Remarkable Letter from Russian Jewish Novelist, 1906

In 1906, Johan Paley, the editor of the New York Yiddish newspaper, the Jewish Daily News, sent Jacob Dinezon a telegram inviting him to America. Along with the telegram, Palely sent a first class ticket on an ocean liner. Perhaps Paley hoped to recreate the excitement generated by the Yiddish humorist, Sholem Aleichem, who visited America a year early. Like his friend and colleague, Dinezon was well-known in America. Editions of his novels, including The Dark Young Man, Hershele, and Yosele, had been released by New York publishers, and he was a frequent contributor to American Yiddish newspapers.

Dinezon’s reply, however, dashed Paley’s plans. Written in the aftermath of the failed Russian revolution of 1905, Dinezon’s letter shows his courage and commitment to remaining in Poland during a violent and trying time.

As Russian soldiers patrolled the Jewish quarter of Warsaw, killing or wounding civilians at will, Dinezon and his close friend I. L. Peretz, refused to be intimidated. They walked the streets of their neighborhood determined, as Dinezon wrote, not to be cornered like rats in their hole.

In the face of great threat and difficulty, Dinezon refused to leave his friends or his people.

The Sunday Star Report

From the Washington D.C. Sunday Star, August 19, 1906, Part 2, Page 5

Here is Dinezon’s letter as published in the Washington Sunday Star:

Special Dispatch to The Star

New York, August 18. — A letter was received in this city by Johan Paley, editor of the Jewish Daily News, from Jacob Dinesohn, one of the foremost Jewish novelist in Russia, giving his reasons for refusing an invitation to come to America out of danger of the seething revolutionary volcano in Russia. The invitation was tendered by the Jewish Daily News. The letter sheds light on a very peculiar condition noticed in Jews who cling to Russia as their cherished fatherland, though it be the home of the most oppressive tyranny.

After expressing surprise and pleasure at the receipt of a first-class steamship ticket and a telegram inviting him to come to America, Herr Dinesohn answers his friend:

“My only fear is that possibly the dubious tone in my last letter regards the danger in which the Jews in Russia are situated may have led you to believe that I was concerned about my own life, but yet it is not swerving from the truth to say that the danger in which life stands at the present is exceedingly great. The dubious tone of my previous letter is exactly like the dark, uncertain condition of the Jews in Russia.

“But where a whole people are under consideration a single individual is of very little account. It was not for my own person that I expressed the pessimistic view of the future in Russia; it was of the six million Jewish souls in whose blood our red-handed government seems determined to drown the revolutionary activity in Russia. And this I see day after day with my own eyes and feel it with all my senses. And in this general terror of what account is the individual? I feel myself merely a minute drop in the sea of blood and tears; and my own person, believe me, has lost in my eyes its weight and value above those who are in the same danger. Besides, one becomes accustomed to anything; when you see death every minute before your eyes, you cease to fear him yourself; and are even able to outstare him. A great many of my friends have already been killed or shot almost before my own eyes, and they were as innocent and harmless as can be imagined.

“It is just Saturday a week ago that my friend, the well-known writer I. L. Peretz, came near being an innocent sacrifice to the times. At twelve o’clock noon he started to take a walk, having been confined to the house for some time. He had not gone twenty paces from his door when a Cossack of the street patrol took the fancy to discharge his gun behind his back. The ball was so near to Peretz that it touched his cheek, leaving a red mark, and grazed his ear. The bullet that missed Peretz lodged in a fourteen-year-old Jewish boy who was standing by and crippled him for life; it was necessary to amputate the boys arm. Regardless of this narrow escape, Peretz and I took a walk a few hours later through the same street, where we met fully armed military guards who are permitted to shoot or stab whomever they please without any responsibility whatever. And this instance is by no means an exception; they happen every day in almost every street, especially in the Jewish quarter, and I have neither heard nor read of any investigation made to determine whether the murder by these soldiers is according to law or not.

