Classical Yiddish authors

Four outstanding Yiddish authors S. J. Abramowitz ("Mendele"), Sholem (Aleichem) Rabinovich, Ben-Ami*, Chaim Nachman Bialik

Shloyme Etinger (1803 - 1856)

Solomon Ettinger was born in Zamosc. By 1795, Poland had been partitioned between Prussia, Russia and Austria. Zamosc was in the Austrian partition, but the residents spoke primarily Polish and the Zamosc had a large Jewish population. 
Young Solomon lost his parents at an early age and was raised by his grandfather, a rabbi, whom he described as open-minded and tolerant. He grew up in an atmosphere of the Enlightenment. He is said to have written small pieces of literature as a very young man which did not survive to our times. 
As was common at the time, the young man had an arranged marriage at the age of fifteen and was apprenticed to various professionals. Ettinger further related that his attempts at a career were all failures. He graduated from the medical department of the Lvov University (1825-1830). Since his Austrian diploma was not recognised in the Russian Empire he could not legally work as a doctor. So he tried to work as a farmer but did not achieve a great success. By 1832 the city of Zamosc, where Ettinger now lived, had been incorporated into the
Russian partition, the most intolerant of the three. Anti-Jewish pogroms were frequent and Ettinger's degree was declared invalid, because it came from an ostensibly foreign institution. After numerous attempts at other professions, including an unsuccessful period with an agricultural group, Ettinger 
eventually settled in Odessa, a Russian Black Sea port with a substantial number of Jewish residents, and decided to make his living as a writer. 
No clear details have emerged as to the circumstances of his death. Such writings of his that did survive were preserved by his family and published posthumously, in most cases, decades after their author's death.

Mendele Moykher-Sforim (1835-1917)

Mendele Moicher Sforim ( = "Mendele the book peddler,") was most likely born 21. st. of December 1835 and died in December 1917.  His real name was Shalom Jacob Abramovitz. He, more than anyone else, was the founder of modern Yiddish literature.
Mendele was born to a poor family in Kopyl near Minsk. His father, Chaim Moyshe Broyde, died shortly after he became a Bar Mitzvah. He studied in yeshivoth in Slutsk and Vilna until he was 17.
Mendele next traveled extensively around Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania, at the mercy of an abusive beggar named Avreml Khromoy (Russian for "Avreml the Lame"; Avreml would later become the source for the title character of Fishke der Krumer, Fishke the crooked). Around 1854, Mendele settled in Kamenets-Podolskiy, where he got aquanted with the writer and poet Avrom Ber Gotlober, who introduced him to secular culture, philosophy, literature, history, Russian and other languages. Among his most famous works are: Fathers and sons, Fishke the Lame, The Mare and The Travels of Binyamin III.

Abraham Goldfaden (1840 - 1908)

Born (24 July 1840) in Starokonstantynów, Ukrain, He went to a traditional school and he learned German and Russian as additional subjects. Then he went to a rabbinical school in Zhytomir. Like most Jewish writers, Goldfaden wrote his first works in Hebrew (1862) but later switched to Yiddish. He published a book of couplets and songs titled Dos Yudele in 1866. 

In 1876 he founded in Romania what is generally credited as the world's first professional Yiddish-language theater troupe, in which he worked as manager, director, composer, and stage decoration artist. At first, the theatre gave musical programmes and later on, as Goldfaden wrote his own plays, they were shown on stage. The troupe achieved success in Russia and Poland but a tour of the United States was a failure. Back in Europe, Goldfaden lived in Lvov (1890-1898), Paris, and London (1898-1903). Then he (9 January 1908) moved to New York where he died. In many of his plays he alternates prose and verse, pantomime and dance, moments of acrobatics and some of jonglerie, and even of spiritualism...". In his later years he wrote only in Yiddish. The Avram Goldfaden Festival of Iasi, Romania, is named and held in his honour. He was called him "the Prince Charming who woke up the lethargic Romanian Jewish culture". 

