Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women

A compelling short story anthology, Found Treasures: Stories By Yiddish Women Writers (Second Story Press, 1994) has sold more than 5,000 copies and has thus attained the status of a Canadian bestseller. The book has gone into a second printing and, according to co-editor Frieda Forman of Toronto, has been picked up as an alternate selection by the hugely influential U.S.-based Book-of-the-Month Club.

Over a period of five years, Forman and co-editor Ethel Raicus examined hundreds of Yiddish manuscripts in archives and private collections before choosing the two dozen “found treasures” that make up the anthology. The book is used in university courses across North America and has received favourable reviews as far away as Germany, Forman said. “It’s an astonishing response and one that fills us with great joy,” she said.

In her 37-page introduction, American feminist and yiddishist Irena Klepfisz points out that women writers of Yiddish had been largely overlooked in a literary field that has been traditionally dominated by three great patriarchs — Mendele Mokher Seforim, Yitzhak Leibush Peretz, and Sholem Aleichem. As an example, Klepfisz cites A Treasury of Yiddish Stories, the best-selling 1954 anthology by Irving Howe and Eliezer Greenberg, which features 25 stories, all by men.

The editors and translators responsible for Found Treasures have brought new and long overdue attention to 18 women writers of Yiddish. ♦

© Bill Gladstone