“There are people who tremble at the sight of a raw recruit, and who hide themselves under a feather bed at the sight of him. Such people have our contemptuous laughter just as now we laugh at those who tremble to step foot into the street for fear of being shot or stabbed. Just as a feather bed is no protection against a recruit with a gun and bayonet, so is the policy of ‘sitting at home’ no guarantee of safety from sudden and horrible death. The Jews in Bialystok met their deaths in their homes, upon their roofs and in their cellars. With us in Warsaw as soon as there is a talk of a pogrom we are all ready to die upon the street rather than like a rat cornered in its hole. I myself went to the funeral of the first seventy-one Jews killed in the Bialystok pogrom. The impression that sight made on me I could not give you an inkling even if I wrote you a hundred letters.

“Again let me assure you that I fully appreciate your offer, but to make use of your steamer ship ticket is quite out of the question. My place is here with my people, come what may.”

Library of Congress. Chronicling America. Evening Star. August 19, 1906. Page 5. Image 17.

Pilgrimage to the Yiddish Book Center

On May 18, 2015, accompanied by my sister Robin and brother-in-law Jim, I finally had the opportunity to visit the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. For years our family had admired and supported the work of Aaron Lansky, founder and president of the Yiddish Book Center. In January 2006, we had the privilege of attending a luncheon with Aaron in Durham, North Carolina, while he was promoting Outwitting History: The Amazing Adventures of a Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish Books. Robin shared with him our early efforts at having Jacob Dinezon’s Yiddish works translated into English. We had obtained Dinezon’s original books from the Yiddish Book Center three years earlier.

When you first arrive at the Yiddish Book Center, you feel like you’re coming upon a building in an Eastern European shtetl.

The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA

The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA

Yet when you walk inside, the space is open, bright, and filled with light.

Inside-the-Yiddish-Book-Center

The book stacks inside the Yiddish Book Center

Although Aaron Lansky wasn’t there (he was off working on his new book), we were greeted by Sarah Bleichfeld, the visitor services coordinator. Then our tour guide, Zeev Duckworth, led us through the sunlight-dappled book stacks, exhibition rooms, classrooms, lecture hall, theater, and “vault”—the climate-controlled storage area housing duplicate books, crumbling Yiddish newspapers, pamphlets, sheet music, and unsorted boxes filled with tattered publications and memorabilia.

Inside the climate-controlled vault at the Yiddish Book Center

Inside the vault at the Yiddish Book Center

Frankly, the scope of the work that the staff and volunteers have accomplished over the past 20-some years—preserving old Yiddish books, building a facility to house them, digitizing and making them available internationally on the web, and continuing to find ways to make Yiddish relevant to people who no longer read or speak it—is truly mind-boggling and awe-inspiring.

Shelf of Jacob Dinezon's Yiddish books

Shelf of Jacob Dinezon’s Yiddish books, some wrapped in plastic to preserve them

For me, discovering the shelves where Jacob Dinezon’s books are located was a very moving moment. We found the Yiddish version of Memories and Scenes there, and many more novels in need of translation.

Dinezon’s Memories and Scenes in Yiddish

Dinezon’s Memories and Scenes in Yiddish

The other great moment was seeing our English translation by Tina Lunson on a rack outside the Center’s gift shop. This had always been our great hope: to have a collection of Jacob Dinezon’s stories that could stand on a bookshelf beside the English-translated works of his great friends, I. L. Peretz and Sholem Aleichem. Seeing Memories and Scenes on display at the Yiddish Book Center was truly a dream come true.

Memories and Scenes on display at the Yiddish Book Center

Memories and Scenes on display at the Yiddish Book Center

I. L. Peretz’s 100th Yorzeit in Pakn Treger

The Fall 2015 issue of the Yiddish Book Center’s quarterly magazine, Pakn Treger (a traveling book peddler), was devoted to celebrating the 100th yorzeit of the beloved Yiddish writer, I. L. Peretz. (See Peretz’s Worlds.) Here’s how editor Aaron Lansky, the Center’s founder and president, introduced the issue: “At the time of his death in 1915, I. L. Peretz was, in the words of Ruth Wisse, ‘arguably the most important figure in the development of Yiddish culture.’ Today he is all but forgotten.”

The Yiddish Book Center Celebrates I. L. Peretz's 100th Yorzeit

Yiddish Book Center Celebrates Peretz’s 100th Yorzeit

Forgotten! Oy! Only 100 years after his death at 63 in Warsaw, Poland from a heart attack, one of the most creative writers of Jewish short stories is barely remembered today. I see this in my own experience presenting stories by Peretz, Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Abramovitsh, and Jacob Dinezon to Jewish audiences. Only Sholem Aleichem, the writer of the Tevye stories, receives a glimmer of acknowledgment—and often only after a little prompting with a verse from the musical Fiddler on the Roof.

Yet, Peretz’s stories have shaped my values and haunted my imagination since I first read them as a teenager. In his time, Peretz’s great gift was his ability to help his Jewish readers deal with the challenges of modernity as the Jewish Enlightenment began to make its way into the shtetls and great urban centers of Russia and Eastern Europe. As Lansky writes, “Peretz was committed to one premise above all others: it was possible, through literature, to fuse Jewish tradition with Western ideas of humanism, reason, and social justice and to show that those ideas were, in fact, implicit in Jewish tradition all along.”

Peretz’s skill at taking what at first appears to be a simple folk tale and turning it on its head with a modern twist, is still powerfully effective today in stories like “If Not Still Higher,” “Bontshe Shvayg” (“Bontshe the Silent”), “The Three Gifts,” and “What Is A Soul?” Stories that remind us that though our homeland, fashions, and technologies may have changed over the years, our fundamental Jewish values have not.

Lansky sums it up beautifully: “Peretz was creating the next stratum of Jewish literature, a body of works both audaciously modern and authentically Jewish.” I. L. Peretz is a writer who must not be forgotten.

If you’d like to spend a little time celebrating I. L. Peretz’s gifts as a storyteller, here are two free resources:

Stories and Pictures by Isaac Leib Peretz, a 1906 English translation of Peretz’s stories by Helena Frank

I. L. Peretz’s “If Not Still Higher,” an audio recording from Jewish Short Stories from Eastern Europe and Beyond

Theodore Bikel (z”l)

I’ve been reflecting on the passing of Theodore Bikel who died on July 21, 2015 at age 91. Theo, as his friends called him, was a role model for me. He was an accomplished actor, folk singer, political activist, and Yiddishist who continued to work until the very end of his life. For many years, in performances all over the world, he performed the role of Tevye the dairy man, the main character in Fiddler on the Roof.

His deep and heart-felt connection to Tevye’s creator, the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem, was a central force in Theodore Bikel’s life, and led to his own creation of a one-man show, Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears. While attending two performances of this production in San Francisco in the winter of 2010, I had the opportunity to—very briefly—meet the actor-singer-playwright backstage following the second show.

Theodore Bikel Postcard

I had known about Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears since it premiered at Theater J in Washington, DC in 2008 to very positive reviews. A year later he performed it at the Folksbiene Yiddish National Theater in New York City. Both times I had to miss it. When I saw that he was going to perform the play at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco in 2010, I told my sweet companion Carolyn Toben, and she immediately said, “Let’s go! We can use my frequent flyer miles.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Of course!”

So I booked a hotel room just a block away from the JCC and off we headed to San Francisco. Because we were traveling all the way from North Carolina, we decided to buy tickets for both the Saturday night and Sunday matinee performances. As a bonus, my sister Robin and her husband Jim flew in from Los Angeles to attend the Saturday show, and Carolyn’s oldest son Steve and his wife Janice, who live outside of San Francisco, joined us on Sunday.

Theodore Bikel Program

What I remember most about Theodore Bikel’s play and performances—90 minutes without an intermission—was the way he wove together Yiddish songs, the character of Sholem Aleichem the writer, Sholem Aleichem’s stories and shtetl characters, and his own personal reflections on yiddishkayt (Jewishness). With energy and power, Theo carried us through the ascent of Yiddish culture, the sadness of its demise, and the admonition to never forget.

When Sunday’s performance was over, I headed to the stage door and stood there like a 14 year old boy from my Mittleshule days—a student steeped in Yiddish culture who dreamed of becoming an actor, musician, and political activist. This is why meeting Theodore Bikel seemed so important: He wasn’t just a Jewish entertainer; he was like a member of the family—a zayde (a grandfather) from our very small, special Yiddish world. And he was using theater and music to keep this world alive.

As I stood in line, I pulled out the CD cover I had brought along of Theodore Bikel’s “Treasury of Yiddish Folk and Theatre Songs.” When I was finally invited in, I found him sitting in an overstuffed chair. He was munching on a handful of almonds. His hair and beard were white and he seemed smaller than he had onstage, yet vibrant and alive.

He greeted me with kindness, wrote “Mit vareme grusn (with warm regards)” in Yiddish, and signed his name. It was over in a minute, yet the memory will last a lifetime—as all good memories (and stories) should.

theo-bikel-cd-cover

How Sabell Bender Taught Us to Act, Literally

I remember it vividly: the excitement backstage as we prepared for the drama scenes performed during our annual Mittleshule concert at the Wilshire-Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. The boys dressed in peddler caps and long black coats with little beards pasted on our faces with crepe hair and spirit gum. The girls in long dresses with shawls over their shoulders and babushkas on their heads. Assembled on the stage, singing, dancing, and speaking lines in Yiddish, we must have looked like little reincarnated souls from the shtetl to our audience of parents and grandparents.

A Scene from “Motl Peysi on Ellis Island” Directed by Sabell Bender, 1968

A Scene from “Motl Peysi on Ellis Island” Directed by Sabell Bender, 1968

Short sketches about the Wise Men of Chelm or Hershel Ostropoler. Play adaptations from stories by Sholem Aleichem and I. L. Peretz. This was our immersion in Eastern European Jewish culture and yiddishkayt, and it was created, coordinated, and produced by Sabell Bender, director of our Mittleshule, lead teacher and drama director. Sabell’s job was daunting. Not only did she have to make sure all the details were covered, the theatrical production pieces all in place, and the many participants (from elementary school through high school) organized and scheduled, she also had to prepare and rehearse us for our scenes.

Sabell Bender, Mittleshule Drama Director

Sabell Bender, Mittleshule Drama Director

This meant that in addition to her two sons, who always had parts in our Yiddish skits and plays, Sabell had to travel from home to home to tutor the other young actors and actresses who had been assigned speaking roles. Because I loved to act, I often got a part and Sabell had to journey clear across town from West Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley to coach me.

My mother would clear off the dining room table for Sabell’s arrival, and I would sit across from my teacher/director as she explained the scenes and made notes on my script using a stubby little pencil—it couldn’t have been more than two inches long—so that I would remember the meanings and pronunciations. Often she would simply transliterate the Yiddish words into English: “Ich hob far eich, far i-yer tochter” (“I have for you, for your daughter”), underlining with her little pencil the words to stress and syllables to accent.

I would spend the week memorizing my lines and then on Saturday along with my classmates, we would rehearse the play under Sabell’s watchful eye. She would adjust our stage positions, correct our pronunciations and inflections, and order us to “Project, project! Oy!!!”

A scene from “Motl Peysi on Ellis Island,” 1968

A scene from “Motl Peysi on Ellis Island,” 1968

When I look back now at how elaborate the Wilshire-Ebell concerts were it astounds me. Just looking at the pictures from “Motl Peysi on Ellis Island”: the size of the cast, the musicians, the singing and dancing, the props and costumes. And this was only part of the program. There was also a full choral performance as well!

My acting days ended in college. The yiddishkayt is still with me.

[Photographs courtesy of Sabell Bender.]

Shule Concerts

Though I didn’t know it then, I can see now that my childhood experiences singing and acting in Kindershule and Mittleshule concerts at the Wilshire-Ebell Theater in Los Angeles in the 1950s and 60s set the stage for my lifelong interest in 19th century Jewish music, literature, and drama.

Ethel Jenkins Weinstein Conducting the Shule Chorus, May 7, 1961

Ethel Jenkins Weinstein Conducting the Shule Chorus, May 7, 1961

Look carefully and you will see I. L. Peretz’s visage peering out from the back curtain, a reminder of the early influence this once-beloved Yiddish writer had on the young people arrayed before him on the stage. According to the date on the program, it was May 7th, 1961.

Shule Concert Program, May 7, 1961

Shule Concert Program, May 7, 1961

As students attending various Kindershules (elementary schools) and Mittleshules (junior and high schools) across Southern California, we all knew I. L. Peretz from the stories we read in class, the little plays and sketches we performed based on his characters, and from our study of the Yiddish culture which he played such a major role in developing and promoting in Russia and Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century.

Yet as important as Peretz was in the formation of our young Jewish minds and hearts, he was not half as influential as the elegantly dressed music director at the front of the stage who was conducting our singing.

Ethel Jenkins Weinstein Conducting the Shule Children’s Chorus

Ethel Jenkins Weinstein Conducting the Shule Children’s Chorus

Ethel Jenkins Weinstein was our San Gabriel Valley Kindershule music teacher, and with her beloved husband, Sid, she not only introduced us to the Yiddish language through songs and music, she also fully engaged us in the Yiddish culture that was reflected in the stories from Peretz’s time.

Most of us in Ethel’s chorus had immigrant bobes and zaydes (grandmothers and grandfathers) who were fluent in Yiddish. Many of our parents, even those like mine who were born in America, grew up with Yiddish still spoken in the home, so they could speak Yiddish even if they couldn’t read or write it. But by the time we, “di kinderlach” (the children), came along and were being taught the language, Yiddish was already losing its battle for secular survival in America.

And for me, personally, learning Yiddish was not an easy task. We only studied it once a week in shule, and the only time most of us heard it in our homes was when our parents used it as a “secret language” to keep us in the dark about things they didn’t want us to know. I also had no ear for languages (high school French would also prove a disaster), and of course after school, I preferred riding bicycles with my friends to practicing a strange foreign language. So, except for a few words, I missed out on the opportunity to learn Yiddish (a regret I carry to this day).

But what I didn’t miss out on were the wonderful Yiddish stories by I. L. Peretz, Sholem Aleichem, and Mendele Moykher Sforim—stories that had fortunately by this time been translated and published in English for young American readers like those of us standing up there on the stage.

And from these stories, and from the Yiddish songs taught to us by Ethel Jenkins Weinstein and our other kindershule and mittleshule teachers (including Sabell Bender who directed our shule concerts), I came away with a deep love for Jewish culture and yiddishkayt (Jewishness). A love that has stayed firmly rooted in my mind and heart—and soul—for all these years.

[Photographs and program courtesy of Ethel Jenkins Weinstein.]

Going Home Through Stories

The Magician Book Cover

Yiddish Stories in English

I was first introduced to the old Yiddish writers, Mendele Moykher Sforim, I. L. Peretz, and Sholem Aleichem, in the early 1960s. At the time, I was a teenager growing up in Southern California, and with my sister, Robin, was attending a secular Jewish school called the Los Angeles Mittleshule. Every Saturday we took classes in Jewish history, language (Yiddish), and culture, including music, drama, and literature. It was here that I first read the short stories of Mendele, Peretz, and Sholem Aleichem, and fell in love with them.

But as so often happens, life interceded. As my career as a public television producer/director took me off to several places across the country, I always dutifully packed and then unpacked my books of Jewish stories, placed them on the bookshelves of each new home, and promptly forgot about them.

Almost forty years passed before I had the opportunity to really look again at my once beloved Jewish stories. In 2001, I volunteered to teach a ninth grade religious school class at my local synagogue in North Carolina. Having had no experience teaching 9th graders, I was totally unprepared for the experience. What I found was a rather rowdy and unruly bunch (may no shame befall them). When they weren’t sleeping, they were laughing, teasing, and punching each other.

One day, while trying to figure out a way to keep them engaged, I ran across one of those old mittleshule books I had been carrying around with me for all those years. It was called The Magician and Other Stories and it was filled with Yiddish stories by Sholem Aleichem, I. L. Peretz, Mendele Moykher Sforim and others—translated, of course, into English. (Oy, if I had only done a better job of learning Yiddish all those years ago!)

In desperation, I decided that I would take the book to class. “I enjoyed these stories when I was a teenager,” I thought, “perhaps they will like them, too.” And since Chanukah was just around the corner, I decided to read them I. L. Peretz’s story, “The Little Chanukah Menorah.”

The class was noisy as usual that morning as I opened the book and began to read aloud. Suddenly the room got quiet—very quiet. “How could they fall asleep so quickly?” I wondered.

But when I looked up, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Everyone was wide-awake, staring back at me, totally and completely alert. They listened closely, interrupted only for words they didn’t understand, and when the story was over, we had the most amazing discussion.

I tried it again a few months later with a story by Sholem Aleichem. Same effect. A miracle! Though these stories were written over a hundred years ago, they still had the power to hold the attention of a Jewish audience—even a Jewish audience of ninth graders!

