by Sholem Aleichem
From Sholom Aleichem Panorama
Edited and Published by M. W. (Melech) Grafstein
London, Ontario, Canada: The Jewish Observer, 1948,
Translated from the Yiddish by
I. D. Berkowitz
This Yiddish letter from Sholem Aleichem to Jacob Dinezon was translated into English by Sholem Aleichem’s son-in-law, the Hebrew-Yiddish author I. D. Berkowitz. It appeared in Dos Sholom Aleichem Buch (1926), which Berkowitz compiled and edited to mark the tenth anniversary of the humorist’s death.
Melech Grafstein writes, “The Yiddish writer and Peretz’s stalwart, Jacob Dinezon, had headed a committee in Warsaw to buy out the copyrights of Sholom Aleichem’s works from several publishers. These copyrights were presented to the humorist on his twenty-fifth anniversary as a Yiddish writer.”
Nervi, March 27, 1909
Beloved, good, and dear Jacob Dinezon:
Do you recognize this paper? It’s yours. Not that there isn’t any writing paper in Italy. But it isn’t like Dinezon’s paper. Why, there is tea, too, in Italy. You can get anything for money. Dinezon’s tea, however, has a taste all its own. We drank Dinezon’s tea yesterday, with all the children seated around the table. Little Tamara was there too. She doesn’t know uncle Dinezon yet. She will soon learn, however, that there is somewhere in the city of Warsaw, on Ceglana street, a tiny, spare, greying, little man, with tiny but spotlessly clean little hands, with a little greying beard—it was once reddish—with kindly eyes, forever smiling, even when moist with tears, always spotlessly and neatly dressed. His wee little boots shine; he smokes little cigarettes rolled with his own little fingers; he drinks his own tea, made in his own little tea pot; and he always sits on the selfsame chair at the table, on which there are always hidden in an unusually systematic fashion, other people’s secrets, other people’s troubles, other people’s anguish, which he keeps so close to his uncommonly big heart. And this good uncle is called Uncle Dinezon. . . .
If I tried to tell you a hundredth part of the way I feel about you, I know that that would be sheer profanation. If I am fated to live a few years longer than I have been expecting, I shall doubtless be able to say that it’s your fault, yours and that of all the other friends who have done so much to carry out your idea of “the redemption of the imprisoned.” I shall differ my thanks to you to the time when I am in Warsaw and in good health. For the present I am conveying to you regards and a brotherly kiss from me and mine, those that you know and those that you do not know.