Isaac Leib Peretz (1852-1915)

Isaac Leib Peretz (born May 18, 1852 dead April 3, 1915), was definitly one of the 3 great classical Yiddish language authors and playwrighters. classical Yiddish writers (together with Sholem Aleichem and Mendele Mocher Sforim). He was born in the shtetl of Zamość, and raised in an Orthodox Jewish home (of Sephardic origin). He failed in an attempt to make a living by distilling whiskey, but  instead became a successfull lawyer, until 1889.His goal was to express "Jewish ideals...grounded in Jewish tradition and Jewish history." Unlike many other of the contemporary Yiddish writers, he respected the religious, 'Hasidic' Jews for their mode of being in the world; but at the same time, he understood that there was a need for change. His short stories, such as "If Not Higher", "The Treasure", and "Beside the Dying" stress the importance of sincere piety in contrast to empty religiosity.

Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916)

Sholem Aleichem's real name was "Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich". He was born to a poor Jewish family in Russia in 1859 (his father was Menachem-Nukhem and his mother Khaye-Ester Rabinovitch). As a boy Sholem Aleichem lived in a stetl (Voronko, near Kiev).  Sholem Aleichem's mother died when he was fifteen. He adopted the pseudonym Sholem Aleichem, meaning "peace be with you". 
After completing Pereyaslav local school in 1876, he left home in search for work. For three years, Sholem Aleichem taught a wealthy landowner's daughter Olga (Golde) Love and she married Sholem Aleichem in May 12, 1883. They had six children.
At first, Sholem Aleichem wrote in Russian and Hebrew. From 1883 on, he wrote more than forty volumes in Yiddish, thereby becoming a central figure in Yiddish literature by 1890. 
Besides his Yiddish literature, Sholem Aleichem also used his personal fortune to encourage other Yiddish writers. I the late eighties Sholem Aleichem got tuberculosis.
From 1891, Sholem Aleichem lived in Odessa, and later in Kiev. In 1905, he left Russia forced by the plenty of pogroms. Sholem Aleichem moved to New York, but didn't have much success then and moved on to Geneva in Switzerland. In July, 1908, while traveling on 'a reading tour' in Russia, he collapsed on a train. He suffered from acute tuberculosis and spent two months convalescing and later wrote about it in his autobiography, Funem yarid [From the Fair].
During Sholem Aleichem's recovery, he missed the First Conference for the Yiddish Language, held in 1908 in Czernovitz; his colleague and fellow Yiddish activist Nathan Birnbaum went in his place.
In 1914, most of Sholem Aleichem's family emigrated to the United States. 
Sholem Aleichem died in New York in 1916, aged 57, while still working on his last novel, Motl, Peysi the Cantor's Son, and was laid to rest at Mount Carmel cemetery in Queens.  His funeral was one of the largest in the history of New York, with an estimated 100,000 mourners.
In 1997, a monument dedicated to Sholem Aleichem was erected in Kiev; another was erected in 2001 in Moscow. The main street of Birobidzhan is named after Sholem Aleichem; streets were named after him also in other cities in the USSR. Many streets in Israel are named after him (photo of Sholem Aleichem Street in Tel Aviv). 

Abraham Cahan (1860 - 1951)
Abraham Cahan wa a founder (1897) and editor of the Jewish Daily Forward for almost 50 years and the author of several classical books in Yiddish, among them A Providential Match (1895), Yekl - A tale of the New York Ghetto (1896), Rabbi Eliezer's Christmas,The rise of David Levinsky (1917) [skrevet på engelsk].
The Jewish Daily Forward came to be known as the voice of the Jewish immigrant and the conscience of the ghetto. It fought for social justice, helped generations of immigrants to enter American life, broke some of the most significant news stories of the century, and was among the most eloquent defenders of democracy and Jewish rights in USA. By the early 1930s the Forward had become one of America's premier metropolitan dailies, with a nationwide circulation topping 275,000 and influence that reached around the world and into the Oval Office. 
Thousands more listened regularly to the Forward's Yiddish-language radio station, WEVD, "the station that speaks your language." The newspaper's editorial staff included, at one time or another, nearly every major luminary in the then-thriving world of Yiddish literature, from the beloved "poet of the sweatshops," Morris Rosenfeld, to the future Nobel laureates Isaac Bashevis Singer and Elie Wiesel. With the end of World War II the Forward entered a period of decline. The Yiddish-speaking world of Eastern European Jewry disappeared. The Forward's own readership was dwindling and graying. In 1983 the paper cut back to a weekly and launched an English-language supplement. In more recent years the Yiddish paper has experienced a modest revival thanks to the renewed interest in Yiddish on college campuses and from the leadership of editor, the Russian-born essayist and novelist Boris Sandler, who took over in 1998.

Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873 - 1934)

Bialik was born in Radi, Volhynia in Ukraine to Yitzhak Yosef Bialik, a scholar and businessman, and his wife Dinah (Priveh). Bialik's father died in 1880, when Bialik was 7 years old. In his poems, Bialik romanticized the misery of his childhood, describing seven orphans left behind—though modern biographers believe there were fewer children, including grown step-siblings who did not need to be supported. Be that as it may, from the age 7 onwards Bialik was raised in Zhitomir by his stern Orthodox grandfather, Yaakov Moshe Bialik.
In Zhitomir he received a traditional Jewish religious education, but also explored European literature. At the age of 15, inspired by an article he read, he convinced his grandfather to send him to the Volozhin Yeshiva in Lithuania, to study at a famous Talmudic academy under Rabbi Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin, where he hoped he could continue his Jewish schooling while expanding his education to European literature as well. Attracted to the Jewish Enlightenment movement (haskala), Bialik gradually drifted away from yeshiva life. Poems such as HaMatmid ("The Talmud student") written in 1898, reflect his great ambivalence toward that way of life: on the one hand admiration for the dedication and devotion of the yeshiva students to their studies, on the other hand a disdain for the narrowness of their world.
At 18 he left for Odessa, the center of modern Jewish culture in the southern Russian Empire, drawn by such luminaries as Mendele Mocher Sforim and Ahad Ha'am. In Odessa, Bialik studied Russian and German language and literature, and dreamed to enroll in the Modern Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin. Alone and penniless, he made his living teaching Hebrew. The 1892 publication of his first poem, El Hatzipor "To the Bird," which expresses a longing for Zion, in a booklet edited by Yehoshua Hone Ravnitzky (a future collaborator), eased Bialik's way into Jewish literary circles in Odessa. He joined the so-called Hovevei Zion group and befriended Ahad Ha'am, who had a great influence on his Zionist outlook.
In 1892 Bialik heard news that the Volozhin yeshiva had closed, and rushed home to Zhitomir, to prevent his grandfather from discovering that he had discontinued his religious education. He arrived to discover his grandfather and his older brother both on their deathbeds. Following their deaths. For a time he served as a bookkeeper in his father-in-law's lumber business in Korostyshiv, near Kiev. But when this proved unsuccessful, he moved in 1897 to Sosnowice (then in Austrian Galicia) a small town near the border to Prussia and to Russian Congress Poland. In Sosnowice, Bialik worked as a Hebrew teacher, and tried to earn extra income as a coal merchant, but the provincial life depressed him. He was finally able to return to Odessa in 1900, having secured a teaching job.
In 1924 Bialik relocated with his publishing house Dvir to Tel Aviv, devoting himself to cultural activities and public affairs. Bialik was immediately recognized as a celebrated literary figure. He delivered the address that marked the opening of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and was a member of its board of governors, and in 1927 he became head of the Hebrew Writers Union, a position he retained for the remainder of his life. In 1933 his 60th birthday was celebrated with festivities nationwide, and all the schoolchildren of Tel Aviv were taken to meet him and pay their respects to him. Bialik died in Vienna, Austria, on July 3, 1934, following a failed prostate operation. He was buried in Tel Aviv: a large mourning procession followed from his home on the street named after him, to his final resting place. 
The municipality of Tel Aviv awards the Bialik Prize in his honor. Kiryat Bialik, a suburb of Haifa, and Givat Hen, a moshav bordering the city of Raanana, are named after him.
He is the only person to have two streets named after him in the same Israeli city - Bialik Street and Hen Boulevard in Tel Aviv. Bialik's poems have been translated into at least 30 languages. Bialik House, his former home at 22 Bialik Street in Tel Aviv, has been converted into a museum, and functions as a center for literary events. Bialik translated  
Don Quixote and Wilhelm Tell.

