Some of the Best Yiddish Poetry for Children Comes to English

A collection of children’s verse by the renowned Yiddish poet Kadya Molodowsky, translated into English by Yaira Singer, was recently published in Sweden. Jordan Kutzik writes in his review:

Molodowsky (1894-1975) . . . is best known in English for her poetry for adults, in particular her devastating poem “God of Mercy,” written in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Although she wrote acclaimed novels, short stories, and journalism, before World War II she was perhaps best known in Yiddish for her children’s poetry. A longtime Yiddish and Hebrew teacher in Poland’s secular Yiddish school system, her moving “stories in verse,” as she called them, were inspired by her pupils.

While reading Molodowsky’s Yiddish poems to her three children in Yiddish, Singer felt “discontent” knowing that most Jewish families couldn’t read them. These poems, she writes in her introduction, bring to life the world of East European Jewry with its humor, irony, and a deeply rooted Yidishkayt [sense of Jewishness].

Molodowsky’s children’s poems enjoyed an afterlife of sorts in Israel, where they became popular in Hebrew translation, but until now they have remained largely unknown in English. This is no surprise. Children’s poetry, with the notable exception of Dr. Seuss and a few other masters, does not have as prominent a place in English or American literature as it does in other literatures. It is also one of the hardest genres to translate.

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Read more at Forward

More about: Children's books, Jewish literature, Poetry, Sweden, Yiddish

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy