Top Ten Yiddish Writers – Aurora

It is estimated that around the world there are about three million people who speak Yiddish and use it on a daily basis.

Ricardo Angoso

But beyond being a vehicle of communication, this language left a rich trail in Hebrew culture, especially in literature, poetry, theater and music.

Literature in Yiddish, unlike what has happened with the Sephardic, is still valid and alive. The editions of writers in this language follow one another, it is commonly used in the old families from Central and Eastern Europe and it can be studied in various university and educational centers, having a good list of translators, teachers, students and writers who keep alive the flame of this language. Many of the works of these Yiddish writers continue to be translated into numerous languages, including Spanish.

Yiddish appeared about 1,000 years ago, when the Jews settled in Germany. and the Netherlands, according to Paul Glasser, dean of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Studies in New York, and gradually evolved into a kind of German Judeo. Yiddish later spread as a language of common use and a vehicle of communication in numerous Jewish communities in Eastern Europe, but especially in Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and the Baltic countries. Yiddish is also used in ultra-orthodox Jewish circles in the United States and Israel and is the official language of numerous Talmudic schools. Generally, Yiddish has been the language of the Ashkenazi communities in this part of Europe to which I referred earlier, while the Sephardim used Ladino or Judeo-Spanish.

This Yiddish was “the language of daily life and of profane writings; it was a German language which the Jews had adopted over the centuries of European life; a language quite close in its vocabulary to modern German, but with different structures and with countless words preserved from Hebrew and others taken from the Slavic languages ​​that dominated Eastern Europe, such as Polish and Russian. That eclectic and dynamic language, arising from the fusion and combination of all these disparate elements, is Yiddish”, the journalist Agustín Cosovschi pointed out quite rightly.


It is estimated that in 1939, before the catastrophe caused by the Holocaust, some thirteen million people scattered in more than a dozen countries had Yiddish as their language of daily use and there were numerous cultural, educational and social institutions that used this language as their language. vehicle of expression and communication. There were Yiddish-language theatres, newspapers, artists, music bands, theater ensembles, Yiddish publishing houses, and countless other Jewish institutions.

After World War II, in 1945, after the Holocaust destroyed Jewish life in many countries, including Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic countries and Romania, and communist governments were installed in almost all of Eastern Europe, Yiddish fell out of use and began to show a remarkable decline. Nor did the adoption of modern Hebrew as the official language of Israel, in 1948, help to ensure that insufficient attention was paid to the two main languages ​​of the Jewish diaspora, Yiddish and Sephardic. Currently, it is estimated that some three million people use this language and in recent years, with a certain opening and recognition of Yiddish as a Jewish language in Israel, it has had a certain invigoration. Below we review the most well-known and translated Yiddish writers, but there are many more and the list could be endless.

YoSaac Bashevis Singer. He is, without a doubt, the best known and most translated Yiddish language writer. Born in Poland in 1904, he fled to the United States at a young age in the 1930s, fearing that Nazism would degenerate into massacre, as it did a few years later. He wrote dozens of works and in 1978 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. We highly recommend his works. Satan in Goray, The Wizard of Lublin Y The Moskat family, all of them translated into Spanish. He died in 1991 in Florida, where he lived for years.

Elie Wiesel. He is another of the best-known of the great Jewish writers in the Yiddish language, although a good part of his most famous work is written in French and translated into English. Born in Romania in 1928, he was a Holocaust survivor and dedicated his entire life and work to preserving the memory of the millions of murdered, including some of his relatives. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, his three main works are The night, Dawn Y The day, which are a trilogy about the Holocaust. He passed away in 2016 in the United States, his adopted country for decades.

Shmuel Halkin. Born in 1897 in Belarus, Halkin is better known for his Yiddish translations than as a writer, although he cultivated poetry and musical composition in this language. During the Stalinist era, when Soviet anti-Semitism began to rise, he was arrested in 1949 and spent six long years in jail, although he avoided being shot like other Jewish writers in that dark and sinister period. He died in 1960 unfairly forgotten.

Itzik Kipnis. Born in the extinct Soviet Union in 1896, Kipnis alternated between poetry and prose, although he finally opted for the novel as a genre of literary expression. His best known work is Months and days (1926), in which he describes the terrible pogroms of 1919-1921 that occurred in the Ukraine, Belarus, Poland and Russia, mainly. With so many Jewish writers of his generation, he was arrested in 1948 and paid for his exile inside the USSR. He died in 1974 without having been rehabilitated or claimed.

abraham sutzkever. Born in 1913 in what would now be Lithuania, Sutzkever is considered one of the greatest Yiddish poets. Dr. Paul Glasser has said of him that “In the postwar world, Sutzkever became the most important Jewish poet, as well as a great poet worldwide.” A Holocaust survivor, although some of his family were killed by the Nazis, he was a witness at the Nuremberg trials against the Nazis and was able to recount the crimes he had witnessed in the war. In 1947, Sutkever escaped to Tel Aviv, the city where he lived for decades and where he died in 2010 at the age of 96.

Der Nister. Born in the Ukraine in 1884, Nister was a poet, teacher, journalist, and writer through a life plagued with misfortune and persecution by the Soviet authorities. In 1943, he narrated in his novel victims the horrors suffered by Polish Jews at the hands of the Germans during the occupation of Poland and that period was one of the most prolific of his life. In 1949, he was arrested in an anti-Semitic campaign orchestrated by Stalin and reportedly died in an unknown prison hospital in 1950.

David Bergelson. Bergelson was born in what would be Ukraine today in 1884 and lived in Germany for a long period until, in 1933, Hitler came to power and would return to the Soviet Union. He wrote numerous essays, novels and articles for Yiddish publications and was one of the most important Russian authors in Yiddish. Arrested in January 1949, he was secretly tried and shot in the events known as the Night of the Murdered Poets on August 12 and 13, 1952. Unfortunately, his work has fallen into complete oblivion and has not been sufficiently translated.

YoIsrael Yehoshua Singer. Born in 1893 in Poland, Israel is the older brother of Isaac Bashevis Singer, already mentioned in this review. Less known than Isaac, since he died at the early age of 50 in the United States, where he had emigrated in 1934, he left us some quite popular works, such as the ashkenazi brothers Y The Karnowsky family.

JI finished Glantz. Born in 1902 in the Ukraine, Jacobo Glantz was a multifaceted and creative man wherever he lived, alternating journalism, painting, sculpture, literature and the dissemination of art in his life, promoting numerous artists in Mexico, the country where he had lived since 1924. and where he would become a well-known and respected public figure. He passed away in Mexico City in 1982.

Shmuel Yosef Agnon. Born in 1888 in the former Russian Empire, Shmuel has the great merit of being the first Israeli writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1966. Despite the fact that, in his early days, between Russia and Ottoman Palestine, he alternated his writings and stories in Yiddish and Hebrew, he finally opted for the latter language to write his creations. Winner of several important prizes for his enormous literary work, Yosef Agnón died of a heart attack at the age of 81 in Israel, the country where he had lived since 1924. He alternated novels, short stories and poetry, having left numerous poems from his period. juvenile poetic in yiddish.

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Top Ten Yiddish Writers – Aurora