Bialik's house in Tel Aviv.

Abraham Reisen (1876 - 1953)

Abraham Reisen (born 1876) was a prolificYiddish poet and short story writer for the American Yiddish dailies.

He was born in Minsk but emigratd to the United States in 1914. His poems express the feelings of the exploited Jew and the sufferings of the Jewish community.

His most known work is:
May Ka Masmalon.

Sholem Asch (1880 - 1957)

Sholem Asch born Szulim Asz, also written Shalom Asch (born 1 November, 1880). Asch was one of ten children of Moszek Asz (1825 born in Gabin-1905 died in Kutno), a cattle-dealer and innkeeper, and Frajda Malka Widawska. He  received a traditional Jewish education; as a young man he followed that with a more liberal education obtained at Wloclawek, where he supported himself as a letter writer for the illiterate Jewish townspeople. From there he moved to Warsaw, where he met and married Mathilde Shapiro, the daughter of the Polish-Jewish writer, M.M. Shapiro. Influenced by the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment), initially Asch wrote in Hebrew, but I.L. Peretz convinced him to switch to Yiddish. 
He traveled to Palestine in 1908 and the U.S. in 1910. He sat out World War I in the U.S. where he became a naturalized citizen in 1920. He returned to Poland. He later moved to France, visited Palestine again in 1936, and settled in the U.S. in 1938.
His Kiddush ha-Shem (1919) is one of the earliest historical novels in modern Yiddish literature, about the antisemitic Chmielnicki Uprising in mid-17th century Ukraine and Poland. 
When his 1907 drama, God of Vengeance — which is set in a brothel and whose plot features a lesbian relationship — was performed on Broadway in 1923, the entire cast was arrested and successfully prosecuted on obscenity charges, despite the fact that the play was sufficiently highly esteemed in Europe to have already been translated into German, Russian, Polish, Hebrew, Italian, Czech and Norwegian. His 1929–31 trilogy, Farn Mabul (Before the Flood, translated as Three Cities) describes early 20th century Jewish life in St. Petersburg, Warsaw, and Moscow. His Bayrn Opgrunt (1937, translated as The Precipice), is set in Germany during the hyperinflation of the 1920s.
Dos Gezang fun Tol (The Song of the Valley) is about the halutzim (Jewish-Zionist pioneers in Palestine), and reflects his 1936 visit to that region. Asch spent most his last two years in Bat Yam near Tel Aviv, Israel (although he died in London). His house in Bat Yam is now the Sholem Asch Museum. The bulk of his library, containing rare Yiddish books and manuscripts, including the manuscripts of some of his own works, is held at Yale University. Among his main works are: Salvation, Three Cities, Moses, The Prophet, East River, The Nazarene, Mary and The Apostle.

Joisef Tunkel der tunkeler (1881 - 1949)

Yosef Tunkel (1881-1949) writer of poetry and humorous prose in Yiddish commonly known by his Yiddish pen-name Der tunkeler or 'The obscure one'. Born into the family of a poor teacher in Babruisk (Belarus), at that time part of the Russiam Empire, Tunkel was a sickly child whose drawing ability prompted charitable members of the community to send him to art school in Vilna. He finished his studies in 1899 and wanted to become a painter, but he was too short sighted, and turned to become a writer. His poetry was first published in the polish magazine Der yud in 1901 and later his poems, satires, drama and children's stories appeared in Yiddish publications throughout Europe and North America. Between 1906 and 1910 he travelled to the United States where he started the humorous journal Der kibitser. In 1911 he moved to Polen and wrote for Der momentediting its humour pages, Der krumer spiegel, or The Crooked Mirror. He spent WW1 in Kiev and Odessa In 1931. He visited The Holy Land before WW2 - and during the war he escaped into France via Belgium, but was arrested by the Vichy-government there. Escaping in 1941 he managed to find his way to the US once more, where he wrote for the major New York Yiddish daily 'Forward'. Throughout his life, numerous collections of his work were published in Warsaw, Kiev and New York. Together with Sholem Aleiuchem he is the most outstanding Yiddish humorists to this day.

Moishe Kulbak (1896 - 1940)

Moishe Kulbak was a promising Yiddish-language writer. Moishe Kulbak was born in Smarhon (present-day Belarus) to a Jewish family.

He lived in Vilna and Berlin and later in Minsk. He studied at the Volozhin Yeshiva in Lithuania.

He was taken from Minsk in 1937 to a Soviet camp and died there in 1940 (?)

Itzik Manger (1901- 1969)

Manger was born in Czernowitz, Austria-Hungary (later Romania and now Ukraine) in 1901.His father, Hillel Manger, was a skilled tailor in love with literature, which he used to referred to as ‘literatoyreh’ (a portmanteau of the Yiddish words literatura and Toyreh). As a teenager, Manger attended the Kaiser Königlicher Dritter Staats-Gymnasium, where he studied German literature until he was expelled for bad behavior. He exchanged this traditional education for the backstage atmosphere of the Yiddish theatre.  
Manger became a prominent Yiddish poet and playwright, a self-proclaimed folk bard, visionary, and ‘master tailor’ of the written word.  
In 1921, Manger began publishing his early poems and ballads in several new literary journals founded in the aftermath of World War I. 
Soon afterwards, he settled in Bucharest and wrote for the local Yiddish newspapers while giving occasional lectures on Spanish, Romanian, and Gypsy folklore. 
In 1927, Manger came to Warsaw, the spiritual and intellectual center of Ashkenazi Jewry and “the most inspiring city in Poland. 
”Manger lived in the capital of the Yiddish cultural world for the next decade, which became the most productive years of his entire career. 
In 1929, Manger published his first book of poetry, "Shtern afn dakh" (Stars on the Roof) in Warsaw. 
The following year, Manger became a member of the exclusive Yiddish P.E.N. club, along with Isaac Bashevis Singer and other wellknown Yiddish writers. 
Manger lived his life in Romania, Poland, France, England and finally Manger immigrated to Israel in 1958, where he died in Tel Aviv in 1969. His most wellknown works are: "Khumesh liedr and Megileh liedr".

Jitchok Bashevis Singer (1902 - 1991)

Isaac Bashevis Singer was born in 1902 in Leoncin village near Warsaw in Congress Poland, which was then a part of the Russian Empire due to Partitions of Poland.
A few years later, the family moved to a nearby Polish town of Radzymin, which is often and erroneously given as his birthplace. The exact date of his birth is uncertain, but most probably it was November 21, 1902. 
His father was a Hasidic rabbi and his mother, was the daughter of the rabbi of Bilgoraj. Singer later used her name in his pen name "Bashevis" (Bathsheba's). The family moved to the court of the Rabbi of Radzymin in 1907, where his father became head of the Yeshiva. After the Yeshiva building burned down in 1908, the family moved to Krochmalna Street in the Yiddish-speaking poor Jewish quarter of Warsaw, where Singer grew up. There his father acted as a rabbi — i.e., judge, arbitrator, religious authority and spiritual leader. 
In 1917, because of the hardships of World War I, the family had to split up. Singer moved with his mother and younger brother Moshe to his mother's hometown of Bilgoraj, a traditional Jewish town or shtetl, where his mother's brothers had followed his grandfather as rabbis. When his father became a village rabbi again in 1921, Singer went back to Warsaw, where he entered the Tachkemoni Rabbinical Seminary. However, he soon found out that neither the school nor the profession suited him.
He returned to Bilgoraj, where he tried to support himself by giving Hebrew lessons, but soon gave up and joined his parents, considering himself a failure.
In 1923 his older brother arranged for him to move to Warsaw to work as a proofreader for the Literarische Bleter, of which he was an editor. 
In 1935, four years before the German invasion and the Holocaust, Singer emigrated from Poland to the United States due to the growing Nazi threat in neighboring Germany.
The move separated the author from his wife and son {b.1929}, who instead went to Moscow and then Palestine (they would meet in 1955). Singer settled in New York, where he took up work as a journalist and columnist for The Forward, a Yiddish-language newspaper. After a promising start, he became despondent and felt for some years "Lost in America" (title of a Singer novel, in Yiddish from 1974). In 1938, he married again and returned to writing and to contributing to the Forward, using, besides "Bashevis," the pen names "Varshavsky" and "D. Segal." Singer died on July 24, 1991 in Florida, after suffering a series of strokes. A street in Florida is named Isaac Bashevis Singer Boulevard in his honor.

