University of Manitoba - Faculty of Arts - Judaic Studies - Recordings of Yiddish Stories and Poems by Women Writers
Recordings of Yiddish Stories and Poems by Women Writers

read by members of the Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle

(recorded in 2011 and 2012) 

The Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle meets monthly in order to read, hear, and discuss stories and poems by female Yiddish authors that would otherwise be forgotten. By rescuing the stories of these writers, the participants in the Reading Circle are also able to enjoy listening and speaking their mameloshn, or mother-tongue. 

Yiddish was the language of Central and Eastern European Jewry and was brought to Winnipeg by Jewish immigrants. Many of the women in the Reading Circle are the children of immigrants and thus grew up in Yiddish-speaking homes. Some of them were students at the I. L. Peretz Folk Shul, a Winnipeg Yiddish-language school that was the first full-time Jewish day school in North America. Other members immigrated to Winnipeg from Europe after the Holocaust. 

The Winnipeg Reading Circle has been remarkably active since its inception in 2001. In 2007, the group published an anthology of English translations of their favourite stories, Arguing with the Storm: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers, edited by Rhea Tregebov (Toronto: Sumach Press and New York: The Feminist Press CUNY). The Reading Circle was also recognized by the UNESCO and was included in its Register of Good Practices in Language Preservation.

Yiddish is no longer spoken or understood by the majority of Ashkenazi Jews (Jews of Central and East European origin). The women of the Winnipeg Reading Circle belong to an increasingly small group of Winnipeggers fluent in the language. The stories and poems presented here have been translated into English, but the women who read these stories for you hope that by listening to the original Yiddish, even those who do not understand the language will get an impression of  the humour, linguistic musicality, and emotional depth in the Yiddish language and Yiddish literature. 

 

יצחקס חלום
Yitskhoks kholem - Isaac’s Dream
Written by Chava Rosenfarb; read by Edith Kimelman.
In this poem, the author meets with the Biblical Patriarch Isaac and contemplates the meaning of youth, human sacrifice and the place of Torah in post-Shoah Jewish culture.
Recording

 

איך וואָלט אַרייַנגעגאַנגען אין אַ שולכל
Ikh volt arayngegangen in a shulekhl  - I Would Go into a Prayer House
Written by Chava Rosenfarb; read by Edith Kimmelman.
In this moving and musical poem, Chava Rosenfarb, a life-long atheist, struggles with the concept of a belief in God after the Holocaust.
Recording 

 

אַ שטוב מיט זיבן פֿענצטער
A shtub mit zibn fentster - A House with Seven Windows
Written by Kadya Molodowsky, read by Arnice Pollock.
This short story is about a strong-willed, wealthy and talented Jewish woman in Poland whose Zionist passion was lit in the late-19th century, when most Jews thought that only the Messiah would bring about a Jewish state. Against the wishes of her husband and the mores of the time, Bashke Paperno moved her household goods and children in order to establish a Jewish town in the Holy Land.
Recording  

 

אַ ליבע
A libe - A Love Story
Written by Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn, read by Luba Cates.
In this humorous short story, lovers meet as young adults, break up and then meet again as elderly residents of a retirement home. Love, passion and jealousy sweep both Malkaleh and Chatzkeleh away, and they nearly part once more.
Recording

 

געבענטשטע הענט
Gebentshte hent - Blessed Hands
Written by Frume Halpern, read by Esther Leven.
A masseuse reflects on her life as both a healer and as an employee of the rich. Although Sarah wants to only help the needy and the genuinely ill, she must also serve those who can afford to pay.
Recording

 

אַ מזל פֿון אַ פּערענע
A mazl fun a perene - The Luck of a Featherbed
Written by Bella Goldworth, read by Lil Frohlich.
In this story a feather-duvet takes a trip from a small shtetl in Europe to an immigrants’ apartment in America, and eventually back to Europe to help needy refugees. Bella Goldworth uses the feather duvet as a symbol of love that can supersede borders and history.
Recording

 

רומיה און דער שופֿר
Rumiya un der shoyfer - Rumiya and the Shofar
Written by Rikudah Potash, read by Luba Dimerman.
Rikuda Potash is an example of how Yiddish literature thrived in Israel as well as in Europe and North America. This short story examines how an uneducated but spiritual woman insists on claiming a Jewish ritual that was once only practiced by men.
Recording

 

אויס רבי
Oys rebe - No More Rabbi
Written by Sarah Hamer-Jacklyn, read by Roz Usiskin. 
In this funny little story, a shtetl family wonders if a blessed baby boy, once thought to be destined for a future as a rabbi, can be rendered non-kosher through the actions of a kind-hearted non-Jewish nurse.
Recording will be posted soon.

 

This project was administered and executed with much dedication and care by Sharon Graham in cooperation with the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture.  We are grateful to Marco Cordeiro, Sound Technician and Research Assistant at the Centre for his patient and skillful assistance, and to director Warren Cariou for his unwavering support.  Matthew Leibl generously donated his time and recorded the Yiddish music for the stories, and we thank Jonathan Sirski,IST Instructional Technician, for his assistance with setting up the audio links for this website.  Moreover, we are indebted to Rhea Tregebov from the Creative Writing Program at the University of British Columbia for initiating this project and to the I.L. Peretz Folk School Endowment Trust as well as the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture for their most generous financial contributions.  And finally, we thank the women from the Winnipeg Yiddish Women’s Reading Circle who selected these short stories and who read them for us and for all of you.