Tag: ghetto

Mary Antin’s The Promised Land

Mary Antin, born in the Lithuanian (now Belarussian) town of Polotsk in 1881, recorded her memoirs of the Old Country and of coming to America in The Promised Land, a book first published in 1911. The Promised Land is a valuable first-person account of the myriad concerns and experiences surrounding the journey from the squalid…

Journey to a 19th-century shtetl

Back about a century and a half ago, the town of Kamenets was a typical Russian-Polish shtetl consisting “of 250 old houses, black and small with shingled roofs,” and with some 450 Jews listed in the Revizski Skazki, the official government registry. However, most of the town’s Jews did not appear in the registry. Fearful…

Journeys of David Toback

It is sometimes said that heredity is destiny — a phrase with some apparent truth in The Journeys of David Toback, an old (Yiddish) diary edited (in English) by Carole Malkin and published by Schocken Books. For David Toback, who became bar-mitvahed in a dirt-poor Ukrainian village in 1888, the pair of tefillin that his…

Harry Bernstein’s ‘Invisible Wall’

Harry Bernstein was 96 years old when his memoir, “The Invisible Wall: A Love Story That Broke Barriers,” was published to great critical acclaim two years ago. Last year he followed up his success with a second memoir, “The Dream,” which similarly has attracted much favourable attention and legions of readers. This year, at 98,…

On Jewish Memoirs and Autobiography

On the several occasions when I’ve enrolled in creative-writing or memoir-writing workshops, usually with the aim of finishing a particular story that I’ve written, I’ve always been struck by the wealth of literary talent seated around the table. This has generally come as a pleasant surprise, since I’ve also observed that few people possess the…

The Jewish ghetto in literature

An intriguing collection of essays throws a new light into the dark world of the Jewish ghettos of Eastern Europe as seen by a cavalcade of  Jewish writers including Heinrich Heine and Joseph Roth, and numerous others who have been all but forgotten. Ghetto Writing: Traditional and Eastern Jewry in German-Jewish Literature from Heine to…

The Court Jew (Stern)

The phrase “court Jew” is sometimes facetiously used today to describe the powerful underling of a major political or business leader, who acts obsequiously and with excessive discretion because he is Jewish. If the original Hofjuden or Court Jews of 17th- and 18th-century Europe were sometimes embarrassed by their Hebraic blood, it was because they…