Leib Raskin (1905-1942)

Leib Rashkin (his real name was Szoel Frydman), was born in 1905 in the town of Kazimierz Dolny, Poland. He began to write in Yiddish at an early age. Szoel Frydman worked as a banker. In the early thirties, he published the novel "The People of Godlhozhtz" (a town in Poland). For this book he received the important Y. L. Peretz literary prize. It is remarkable about this story that it was published during the Second World War, when Poland was already occupied by the Nazis. Leib Raskin was then in Brisk, which was still under Soviet rule.  His work appeared in the bimonthly magazine "Shtern" in Minsk, in Sept.-Oct. 1940. The last news of Leib Raskin was on Nov. 13, 1941, when he was on the list of the inhabitants of the Brisk (Brest-Litovsk) ghetto. He was killed in the Holocaust, like most of his large family and 20,000 others. He died in aKZ-camp most likely in the winter of 1941-1942 at the age of thirty-seven or thirty-eight.

Avrom Sutzkever (1913 - 2010)

Abraham (in jiddish Avrom) Sutzkever (born July 15, 1913). Sutzkever was born in Smorgon, Poland (now Smarhon, Belarus). During the First World War his family fled to seek refuge in Siberia, then in 1922 migrated to Vilna (at that time, Wilno, Poland).He studied in cheder and attended gymnasium (academic high school), and in 1930 joined the Bee Yiddish scouting movement. Avrom Sutzkever, was one of the most celebrated figures of the literary movement Young Vilna formed between World War I and World War II. He published his first poem in 1934 in a literary journal. Under the Nazi occupation beginning in June 1941, Sutzkever survived the first period of violent persecutions of Jews, between June 25 and July 20 1941, by the Lithuanian militia, hidden in the chimney of its own house. He wrote then a poem about these days titled The Pest. Manuscript of this poem survived until 1990, hidden in the house.
Later as all Jews, Sutzkever was interned in the Vilna Ghetto. He taught poetry in the ghetto and joined a partisan fighting unit. Sutzkever and his colleagues risked their lives to smuggle hundreds of rare books and manuscripts away from Nazi destruction. On September 12, 1943, along with his wife, he escaped to the forests, and together with fellow Yiddish poet Shmerke Kaczerginsky, fought against the Nazis as a partisan. During the Nazi era, Sutzkever wrote over 80 poems, whose manuscripts he managed to save for postwar publication. Eventually he made his way to the safety of Moscow. 
After the war he continued to live in Moscow, then Lódz, and emigrated to Tel Aviv in Israel. In 1948 he founded the leading Yiddish journal, "Di goldene keyt " (The Golden Chain), which reestablished a literary Yiddish presence in Israel after so many of its writers were killed and literary centers destroyed. The powerful and exquisite poetry of Sutzkever has led specialists to nominate him as a deserving candidate for the Nobel Prize. In 1953 Avrohom Sutzkever visited Denmark and stayed in Kopenhagen. 
Unfortunately he died in Israel in January 2010 without having got the Nobel Prize. 
To put it bluntly - he now deserve to get the Nobel Prize posthumous.

