Sholem Aleichem’s Lost Novel of Jewish Horse Thieves

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.

Read more at Jewish Book Council

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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict