In his day, the novelist Jacob Dinezon enjoyed immense popularity with the Yiddish-reading public, and was admired by such contemporaries as Sholem Aleichem and I. L. Peretz. Yet he remains largely forgotten today. Now, for the first time, eleven of Dinezon’s stories have been rendered into English. Curt Leviant writes:
Dinezon was a social realist, accurately depicting small town (shtetl) Jewish life. With a cinematic eye he zeroes in on his characters, deftly telling fascinating stories while at the same time giving an accurate portrait of the mores, attitudes, speech, and foibles of Polish Jews, young and old. Dinezon also played an important historical role in the development of Yiddish as a literary language. In fact, he mentored, advised, and befriended almost every major Jewish writer of his day.
In one of the superb stories, “Mayer Yeke,” we see how a boy’s great fear of the shtetl’s most righteous Jew, Mayer Yeke, turns to love and respect after he witnesses Yeke’s mitzvah [of] assisting the town drunk. “Sholem Yoyne Flask” depicts a mild-mannered tailor transformed by the liquor in his flask into a fiery defender of the town’s poor folk. Then something happens when a surprising discovery is made about his flask.