet within me; on the contrary, I wanted her to stand by me, but I wanted her to creep with me through the maze of ghetto streets, through the muck of human baseness, as low to the ground as possible.”

“Liberation,” Rosenfarb wrote in a diary that she kept in a displaced-persons camp, “wears a prosaic face.” . . . Her vision in those days, nearly identical to her developed fictional works, was to weave together the raw terror of the Holocaust with an artistic perspective to create a panoramic picture of what occurred and to whom, including both the fate of the victims and the vitality of Yiddish culture that had flowered until the war.

For this reason, one should consider these essays as an extension or “appendix” to Rosenfarb’s masterworks in fiction. But as an extension, the essays also offer insight into her grand novels and penetrating novellas. Her immense literary legacy grew out of the first poems of her youth, which were literally carved into the walls of the ghetto. Those poems are the seeds from which her mature work flowered. As a result, one could consider her prose as “poetry by other means.”

Read more at Forward

More about: Holocaust, Holocaust survivors, Poetry, Yiddish literature

Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security