Sholem Aleichem’s Lost Novel of Jewish Horse Thieves

Aug. 26 2021

Thanks in part to the popularity of Fiddler on the Roof, Sholem Aleichem is best known today as an author of short stories, and especially for his series of stories about Tevye the Dairyman. But he also wrote novels, the last of which, Moshkele the Thief, was long forgotten—and will soon be published in English for the first time. Curt Leviant, the translator, writes:

The mys­tery of this novel’s dis­ap­pear­ance goes back to the cre­ation of the clas­sic 28‑vol­ume Com­plete Works of Sholem Aleichem, a project that was begun after Sholem Aleichem’s death in New York City. Moshkeleh the Thief was left out of this endeav­or. We can only spec­u­late that per­haps the fam­i­ly thought that a work by Sholem Ale­ichem that deals with thieves and the Jew­ish under­world was not . . . fit­ting, or not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of his work.

And yet Sholem Ale­ichem him­self regard­ed the sto­ry of Moshkeleh as a great achieve­ment. His view that Moshkeleh Ganev (the orig­i­nal Yid­dish title) was impor­tant is reflect­ed in two let­ters he wrote in 1903. In one, the author pre­dicts that Moshkeleh Ganev will have the same suc­cess as his popu­lar sec­ond nov­el, Stem­penyu (1889). In anoth­er let­ter he states: ​“I now feel as if I’ve been born anew, with new—brand new—strength. I can almost say that now I’ve real­ly begun to write. [Sholem Aleichem’s empha­sis.] Until now I’ve only been fool­ing around.”

Yid­dish lit­er­a­ture had long main­tained a tra­di­tion of edelkeyt, refine­ment. Yid­dish and Hebrew authors eschewed vio­lence, the dark­er side of life, and peo­ple on the fringes of respectabil­i­ty. But Moshkeleh Ganev sig­nals Sholem Aleichem’s lit­er­ary thrust away from this almost self-imposed silence. With this nov­el he enters a Jew­ish are­na that had not hith­er­to been explored in Yid­dish fic­tion. . . . By tak­ing horse thieves as his sub­ject and focus­ing on a man who is reject­ed by soci­ety, Sholem Ale­ichem enters unchart­ed lit­er­ary ter­ri­to­ry.

In this sense, the novel anticipated the works of the next generation of Yiddish writers—such as Moshe Kulbak, Oyzer Varshavksi, and I.J. Singer—who would find their voices after the First World War.

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Read more at Jewish Book Council

More about: I.J. Singer, Sholem Aleichem, Yiddish literature

 

Why the Leader of Hamas Went to Russia

Sept. 30 2022

Earlier this month, the Hamas chairman Ismail Haniyeh and several of his colleagues visited Moscow, where they met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and other Russian officials. According to Arabic-language media, Haniyeh came seeking “new ideas” about how to wage war against the Jewish state. The terrorist group has had good relations with the Kremlin for several years, and even maintains an office in Moscow. John Hardie and Ivana Stradner comment on the timing of the visit:

For Moscow, the visit likely reflects a continuation of its efforts to leverage the Palestinians and other issues to pressure Israel over its stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine. Russia and Israel built friendly relations in the decades following the Soviet Union’s dissolution. After Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Jerusalem condemned the war, but made sure to tread carefully in order to preserve working ties with Moscow, lest Russian military forces in Syria disrupt Israel’s strategically important air operations there.

Nevertheless, bilateral tensions spiked in April after Yair Lapid, then serving as Israel’s foreign minister, joined the chorus of voices worldwide accusing Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine. Jerusalem later provided Kyiv with some non-lethal military aid and a field hospital. In response, Moscow hardened its rhetoric about Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories.

The Palestinian issue isn’t the only way that Russia has sought to pressure Israel. Moscow is also threatening, on seemingly spurious grounds, to shutter the Russian branch of the Jewish Agency.

Moscow likely has little appetite for outright conflict with Israel, particularly when the bulk of Russia’s military is floundering in Ukraine. But there are plenty of other ways that Russia, which maintains an active intelligence presence in the Jewish state, could damage Israel’s interests. As Moscow cozies up with Hamas, Iran, and other enemies of Israel, Jerusalem—and its American allies—would do well to keep a watchful eye.

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Read more at Algemeiner

More about: Hamas, Israeli Security, Russia