Sholom AleichemSholom (Sholem) Aleichem
(February 18 (O.S.)
= March 2 (N.S.)
- May 13
) was a popular humorist and author of Yiddish
literature, including novels
, short stories
, and plays
. He did much to promote Yiddish writers, and was the first to pen children's literature in Yiddish.
Born Sholem Yakov Rabinowitz in Pereyaslav (near Kiev), Ukraine, he adopted the pseudonym Sholom Aleichem. Drawn to writing as a youth, he worked as a teacher and a rabbi. At first he wrote in Russian and Hebrew, but from 1883 on, he produced over forty volumes in Yiddish. Most writing for Russian Jews at the time was in Hebrew, the language used exclusively by the learned Jews. Sholem Aleichem wrote for the three million uneducated Russian Jews, whose only language was Yiddish.
Besides his prodigious output of Yiddish literature, he also used his personal fortune to encourage Yiddish writers. For a while he edited the annual Die Yiddishe Folksbibliotek. He lectured in Europe and the United States. His work has been widely translated. The popular musical comedy "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964) is based on Sholom Aleichem's stories around his character Tevye.
Fleeing persecution, he left Russia in 1905, settling first in Switzerland, and later, in 1914, in the United States, where he made his home in New York City. He died there at the age of 57.
A short passage to illustrate Sholom Aleichem's style
- "Pinhas Pincus is of less than normal height, with one small eye and one bigger eye. When he talks, it seems as if the eyes talk to each other; the smaller eye asks for and seeks approval from the bigger eye; and the bigger eye gives its approval of every plan or undertaking. When he first came to Nuremberg, there was no limit to his sufferings; he had to endure starvation, misery and personal insults from his German brethren. In Nuremburg he was protected from massacres, but was not protected from starvation." —from An Early Passover, translated by George Zinberg
- A bachelor is a man who comes to work each morning from a different direction.
- Gossip is nature's telephone.
- Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.
- No matter how bad things get you got to go on living, even if it kills you.
- The rich swell up with pride, the poor from hunger.
Some writings of Sholom Aleichem in English
- Jewish Children
- The Bewitched Tailor
- Inside Kasrilovka
- Tevye's Daughters
- Stories and Satires
- The Adventures of Menahem-Mendl
- The Old Country
- The Adventures of Mottel, the Cantor's Son
- The Best of Sholom Aleichem
- The Great Fair – Sholom Aleichem's Autobiography
- My Father, Sholom Aleichem, by Marie Waife-Goldberg