Saturday, March 28, 2009

Arguing with the Storm

20. Arguing with the Storm: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers, edited by Rhea Tregebov

In 2000, a group of senior Jewish women in Winnipeg, intrigued by the large Yiddish collection at the Winnipeg Public Library, decided to form a reading circle for discussion of these works. Concerned that these works would be lost, they began to translate the stories and memoirs, and this book is the result.

Although the women represented here are all Eastern European, they led varied lives, some active in the worlds of literature and journalism, others not so much. Some emigrated, to the United States, to Canada, to Palestine (as it was then); others were lost in the Holocaust. All had something to say.

The works of the nine writers represented here range geographically from the shtetl to Miami Beach, in time from the 1905 Revolution to the present. The characters are young women and old, country and city dwellers, immigrants, Holocaust survivors, and their children and grandchildren. Some are funny, some somber, some in between.

If your idea of the shtetl was formed by "Fiddler on the Roof", read Rochel Broches devastating account of the short life of mamzers in "Little Abrahams" or Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn's "No More Rabbi!" Hamer-Jacklyn and Frume Halpern write movingly of the plight of older women, the search for stability and love. Bryna Bercovitch and Paula Frankel-Zaltzman are represented by their memoirs, the one of life in the Ukraine, the other of the Dvinsk ghetto.

We owe the Winnipeg Women's Yiddish Reading Circle a debt of gratitude for rescuing these stories from the library's dusty shelves, and making them available to a new audience.

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