A Yiddish Novella about a Jewish Tough Who Feared No One

April 20 2020

First published in serial form in 1903, the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem’s novella Moshkele the Thief is the story of the eponymous village Jew—“a thief and the son of a thief”—who, as a child, freed himself both from his father’s discipline and from schooling when he “pulled an iron horseshoe from his pocket and snapped it in two, like one breaks a bagel.” Herewith, an excerpt from Curt Leviant’s new translation of the opening chapters:

[Moshkele’s] feats of strength were famous not only in Mazepevke but in all the surrounding villages. It was known that Moshke could wrestle three soldiers and singlehandedly beat and pummel six men so badly blood would run. In brief, he wasn’t easily forgotten.

Even at the tender age of thirteen, Moshke made his mark a few times, showing what he could do with his fists. The Mazepevke peasant lads, who almost every Sabbath picked fights with the Jewish boys as they took their Sabbath strolls along the streets, would sic their dogs on them, chase them, hoot at them, call them “Yids,” and taunt them with anti-Semitic ditties. But once they got the taste of Moshke’s fists they spread the word not to start up with that Jew. And later, when Moshke grew and became a young man, the adult peasants too felt Moshke’s paws and were scared to death of him.

One can say that getting into fights was a kind of wild passion for Moshke, an irresistible impulse, and he loved starting up with someone bigger and stronger than him. . . . In short, when it came to blows, clouts and punches, he had achieved renown. And I’ll even say that at fisticuffs Moshke was a genius.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Jewish literature, Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish literature


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy