x

Jacob Dinezon

Beloved Uncle of Modern Yiddish Literature

Moshkeleh the Thief Cover

Reflections on Moshkeleh the Thief

I recently received a copy of Moshkeleh the Thief, a beautifully designed little book of “a rediscovered novel” by the Yiddish author Sholom Aleichem, translated into English by Curt Leviant. For Jewish readers with an interest in Yiddish literature, having Sholom Aleichem’s name associated with a new story is like uncovering a painting with Rembrandt’s signature on it. In fact, in this day and age, if a new translation from the Yiddish doesn’t have Sholom Aleichem’s name attached to it, it probably wasn’t distributed by a major publisher. And this little book has two major publishers behind it, the esteemed . . . (Read More)

Dinezon in his coffin

Remembering Jacob Dinezon

Today, August 29, 2021, marks the 102nd anniversary of the death of the Jewish author Jacob Dinezon. We commemorate this day with the following quotations gleaned from newspaper obituaries and tributes published in Warsaw and Bialystok and across the ocean in New York City in the days immediately following Dinezon’s death in 1919. These first-time English translations by Mindy Liberman, translator of Dinezon’s novel Falik and His House, offer a poignant and powerful reminder of Jacob Dinezon’s role in the development of modern Yiddish literature and his love, commitment, and devotion to the care and education of Jewish children. Der . . . (Read More)

Jacob Dinezon Wikipedia Page

A Dinezon Wikipedia Page

In December 2019, following a talk at an event sponsored by the California Institute for Yiddish Culture and Language, I met a young woman, Anna Bonazzi. A Ph.D. student at UCLA with an interest in languages, Anna mentioned that she had gone online to find out more about the Yiddish author Jacob Dinezon and discovered that unlike Sholem Aleichem, I. L. Peretz, and Sholem Abramovitsh, Wikipedia did not have a page devoted to this significant Jewish writer. Then Anna Bonazzi did something extraordinary: she offered to create the Jacob Dinezon Wikipedia page. The page is now complete and online—a dream . . . (Read More)

Connecting the Dots

Connecting the Dots

I can’t remember the exact moment when I began connecting the dots that led me to the realization that the name Dineson, Dinesohn, Dienesohn, Dyneson, and Dinezon all belonged to the same person. (Later I would learn from Adam Teitelbaum that the spelling of this same name in Yiddish, the language in which he wrote, also appeared in multiple ways. Even his handwritten signature, which includes an “h” (ה/hey) before the final “n” (ן/langer nun), conflicts with the spelling of his name in many Yiddish publications.) So imagine my surprise when all the spellings suddenly coalesced into a single person—a . . . (Read More)

Falik and His House Part One in Der fraynd (The Friend)

A Research Discovery

There is something exhilarating about making a research find—especially when the discovery adds real historical or literary value. That’s what happened recently when a lost piece of Jacob Dinezon’s writing was located in an old Yiddish newspaper on the Historical Jewish Press website, made possible by Tel Aviv University and the National Library of Israel. My first encounter with this extraordinary resource was in obtaining information about Dinezon’s death and funeral in the Warsaw Yiddish newspaper, Haynt (Today). Most of these reports, which were translated into English by Tina Lunson and are now online, were published in late August and . . . (Read More)

Yiddish Fiddler on the Room Program

One Year Ago, Part Two

Exactly one year ago today, on September 3rd, my family and I celebrated the Yiddish writer Jacob Dinezon’s 100th yortsayt for a second time in New York City. Three days earlier, we returned from Poland, where we commemorated Dinezon’s memorial on August 29th, the anniversary of his death on the secular calendar. September 3rd marked the date on the Hebrew calendar. On Sunday afternoon, September 1st, we had the opportunity to attend one of the final performances of A Fidler Afn Dakh, a Yiddish version of Fiddler on the Roof. In the early 1960s, the Israeli actor and director, Shraga . . . (Read More)

Dome on Mausoleum of the Three Writers

One Year Ago, Dinezon’s 100th Yortsayt

With all that’s been going on in 2020, it’s hard to believe that exactly one year ago, my sweet companion Carolyn Toben and I arrived at the Warsaw Chopin Airport. We had come to Poland to help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of an important Jewish writer named Jacob Dinezon. The decision to visit Warsaw was not an easy one. Almost everything there when Dinezon was alive was destroyed by the Nazis during the Holocaust: the streets he walked, the apartment he lived in, the synagogue where he prayed. And, of course, the devastation of the Jewish population. . . . (Read More)

Jacob Dinezon 100th yortsayt photograph

#CelebrateDinezon

As the year 2019 comes to a close, I wish to express my deepest thanks to all who have helped us celebrate the life and literary career of the remarkable Yiddish author Jacob Dinezon on the occasion of his 100th yortsayt—the 100th anniversary of his death. In the beginning, my plan was to simply commemorate this event with the February publication of the first English translation of Jacob Dinezon’s 19th-century bestselling Yiddish novel, The Dark Young Man by Tina Lunson. But the creative insights and skills of our publicist, the author, poet, and blogger, Erika Dreifus, expanded the vision into . . . (Read More)

The Mausoleum of the Three Writers in Warsaw Poland

Jacob Dinezon’s 100th Yortsayt in Warsaw

“Żydowski” is the Polish word for Jewish, and this is the plaque that marks the Jewish cemetery on Okapowa Street in Warsaw, Poland. The cemetery, which dates back to the first years of the 19th century, is one of the few places that survived the utter destruction of Warsaw by the Nazis during the Second World War. Today, much of the cemetery is overgrown with weeds. The tall, overhanging trees, crumbling walls, leaning granite headstones, and toppled marble monuments, give the graveyard an ancient, disheveled, eerie quality. But we are here to visit the grand and well-tended Mausoleum of the . . . (Read More)

The Dark Young Man Cover

A Publishing Milestone: The Dark Young Man

February 12, 2019/7 Adar I, 5779 is an auspicious day for us. Today Jewish Storyteller Press published the first English translation of Jacob Dinezon’s 1877 Yiddish novel, The Dark Young Man. Translated by Tina Lunson, and adapted and edited by Scott Hilton Davis, Dinezon’s renowned nineteenth-century Jewish romance is now available to twenty-first-century readers. For me personally, this is the culmination of a sixteen-year effort to revive and rescue Jacob Dinezon’s literary legacy. A highly respected and beloved folk writer during his lifetime, Dinezon’s significant contributions to Jewish literature were obscured by the demise of secular Yiddish following the Holocaust. . . . (Read More)

Headstone Unveiling Announcement for Fajga Kac 1929

What’s In A Name

Over the past fifteen years, as I’ve spent time researching the life and career of the Yiddish author Jacob Dinezon, one piece of information has eluded me: the name of Dinezon’s older sister with whom he lived in Warsaw from the mid-1880s until his death in 1919. Many biographers and memoirists speak of Dinezon’s small apartment in the home of his sister and her family, and an announcement in Warsaw’s Yiddish newspaper, Haynt, reveals the location of Dinezon’s passing: “With deepest sorrow we announce to all family members and friends that Friday the 29th of August, 3 Elul, at 5:20 . . . (Read More)

Letter from Russian Jewish Novelist

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 earlier. 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, . . . (Read More)

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 . . . (Read More)

I. L. Peretz’s 100th Yortsayt 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 yortsayt 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.” Forgotten! Oy! Only 100 years after his death at 63 in Warsaw, Poland from a heart attack, one of the most . . . (Read More)

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 . . . (Read More)

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. Short sketches about the Wise Men . . . (Read More)

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. 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. As students attending various . . . (Read More)

The Magician Book Cover

Going Home Through Stories

I was first introduced to the old Yiddish writers, Mendele Mocher 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 . . . (Read More)

Page of Yiddish Text

Hebrew, Yiddish, Oy!

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 . . . (Read More)

Jacob Dinezon Etching from Haynt

What Would Jacob Dinezon Think?

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 . . . (Read More)