Josef Burg (1912 - 2009).

Josef Burg was born near Chernivtsi, which before the First World War was known as Czernowitz in Yiddish, the capital of the Bukovina region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and a focal point of Yiddish language and literature. Burg, the son of a river lumber worker, was born in neighbouring Wischnitz, the family moving to Czernowitz when he was 12.

As a citizen of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he automatically became a Romanian in 1919 when the area was included in Romania as part of the First World War settlement. Burg spoke Yiddish, German, and Romanian, and later Russian and Hebrew. According to the Romanian census in 1930, 8.7 per cent of the population spoke Yiddish as their mother tongue, the main language groups being Romanian, Ukrainian and German. He published his first story in 1934 in the Yiddish newspaper "Chernovitser Bleter". The Romanian government closed and banned the "Chernovitser Bleter" in 1938.

The German occupation of Austria, in 1938, ended Burg's career in Vienna and he returned to Czernowitz. In 1940 Stalin ordered the Red Army to occupy Bukovina. But Burg was soon on the move again, as in June 1941, Hitler invaded the Soviet Union and Burg lost his entire family in the Holocaust. His father died before the Germans arrived; his mother was murdered by the Germans. His brother was killed in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side. Like his brother, he was sympathetic to Communism and fled to the Soviet Union, where Burg worked in the so-called Volga German Republic, but weeks later, in August 1941, Stalin abolished the republic and deported its population. Burg worked as a teacher, returning to Czernowitz in 1959. From 1961 his stories were published in the "Yiddish journal ssowetisch hejmland" and later in the US, Israel and Poland.

In 1980 his "Dos leben geit waiter" ("Life goes on"), published in Moscow, marked the beginning of his second life as a writer with his works appearing in Germany, and invitations to read his work in Germany and Austria. His "Über Jiddische Dichter, Erinnerungen" ("About Yiddish Writers, Memories"), was published, in Germany, for his 95th birthday as part of a series of booklets called "Der Erzähler Josef Burg" ("The Storyteller Josef Burg") and translated from Yiddish.

In "Irrfahrten: Ein ostjüdisches Leben", (2000, "Misguided Wanderings: An Eastern Jewish Life"), he revealed his disillusionment with life in the Soviet Union. The title, "Ein Stück trockenes Brot: Ausgewählte Erzählungen" ("A piece of dry bread: selected stories", 2008) says much about his life and why he was grateful to have lived into his 90s. It is about a survivor of the Babi Yar Massacre of over 33,000 Kiev Jews in 1941. Later, Gypsies and others were murdered there.

Burg received several awards including Israel's Segal Prize for Yiddish writing. In 2007, he was presented in his home in Chernivtsi with the highest award for science and art from the Austrian government. A few weeks earlier, Otto Habsburg-Lothringen, son of the last Austrian emperor and also born in 1912, went to see him. In May 2009, he received the Austrian Theodor-Kramer-Preis. He was also the recipient of German, Swedish and Ukrainian awards.


Ben-Ami (1890–1977)
His real name was Jacob Shtchirin. He was born in Minsk, Russia, and acted for Yiddish companies in Odessa, Vilna, and even London before immigrating to America in 1912. Ben-Ami soon joined Maurice Schwartz's famous theatre at Irving Place, but found his purist ideals clashed with Schwartz's more pragmatic approach. In 1918 he came to the attention of Arthur Hopkins, who encouraged him to improve his English and perform on Broadway. His first English-speaking role was as Peter Krumback in Samson and Delilah (1920). Thereafter he moved back and forth between American and Yiddish theatres. He played and directed for the Theatre Guild and supported Eva Le Gallienne at her Civic Repertory Theatre (including Trigorin in The Sea Gull and Epihodov in The Cherry Orchard), as well as assuming important roles in other Broadway shows. He established a number of Yiddish theatre groups, dedicated to mountings of Yiddish classics and Yiddish translations of important works in other languages. Called “the knight of the Yiddish intelligentsia,” he was praised by Stark Young as “the most profoundly natural actor we have.”