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August 02, 1968 - Image 6

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1968-08-02

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Czechs to Mark Jewish 1VIillenium;
Consider Establishing Israel Ties

Charles A. Madison's Extensive Study
of Yiddish Literature, and Major Writers

Former Detroiter Charles A.
Madison commenced his interest
in Yiddish literature as a child
who was brought to this country
by his parents, from Kiev, Russia,
and he pursued
his studies in re-
cent years. After
retiring as an
editor for Holt,
Winston, oa post
in which he con-
tinued after edi-
ting college
textbooks f o r
Holt & Co. for
30 years, he de-
voted himself to
research in Yid-
dish literary cre-
ations. The re-
Madison suit is his volum-
inous work, "Yiddish Literature —
Its Scope and Major Writers,"
published by Frederick Ungar
Publishing Co. (250 Park, S., NY3).
Madison had won prizes for
essays in Yiddish literature when
he was a student at the University
of Michigan. • His current work
is extensive. It is especially, valu-
able for the compilation of Yid,
dish writers from the time when
the great literatures began to
appear from the pens of Mendele
Mokher Sforim, Shalom Aleichem,
Isaak Laybusli Peretz and others
who followed • them. •
Madison traces the origin of
Yiddish from its source, the old
Judeo-German, and he giVes an
account of "The Bovo Book,"
"The Maaseh Book" and other
Judeo-German writings. He shows
other influences, for example,
the Yiddish prayers of Rabbi
Levi Isaac of Berditchev (1740-
" 1809) and he leads up to the
,Haskala period when Hebrew
and Yiddish writings began to
enrich Jewish! literature.
In this connection, Madison ex-
plains that Jews were always a
bilingual people, supplementing
Hebrew as the "holy tongue"
with usage and resort to the :se-
cular language of the lands in
which they lived outside the Holy
Land. .
bescribing the ."phenomenal de-
velophient" of Yiddish in the past
century, his contention is that "the
tragic events of the 1940's—Nazi


crematoria and the suppression of
Yiddish under Stalin—have ex-
tirpated or stilled the main body
of Yiddish readers as well as many
writers." He expresses the view
that "currently Yiddish appears
to thrive mostly in Israel, where
it was disdained or ignored until
around 1950, and it is perhaps
there that the future of Yiddish
literature will lie."
In his special chapter on Yid,
dish in Israel he portrays the role.
of Yiddish, its writers -, the thea-
ter, the broadcasting and states:
"Indeed, more books in Yid-
dish are now being issued in
Israel than in the United States.
With the roots of Yiddish as a
_ language and literature obvious-
ly, and perhaps inevitably, dry-
ing up in the Diaspora, its
chance of survival as a living
linguistic expression of the Jews
depends on its likely pullula-
tion in Israel. And of that only
time can tell."
Madison's extensive study lies
primarily in its emphases on the
eras during which Yiddish litera-
ture, the press, the theater and
their allied interest functioned and
flourished. He reviews in detail

the ,"efflorescence" of Yiddish in

America and he bases his analyses
upon the works of the scores of
distinguished writers both , in the
United States and in Europe.
In a special section devoted
to the history and progress of
Yiddish in the Soviet .Union, he
gives an interesting account of
the works and activities of the
Yiddish writers in Russia, and that
list, like the one from Europe
and America, also is most reveal-
Madison's work fills -great
need in presenting the basic
facts about Yiddish and its
literature, as well as the theater,
which served such a valuable
need for the generations of im-
migrants and their children's
continuing interest in the lan-
guage. It is especially meritor-
ious biographically, in its des-
cription of the lives and works
of the pioneers who raised the
. high" standards of Yiddish, of
Sholoni Asch,' Morris Rosenfeld,,
Yehoash, H. Leivick, Peretz
Hirschbein, Joseph Opatoshu,
I. J. Singer, I. Bashevis Singer,

Abraham Reisen and many
Then there is the presentation
of the list of writers in the Soviet
Union — a revealing bibliography
of works and a description of the
writers who enriched the Yiddish
library Itzik Manger, Shlome Mik-
hoels, Itzik Fefer, Leyb Kvitko,
David Hifshteyn, Peretz Markish,
Itzik Kipnis are among the many
Russian Jewish writers enumera
ted. The sufferings of some under
Communist oppression are account-
ed for in these elaborate descrip-
Israeli Yiddish writers are giv-
en credit for • their accomplish-
ments in the chapter dealing with
the progreSs'of Yiddish in Israel.

Regrettably,. the review of the
history of the Yiddish press has
Many shortcomings. It is incom-
plete. It is sketchy. It fails to give
a. full account which would indi-
cate the dramatic rise and the
tragic ,fall of a. great press that
played a most signi!icant role in
Jewish life.
There are other factors in the
Madison book that are of spe-
cial importance. The antagon-
isms to 'Sholom Asch, the de-
bates about circumcision, in
which Peretx and Asch were
involved, the numerous humor-
ous sidelines' have, great merit
in a history like Madison's.
The subject undertaken for
historical analysis by Madison is
so vast that • even the extensive
coverage in his book can be
viewed as merely introductory. As
such, however, allowing ,for the
Sketchiness of some elements, es-
pecially the press, hiS "Yiddish
Literature" is a valuable and most
'creative • work.

oslovakia plans a festive celebra-
tion of the 1,000th anniversary of
Jewish settlement and is consider-
ing resumption of diplomatic rela-
tions with Israel, Czech diplomats
indicated to JTA's Washington cor-
respondent, Milton Friedman.
The embassy of Czechoslovakia,
in an apparent display of a new,
independent policy toward the
world Jewish community, invited
the JTA correspondent to a diplo-
matic reception tendered by Am-
bassador Karel Duda. It was the
first time since June 5, 1967, when
the Six-Day War erupted, that a
JTA representative was invited to
any Communist nation's embassy
Czech diplomats indicated their
desire for friendly relations be-
tween their country and world Jew-
ry. While cautious responses- were
given on the possible resumption
of ties with Israel, the Czechs sug-


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