And that is what rekindled my interest in old Jewish stories, and set me on an adventure filled with wonderful new discoveries and great companions.

Hebrew, Yiddish, Oy!

A page from Zikhroynes un bilder (Memories and Scenes)

A page from Zikhroynes un bilder (Memories and Scenes)

In the second half of the 19th century, many Jewish writers turned to Yiddish in an effort to reach a larger audience.

At the time, in addition to the language of the country they lived, most Ashkenazi Jews had two additional languages: Hebrew and Yiddish.

Hebrew was the loshen-kodesh (the holy language), the language of religious books, the synagogue, the scholar, and the enlightened intellectual. Yiddish, on the other hand, was the mame-loshen (the mother tongue), the language of the home, the street, the marketplace, and the less educated common people.

In fact, Yiddish, which simply means Jewish, was called “der zhargon” (the jargon), by those who referred to it, and was rejected by many in the Enlightenment movement who favored Hebrew for literary activities. Some biographers suggest that Jacob Dinezon was so discouraged by criticism from the Hebrew Enlightenment press following the publication of his Yiddish  best-selling 1877 novel, Der shvartzer yungermantshik (The Dark Young Man), that he refused to publish anything for the next ten years.

Yet, Dinezon remained an outspoken advocate for Yiddish as a literary language, and actually published I. L. Peretz’s first book of Yiddish stories, Bekante bilder (Familiar Pictures), in 1890. Dinezon provided the following introduction to the slim volume which is here translated into English by Tina Lunson:

The goal of this publication is to give the reading public inexpensive narratives from our Jewish life in our Jewish language, so that each may be able to buy, read, and understand them.

We begin with the novels and sketches of our colleague Mr. I. L. Peretz. … Mr. Peretz writes not to flatter the coarse taste of the lower class of reader; rather, he wants to refine and improve him. So we are not being excessive in inviting the honorable readers—who are not yet accustomed to it—to enter into a small Jewish booklet to find something good inside.

They should give us their trust. And not only for the business alone do we advise them to buy the book. We mean that they should read these inexpensive stories with intent, pay attention to the words, and apply heart and mind to the entire content! If they will heed us, they will certainly soon perceive and recognize for themselves our true goal with the “groshen bibliotek” (the “penny library”).

When we can see that we have a public that understands and buys our things, we will with God’s help, not lay down the pens from our hands and will make our poor zhargon literature richer with hundreds of similar stories which will cost less in any case and will bring more use than the most interesting novels which have until now poured out like rain and made a lot of mud.

We hope that you will give our publication a good recommendation and that the words expressed here will not be in vain.

What Would Jacob Dinezon Think?

Jacob Dinezon, Yiddish Writer

Jacob Dinezon, Yiddish Writer

I wonder how Jacob Dinezon would react to this website: an homage to one of the most respected Yiddish writers of the 19th century from a Jewish storyteller of the 21st century?

Who would have imagined over ten years ago that someone from North Carolina would come along and, quite by accident, rediscover one of the most significant figures in the development of modern Yiddish as a literary and national language?

And who would’ve imagined that the search for “Uncle Dinezon” would lead to such a fascinating and life-changing journey into Jewish literature, culture, and values?

The story of how it all came about is quite amazing, and over time, I hope to share it with you and offer some insights gleaned along the way.

For now, I leave you with an excerpt from a letter that Sholem Aleichem wrote to Jacob Dinezon in 1909. This “thank you note” translated from the Yiddish in The Sholom Aleichem Panorama by Sholem Aleichem’s son-in-law, I. D. Berkowitz, convinced me that Dinezon was a far more important figure than the available English-translated research seemed to indicate, and began our quest to learn more about “Uncle Dinezon.”

There is somewhere in the city of Warsaw, a tiny, spare, graying, little man with tiny but spotlessly clean little hands, with a little graying beard—it once was reddish—and with kindly eyes forever smiling, even when moist with tears. . . .

He smokes little cigarettes rolled with his own little fingers; he drinks his own tea, made in his own little teapot; and he always sits on the same chair at the table, where he keeps hidden in a most unusually well-organized fashion, other people’s secrets, other people’s troubles, and other people’s anguish, which he holds so close to his uncommonly big heart.

And this good uncle is called Uncle Dinezon.