Robinson Crusoe’s Many Jewish Incarnations

Jan. 13 2020

First published in 1719, Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was translated into numerous Jewish languages between 1784 and the early 20th century: Judeo-German, Yiddish, Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic (in Tunisia), and Ladino. In some of these languages, it was translated multiple times, and many of the translators took liberties with the text, sometimes working not from the English original but from an  18th-century German adaptation. Perhaps the most transformed, writes Chen Malul, was Yosef Vitlin’s Yiddish version:

[Vitlin’s] is probably the most successful Jewish adaptation of the novel in the 19th century; we have much evidence of its great popularity. . . . The book’s title translates as “Robinson: The History of Alter Leyb: A True and Wonderful Story for Entertainment and Education.” . . .  A rich Jewish merchant from Lemberg (Lviv), Alter Leyb starts out as a drunk transgressor. As the story unfolds, the translator takes several opportunities to teach readers about the basics of sailing—how to use an anchor and what a lighthouse is—while also offering instruction in Jewish law.

Alter Leyb isn’t the only character with Jewish characteristics; his companion, named Friday in the original novel, is called Shabbos (Sabbath) here. Shabbos teaches Alter how to light a fire quickly and Alter teaches Shabbos about monotheism, the Torah, and the Sabbath customs. Seeing as Alter Leyb’s prayers are answered time and again throughout the novel, it’s hard to say which of the two benefited more from their friendship. The story concludes with a good Jewish ending: Torah study, proper spouses for Alter and Shabbos, and lives lived happily ever after with plenty of cute children all around.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at The Librarians

More about: English literature, Jewish language, Ladino, Translation, Yiddish

Iran’s Dangerous Dream of a Triple Alliance with Russia and China

Aug. 16 2022

Unlike Hamas, which merely receives support from the Islamic Republic, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)—with which Israel engaged in a short round of fighting last week—is more or less under its direct control. In fact, the recent hostilities began with a series of terrorist attacks launched by PIJ from Samaria, which might in turn have been a response to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s call “to open a new front in the West Bank against the Zionist enemy.” Amir Taheri writes:

In Gaza, the Islamic Republic has invested heavily in promoting Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. . . . Islamic Jihad is in a minority in Gaza, hence the attempt by Tehran to help it create a base in the West Bank.

Reliable sources in Baghdad say that [Iran’s expeditionary and terrorist paramilitary] the Quds Force has been “transiting” significant quantities of arms and cash via Iraq to Jordan, to be smuggled to the West Bank. The Jordanian authorities say they are aware of these “hostile activities.” King Abdullah himself has publicly called on Iran to cease “destabilizing activities.”

But such schemes, Taheri explains, are part of a larger strategic vision of creating a grand anti-Western alliance even while engaging in nuclear negotiations with the U.S. and Europe:

Last month, Khamenei praised Vladimr Putin for his invasion of Ukraine. And this month, China’s ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, praised the Islamic Republic for supporting China in “asserting its sovereignty” over Taiwan.

It is clear that some dangerous pipe-dreamers in Beijing, Moscow, and Tehran have fallen for the phantasmagoric vision of “three great powers” banding together and with help from “the rest,” that is to say, the so-called Third World . . . to destroy an international system created by the “corrupt and decadent.”

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Read more at Gatestone

More about: China, Iran, Islamic Jihad, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Russia, West Bank